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Facts about Mass Media

Don't Accept Media at Face Value; Think Critically, Ask Questions


Mass Media is directed towards large audiences.

  • It is public, the content is open to all audiences are made up of people living under different conditions in widely different cultures.
  • It establishes contact with people at a distance from the media source and from each other.
  • The audience for mass communications is unique to modern society.
  • The Web is just another form of mass media.

 

 

ASK: What?

What is the main idea? How was this constructed? What picture of the world is being presented? What people and what subjects are represented and how? Are the portrayals of people or other subjects accurate, exaggerated, biased? What argument is being made? However realistic, natural, or factual a media project may seem to be, it is always a construction. Instead of reflecting reality it represents a specific aspect of it from a specific perspective.

ASK: Who?

Whose point of view is it? What does the author want the viewer to think about the image? Each media product is intended for a particular audience and it is important to ask who the target audience is. Are there assumptions built in to the text or image that the media makes about its audience? How about the audience's assumptions? Each person will interpret the same text or image differently, bringing their own experience to it when critically analyzing its meaning.

ASK: What values/ideologies underlie this?

The media convey values through form and content. Sometimes the values are obvious, but more often they are hidden behind what may appear to be a neutral stance. The important thing to remember is that they are always there even if they are part of the shared assumptions of the mainstream culture in a way that makes them seem invisible.

ASK: About Evidence?

What facts or information are offered in support of the argument or idea being presented? How reliable is the information? What is the form of the presentation? How is the message conveyed via words, images, and sounds?

ASK: Who owns this? Who benefits from it?

Media products are made for profit. The creative and editorial decisions made by producers are based on what will sell. Consider who might be selling what to whom when evaluating a media text/image.

Most of the ideas came from the Center for Media Literacy web site and The New Media Literacy Handbook by Cornelia Brunner and William Tally.