I have a Google News alert set for media literacy, and lately it’s been going a little haywire – thanks to Melissa Click.
Click, of course, is the University of Missouri assistant professor in the Department of Communication who was caught on camera asking for “some muscle” to help her remove a journalist from the grounds of a campus protest. The students were attempting to create a “media-free” zone, but student photographer Tim Tai persisted and released the video of his altercation with Click. In covering the incident, the media have been frequently referring to her staff bio page, in which she names areas of interest. One of those areas happens to be media literacy.
This is unfortunate for the field. The very first nationwide Media Literacy Week just wrapped up last week, with one goal being to raise awareness of media literacy, and now it is showing up in the news in connection with an action that (speaking broadly) would not be supported by most media literacy education practitioners.
Media literacy does not include threatening journalists exercising their First Amendment rights. Speaking personally, I would have advised students against creating a media-free zone in the first place; it’s futile. According to a tweet from ConcernedStudent1950 on November 10, the students were trying to insulate themselves from “twisted insincere narratives,” which I would argue is the dark, yet unavoidable flip side of the media coverage coin. The better side of that coin is that coverage can amplify your movement and seed support to help you achieve your goals. As long as people have the freedom to publicly disagree with one another, that is the currency we have to work with. If students don’t want to talk to the press, they don’t have to, and can exercise that choice without muscle. To me, that experience is a lesson in media literacy.
I am curious, though, as to how other educators would have handled the situation. If your students tried to create a media-free zone during a protest, what would you have done?