Media literacy is fundamental in today’s world, and understanding how to create and consume media can help us become confident citizens. Whether you’re trying to outsmart agendas of political candidates or using media for storytelling and uplifting important issues you care about, media literacy is an important tool for all of us. 

We want to hear from you! What questions do you have about what voting has to do with media literacy? How can media literacy help you make sense of current events? What are your experiences with using media creation as a tool for participating in democracy? What are the different ways you employ media literacy skills in your daily life, whether you realize it or not? 

Today, you have three of us to help you: 

Elis Estrada (/u/StudentReportingLabs) is the senior director for PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. We're building the next generation of informed media creators and consumers. I oversee the strategy, development, and work of SRL’s growing national network of schools and partner public media stations and love puzzling through large-scale projects that aim to motivate and inspire young people, educators, and public media audiences. I’m invested in creating access points for people of all ages to explore how journalism, media and information shape their lives. Check out our website, Twitter and Instagram for resources. Follow my Twitter for all things youth media. Verification here!


Yonty Friesem ( is Associate Director of the Media Education Lab and Assistant Professor of Civic Media at Columbia College Chicago. The Media Education Lab advanced media literacy through scholarship and outreach to the community. As part of his role at the Lab, Yonty co-founded the Illinois Media Literacy Coalition to support the recently signed Public Act 102-0055 to mandate media literacy in every high school in Illinois. In addition, he founded the Civic Media MA program at Columbia College Chicago advising media literacy practice within communities.   For more information see my website or on twitter @yonty


Abby Kiesa ( is Deputy Director of CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), part of the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. CIRCLE uses non-partisan, independent research to understand young people’s access to civic learning and engagement, and work with others to find solutions. Among other topics, CIRCLE does research about youth voting, activism, issues young people care about, K12 civic education and the intersection of media and civic engagement. CIRCLE has tons of research and data at and you can catch us on Twitter @Civicyouth.


Comments: 614 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

ilovelampistaken163 karma

Should modern day media literacy include more discussion on whose funding each media company?

MediaLiteracyEd116 karma

u/ilovelampistaken ABSOLUTELY!! Also, understanding the difference between commercial and noncommercial media is essential, along with knowing where the money goes. (Elis here from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs). SRL just developed a lesson around this. Check it out:

rossmosh85116 karma

I was born in '85 and went to pretty good schools. Part of our education process was teachers talking about how a good student questions their source material to make sure the information they're being provided is legitimate. This was supposed to prevent the insanity we face today. My conclusion is that the general population is not intelligent enough to handle this task, especially now with the vast amount of information available to us.

What solutions are there? Trust in institutions is awful right now and the government has no interest in removing dark money from the system. Is it basically hopeless?

MediaLiteracyEd68 karma

u/rossmosh85 -

It's important to think about the quantity and quality of civic education. I raise this because we view media literacy as a set of skills that can be taught as a part of civic education. The research is pretty clear that who gets civic education and media literacy education within that shows that it's disparate and distributed inequitably.

As a result, a core solution is to make sure that young people have the opportunity early on in life to build the habits and skills necessary for democratic participation, across communities. This is one solution and we need a range of stakeholders in communities to take on others.

a_quirkles93 karma


MediaLiteracyEd-35 karma



Media literacy is a practice where the user/consumer can look at the message and discern the facts using various practices like you demonstrated. I would be cautious about making statements about the media or even specific outlets since the reporters and producers are the ones to make the call. Yes there are political and economical reasons behind each media outlet to share information the way they do and this is where media literacy can become handy to the audience.

aedanflynn4275 karma

How do you make the distinction between media literacy (consuming the content) vs media competence (understanding the content) in today's media environment as well as aim to teach people to unlearn the bad practices of following media content that is aimed to disenfranchise and divide?

MediaLiteracyEd45 karma

This is a great question, u/aedanflynn42
Media literacy is the competence of being able to access, analyze, create, reflect and act socially responsibly media messages. Sometimes it means to stop consuming and sometimes it is about self regulated consumption. But at the end of the day, media literacy makes you more aware and take steps to decide for yourself how, when and what to consume.

orange7crush68 karma

During the early days of the pandemic, the Wuhan lab leak story was heavily censored as misinformation. Months later it was brought up again as plausible. Is there always going to be mislabeling of information as misinformation that may have truth?

