Hofstra researcher finds media literacy may not teach value of media to democracy

Paul Mihailidis, who teaches journalism at Hofstra University, has completed a draft report and initial findings of a multi-year study of 239 University of Maryland students who have participated in media-literacy coursts. He presented it to the World Association of Newspapers and UNESCO in Paris a few weeks back. WAN is publishing the report in 4 languages online, and have started to circulate news about the report.

“This report is part of a larger chunk of work on the topic, that I’m hoping to release this academic year,” he writes in an email.

The study of 239 University of Maryland undergraduates to evaluate the effectiveness of media literacy education, the largest study of its kind, found that such courses increase their ability to understand, evaluate and analyze media messages, Mihailidis says. But he says the courses often turn out cynics who lack an understanding of the media’s essential role in democracy.

“They displayed little active understanding or awareness of media’s roles and responsibilities in a democratic society, nor of media’s essential role for informed citizenship,” said Mihailidis, who conducted the study and presented its findings at a recent World Association of Newspapers Young Reader seminar. Mihailidis, Director of the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change in Austria and an Assistant Professor of Journalism, Media Studies and Public Relations at Hofstra University in New York, is helping to develop curricula that combine media literacy skills with promotion of active citizenship.

Media literacy course shouldn’t just help students look more critically as news, he said. “It means understanding that every individual in Western society is dependent on media for local and global information. It means adopting and adapting such information to become an aware media citizen. Only then will the true benefits of media literacy become apparent.”

*Press Release on Media NewsLine
*STUDY LINK: “Beyond Cynicism: How Media Literacy can Make Students Engaged Citizens’

Paul Mihailidis, Ph.D
Assistant Professor
Journalism, Media Studies & Public Relations
Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549

Program Director
Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change
Salzburg Global Seminar
Leopoldskronstrasse 56-58, Box 129
A-5010 Austria