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Arts & Entertainment

A Basic Guide to Media Literacy: How to Be Media Literate

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 3, 2020 • 2 min read

In order to have an informed opinion on a given subject, it’s essential to have a basic media literacy education.



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What Is Media Literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to comprehend and critique a variety of forms of communication. Media literacy allows you to identify the influence and meaning behind media messages, whether you’re involved in media production or media consumption. Whether you’re reading a newspaper, watching TV, using a social media platform, playing video games, or engaging with any other forms of media, media literacy skills allow you to assess the author’s credibility and intent. Digital literacy is a subcategory of media literacy that specifically applies to digital media.

Martin Scorsese on the Importance of Media Literacy

Why Is Media Literacy Important?

A thorough understanding of the role of media helps you to assess the trustworthiness of the information you encounter. Media literacy is essential for several reasons:

  1. It helps you comprehend a creator's objective. In order to develop your own perspective on the subject matter, it's essential to understand whether a piece of mass media is attempting to entertain, inform, or persuade.
  2. It develops you as a critical thinker. Media literacy builds critical thinking skills by teaching you to thoroughly evaluate the different types of media you consume. Essential skills of inquiry are especially important in media environments where misinformation and fake news are common.
  3. It allows you to create responsibly. Media literacy teaches ethical methods for creating your own media so that you can become a more effective communicator.
  4. It encourages self-expression. Media literacy teaches you to form your own opinions rather than just accepting a media message at face value.
  5. It enables you to recognize an author's point of view. Every creator makes content with a specific point of view. Knowing this helps you open your mind to different perspectives while also keeping you alert to bias.
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4 Tips for Becoming Media Literate

While many high schools and colleges teach media education courses, you can learn to become media literate on your own. Basic media literacy is as easy as asking these four questions while you view a piece of media:

  • Who authored this? It could be an individual, a representative of a corporation, a political pundit, an artist, an activist, etc., and they likely have their own opinion on the subject at hand.
  • Why was this created? The intent of a piece of media may be to persuade (an op-ed piece or an advertisement), to inform (a news story or how-to article), or to entertain (a funny tweet or text message).
  • Is it credible? Look for direct evidence of the claims the author is making. Support for an argument can include statistics, quotes, infographics, or research from esteemed sources.
  • Is it biased? Watch out for media outlets that only give one side of the story while omitting opposing views. To develop your own fully-formed opinion, cross-check the information you encounter with multiple sources.


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