MediaLiteracyEd1 karma

u/orange7crush good point. As long as there are economical and political interests, the answer is yes. Media literacy can come to help in having the consumer inquires and evacuated the information they are given. Not just putting doubt, but also recognizing when false information is spread.

0x464646464636 karma


MediaLiteracyEd-37 karma

u/It0x4646464646 is an interesting question that we struggle with.

See these two resources:


Buying the blame curriculum:

The idea is not to blame "The Media" since this is too vague and give too much slack to the people who create harm. We advocate for looking at the producers and the people who wanted the messages to be sent and deconstructing the power relations. There are many reasons why a message was sent and the impact can be beneficial for some and harmful for others. Is it the form that cause the issue - not as much as the people behind it. Social media for example help connect people and at the same time can promote cyberbullying as well. Hopefully it gives some insights.

Rivsmama91 karma

This is such a copout. There's a very real reason people don't trust the media anymore. They flat out lie to people and selectively showcase only the things that align with their political agenda. This would be fine if they were honest instead of pretending to be objective

MediaLiteracyEd4 karma

u/Rivsmama people have biases and this is part of communication. If you think of people you trust in your life, you see that they yearn it. Same with media and its producers some might earn your trust and some might not. Things are more complex than just either trusting or not, whether it is via mediated communication or personal communication.

NH-Boondocks16 karma

We advocate for looking at the producers and the people who wanted the messages to be sent and deconstructing the power relations.

How do you pinpoint individuals in an industry that is probably more universally partisan than just about any other in the United States

MediaLiteracyEd8 karma

u/NH-Boondocks each report or media has the list of producers. It is so much easier to blame the whole media. But you assume that partisanship is binary either left or right. People are more complex and therefore their messages as well.

davidg_tech36 karma

What is "media literacy?" How does it relate to questions such as, "What is the future of local investigative journalism and its role in a democracy?" If appropriate, please answer that question, too. Thanks!

MediaLiteracyEd37 karma

Hey u/davidg_tech! A simple definition of "media literacy" is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in all types of forms.

I don't think I can answer your second question directly or specifically, but I think there is a lot of research and thinking one can do about the future of local news and its role in democracy. Journalists, scholars and experts, including myself, would argue that local news is absolutely critical in a democracy. The more fact-based information we share with the public, the better informed they will be. Here's a recent article from NiemanLab about ideas for the future of local news:

adminhotep33 karma

Questioning the integrity of elections is incredibly in this season. Whether it was the Iowa Caucus with what seemed like coordinated last minute polling location switches, and myriad issues with the Shadow Inc. developed reporting app, charges by the OAS against Bolivia on overnight totals, which led to a military coup (later debunked by researchers published in the NYT) or fraud claims in the 2020 general election along the same line against states' vote count.

Media has displayed different reactions in each of these cases - all but ignoring in the first case, uncritically supporting in the second case, and attempting to head off the expected fraud arguments (red mirage coverage and explanation) in the third.

My question is, give how differently the organizations charged with informing the public react to these circumstances, how am I to actually be informed on the true integrity of an election? Are there trustworthy independent unbiased resources devoted to analysis of election integrity that you can recommend, because the aforementioned groups don't seem to cut it consistently.

MediaLiteracyEd9 karma

u/adminhotep -

One of the reasons why I really appreciate your question is that there's sometimes a tension between having fast information and having confirmed information.

A few resources/sites you might check out that can help with the latter:

Sweatybballz31 karma

How can we trust media sources when there are only a few companies that own the majority of newspapers and TV stations that have their own financial interests? In other words, how can we trust that we are receiving the correct or complete information and not information skewed towards a certain financial interest?

MediaLiteracyEd6 karma

u/Sweatybballz this is exactly what media literacy practice looks like. In order to build trust that is decreasing, you need to triangulate various sources and not rely on one search.

Bird_Chick16 karma

Is there any solution to stop the media from giving out misinformation?

