Additional Information on Media

While we can't control every media image in our environment, we all can and should do more thinking about what we're looking at and listening to, and communicating our opinions to the corporations and media that serve us. This is especially true when those images and messages are displayed in public spaces (supported by our tax money!) where captive audiences have no choice and young, easily influenced minds (read: kids) are watching.

So, to the question: What can I do?. . . here are some suggestions:

  • "Do" media literacy. We have some good links you can check out that will start you on your way. Be interested in what media are communicating to you and how; read about it, talk about it with friends, loved ones, in classrooms or community groups.
  • Start a Media Literacy Reading and Action Group. Get some interested people to meet once a month (or more) and discuss a book on a media literacy reading list (we just happen to have some)---or have everyone report on something memorable in the media and discuss. (Some of the Media Literacy organizations on our resource list have suggested questions for discussion.)

Designate a facilitator for each session, or permanently. Go around the table and let everyone speak; be open and fair---respect differing opinions. Designate times for action: letter-writing, etc. Do a collective "media fast" (see below). Don't forget to have some fun while you're there---provide refreshments (go `head, order a pizza!).

  • Try a media "diet" or media "fast" exercise (this has nothing to do with that pizza you ordered...) While this isn't for everyone, (and we hate the word "diet"), it's amazing what a new perspective you get on commercial media when you go without for two weeks, or longer. You may also be amazed at how hard it is to avoid commercial media. Avoid (if you can!) TV, magazines, movies, videogames, non-essential websites and email. Avert your eyes, if you can, from advertising signage. Get one or more friends, or a class, to do it with you so you can talk about it. [NOTE: While we do need some news on a regular basis, try the less commercial versions, like PBS news, a non-tabloid newspaper or news website, or public radio station. Avoid "news addiction," except in an urgent situation.] Discuss how hard or easy your "fast" was, what you missed or didn't miss, and why, and if you notice a change in attitude towards yourself, others... anything.
  • Take some control over your media environment. Would you hang out with people who make you feel bad about yourself... would you invite them into your living room? 'Hope not! So, be choosey about your media, too. Don't have the TV on all the time; if you have children, know what they are watching and listening to; talk to them about media. (Good advice for parents at Center for Media Education,Parents TV Council, and other links on our resource list.) Check out a movie or video game before you see or rent it; check online for information, or talk to friends. Shop in supermarkets, bookstores, or other places where you don't have to see magazine covers or other advertisements if you don't want to. If the store makes these unavoidable, calmly talk to the manager about a magazine--free checkout aisle, or other option.
  • Feedback, Feedback, Feedback. No, this redundancy is NOT a typo, we just think giving your opinion about media TO media or TO the company responsible for the message is hugely important. And it's your First Amendment right! (Think it's not? Think again...)

-- Use quick and easy email: many companies provide a way to do this on their websites. If they don't, explain to them why it's a good idea to know what their consumers think. Some provide a phone number. And remember regular mail? It's not extinct yet.

Generally, TV and radio stations and networks make it easy to contact them on their websites. Most magazines and newspapers read and publish "letters to the editor", and lots of companies who advertise have "feedback" or "contact us" on their websites. Many record companies and recording artists haven't caught on too well yet, we're sorry to say. Our experience in trying to give feedback easily to movie studios and the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board has also not been easy, but we hope these will change.

-- Do a good job of explaining how you feel and why - give information, especially on health or other social issues which relate to the message or image in question. Be civil and respectful. (Four letter words are NOT recommended. ) Invite the company to think a different way.

-- Encourage others who feel the same to write about the same issue. Quantity=Power.

-- If you have a particular interest in the issue, or a particular expertise, or are in the target demographic for the product or the company, offer to meet or talk further with a representative from the company to share your views and those of your peers.

-- Don't assume the company knows how you feelĀ but is dissing you anyway. Mostly not true. Be informative, clear, and rational. Most companies do read and care about your input. That's even more true when others give similar input at the same time.

-- If you don't find the company responsive, don't support the company or their products and let them know. Encourage others in your network of friends and activists to do the same if they feel the same. Start a movement of your own!

-- Do give comments when you see something great, too!