Student Resources: Are You Media Literate on Diversity Issues?

The meaning of “literacy” has changed. In the 20th century, literacy meant being able to read and write papers and books, but in the 21st century, the definition has expanded to include being able to use social and electronic media. Media literacy, however, has a whole different definition.

Media literacy can help you decide whether a report in the news is biased or not. This ability is especially important when you are learning about issues related to diversity. A lack of diversity in the news can lead to harmful stereotypes or reinforce misguided beliefs when it comes to talking about certain groups of people.

If you use social media or other means to communicate your thoughts with friends, family, and others, it’s important that you are media literate.  

Here are resources you can use to become media literate regarding diversity issues so that you can interpret the news and create your own media content responsibly and accurately.

What Questions Do I Need to Ask?
Becoming media literate takes practice, but one easy way to improve your skills involves considering certain questions when evaluating news reports for diversity. Eventually, these questions will become second nature to you. 

MediaSmarts, an advocacy center for digital and media literacy, suggests asking yourself the following questions when deciding how to interpret and respond to information:

● Who created this media product, and what is its purpose?
● What assumptions or beliefs do its creators have that are reflected in the content?
● How might different people see this media product differently?
● How does this make you feel, based on how similar or different you are from the people portrayed in the media product?
● Who and what is shown in a positive light? In a negative light?
● Why might these people and things be shown this way?
● Who and what is not shown at all?
● What conclusions might audiences draw based on these facts?
● In what ways are the images in the media product manipulated through various techniques (for example: lighting, makeup, camera angle, photo manipulation)?

Whose Story Is Being Told?
All news stories are created by the people who wrote, published, or filmed them and sometimes reflect their own opinions and realities whether they’re aware of it or not. Editors, reporters, and publishers are the people who decide what is “news” and what isn’t.

Lack of diversity in news reporting can sometimes reflect what information is left out of a story rather than what is included. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find out how diverse audiences might be affected by news:



● Is diversity important to this story? Why or why not?
● Have different kinds of people been interviewed for this story or just one?
● Who are the sources in this story, and how are they diverse?
● How is this story supposed to appeal to its audience? Who is the intended audience?
● Are the people in the story portrayed in a positive or negative light? Have they been interviewed for this story?
● Have they interviewed different kinds of people for this story or just one type of person?
● How many other stories with diverse sources has this outlet provided?
● Where is information related to diversity placed in the story — i.e., beginning, middle, or end?

Who Is Telling the Story?
Just as important as asking whose story is told is thinking about who tells it. Here are some more questions you can consider when evaluating diversity in news sources.

● Who is telling the story, and how might their opinions and beliefs affect what information they report?
● Does the reporter reflect the person or people they’re writing or talking about?
● What stereotypes or assumptions does the reporter make about a situation, person, or group of people?

If you are going to share your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs with others through social media, videos, or anything else, make sure to stop and think before you do.  Ask yourself some of these important questions, and you might help others view things in a different and better way than they might have otherwise.  

To learn more about how to become media literate, check out the following resources:

● MediaSmarts.caν