MediaLiteracyEd11 karma

This is a really great question to unpack u/Bird_Chick

Short answer: Media literacy is the tool that will save us all!
Long answer: I don't know if we will ever live in a world without misinformation or disinformation but there's a lot we can do to prevent us from being duped. First, we have to acknowledge that there may always be bad actors inside and outside of the media ecosystem. No matter where you are, you can use simple media literacy tips to find and identify trustworthy sources. Anyone today can be a publisher and act as an authority figure or expert on issues. It’s up to us to know how to discern fact from fiction and trustworthy sources from unreliable sources.

scrambledhelix16 karma

What do you tell people who deny the utility or validity of anonymous sources in reporting?

Edit to add: thanks for doing this AmA!

mr_impastabowl8 karma

I was just listening to the news about the Sudan coup and the reporter quoted an unnamed source.

There's obviously the dire need for sources to feel confident and comfortable in their anonymity and I've heard from anonymous sources thousands of times for news stories. Today, for no other reason other than the world we live in now, I automatically questioned the validity of the source.

sarcasmic7711 karma

Glad I’m not the only one that can’t stop questioning literally everything I didn’t see with my own two eyes.

MediaLiteracyEd6 karma

Hey u/scrambledhelix, u/sarcasmic77 and u/mr_impastabowl! Yeah I hear you. I TOTALLY think it's a good thing to question everything, not a bad thing. There's a really old saying in journalism and media literacy circles: if your mother says she loves you, check it out. Basically, no matter how much you trust something or someone, it's good to still fact-check and check it out yourself. It’s not as easy as we want it to be, but I like to think of being able to know when information is trying to trick me as a superpower. In terms of anonymous sources, there is an absolute legitimacy to them. It's all about context and asking why a journalist or reporters needed to include an anonymous source. Also important to consider: What other types of sources are in the reporting, not just anonymous sources?

Trends_11 karma

What should the general public look for when looking at sources for information online or in the news? Are there any sure-fire signs of catching misinformation/disinformation and propaganda pieces vs unbiased truth? (I'm talking other than the plain as day obvious ones, for example something you would otherwise need an education to disprove yourself like in science or as a medical professional)

MediaLiteracyEd15 karma

Yeah, u/Trends for sure.

No matter where you’re getting your news or information, I always like to have a few tips in my back pocket to help me find out if what i’m reading is reliable: Find out what type of information you’re looking at (news, entertainment, satire, opinion); look for lots of high-quality sources and points of view and documented facts; question who produced it, are they legit?; and ask critical questions about what you’re reading; looking further into a piece of information if you’re unsure. Be the expert!

the_millenial_falcon6 karma

Can we reverse the trend of misinformation fueling partisan division, or is our democracy as we know it in its death bed?

MediaLiteracyEd2 karma

Whew! Ok, I'm (Abby) going to give this a try, u/the_millenial_falcon. There are likely to be lots of perspectives on this.

It's true that misinformation and disinformation are fueling partisan division, but so are lots of other things! I'm not convinced that as a country the US really puts processes in place to implement democracy education and inclusive democratic processes. For example, not all young people have the opportunity to spend time learning media literacy skills and when and how to use them.

As a result, I think we can try harder by investing in education and more equitable and inclusive processes for how we make decisions at every level.

koenm5 karma

What do you guys think about the Noam Chomsky book: Manufacturing Consent?

MediaLiteracyEd-1 karma

Obviously, Chomsky and Herman are making a compelling argument in their book. One of the big parts of media literacy is to deconstruct the power of media and understanding exactly what are the mechanisms to allow messages to get to the masses. With economics dictating much of the decision as well as the power relations in society, Manufacuring consent help us see the five practices how hegemony is being made through the media. My only critic is that the reality is more complex and it cannot only be reduced to power and money.

Mattieohya5 karma

Can you talk about generational divide in media literacy? What do you get folks fall for and what about older folks? How can I help my parents recognize their weaknesses in media literacy?

MediaLiteracyEd5 karma

u/Mattieohya this is a super important question.

I think anyone can be susceptible to misinformation and disinformation. It has no age limit, but I totally understand what you mean by a generational divide. I have conversations with students all the time about moments when they talked to their parents about questionable information they found online. My advice is always the same. Approach every conversation with an open mind, and talk to them about why it matters to you. Sharing how media literacy tools and skills helped you might get them to open up about their own weaknesses. I find it's actually best to have these kinds of tough conversations with the people you love.

Dan_From_Japan5 karma

Hi, I appreciate the important work that folks like yourselves are doing. My question is: do you know of any educational resources similar to what the Portuguese government are working on (afaik it is called the LEME program that are accessible and available in English? I think it would be great for aiming to get this adopted into school curriculums.

MediaLiteracyEd17 karma

Thanks for asking, Dan. There are many resources in English and we will provide some:

The Media Education Lab:

The Center for Media Literacy MediaKit:

Project Look Sharp Curriculum:

KQED Educational Materials:

Let us know if that help :-)

Dan_From_Japan2 karma

Thank you, these are very useful. I'm looking forward to digging into them in detail. Keep up the amazing work.

MediaLiteracyEd6 karma

I'll add one more from PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs:

hansjens474 karma

How do you think media can manage to engage those who spend little time on or care little about democracy and governance?

Secondly, what moves should media make to engage young people so they participate in the running of the societies that shape their lives?

MediaLiteracyEd4 karma

u/hansjens47 -
GREAT question! Over the past few decades, there's been lots of talk about what many stakeholders can do to support young people's participation, but media are not often discussed (except social media and digital platforms).

That said, all sorts of media - local news, youth-created media, national outlets, cultural media - all have important roles to play in a wide diversity of young people's paths to participating in democracy. A core element of what we would suggest includes actually speaking with, listening to and collaborating with young people, instead of talking down to or shaming young people. Here are a few ideas for journalists:

In terms of inclusion in democracy and governance - my short answer: broader knowledge of opportunity and supports to be involved. Let's design opportunities for inclusion, rather than for those who are already extremely engaged.

Not_a_N_Korean_Spy3 karma

Thank you so much for the work you do.

Do you know of or have any resources, in meme, diagram or video form that could offer some kind of checklist to help people spot the quality or manipulativeness of a news story, meme or video?

MediaLiteracyEd5 karma

Hey u/Not_a_N_Korean_Spy! Yes, PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs has a great video using the STOPLIGHT method to assess the credibility of information. Here you go:

Here are some other great media literacy resources to sift through:

MaverickTopGun3 karma

Do you see any real divides in media literacy related to party affiliation or demographics? Does education increase media literacy and has that effect strengthened or weakened in the last few years? What do you think has had the single greatest detrimental impact on the countries overall media literacy?

MediaLiteracyEd1 karma

u/MaverickTopGun thank you for your question.
Of course, there are different opinions and different takes on media literacy. Like everything else, there are many definitions and people react or use the terms differently. It might not be so much as left and right or demographics, but more about the fear of control and how people see the practice of media literacy as allowing people to be liberated or more controlled.
In the last five years since Brexit and the 2016 elections, with the term post-truth, we see a surge in people understanding the role and importance of media literacy. While some regard media literacy as a practice where the individual questions power and sees the dynamics and their impact, others see media literacy as a rigid method of fact checking that indoctrinates students. Obviously, we see our role to advocate for media literacy as more in line with the first practice of learning to question power by looking at the forces behind the production of a message and how it is impacting its audiences.
We do see how the algorithm on social media and how it is designed is allowing a greater discussion on the role of media literacy by users and the responsibility of the social media algorithm and its designers.

sneakywill2 karma

How do you feel about the clear use of media outlets to manipulate sentiment around companies and stocks for the benefit of the owners of those media outlets? Essentially that they are used to "pump and dump" average people.

MediaLiteracyEd3 karma

u/sneakywill this is part of looking at the interests and learning to identify when the message has a commercial value.

ammygy2 karma

What's your advice on being a repository of factual information on social media? My country right now has a great voter mis/non-education, and one of the goals that are being explored by some people is to provide unbiased, non-partisan information to voters. Is there such a thing as unbiased facts nowadays - due to the great spread of misinformation and fake news where being factual is now an opinion for both sides? Is it responsible to just be a repository of information, without a call to action directing the audience?

MediaLiteracyEd5 karma

u/ammygy - voter education is critical! This is an incredibly important topic. In our work on youth voting at CIRCLE, we see different ways that various stakeholders have done this, but there's lots of room for innovation, in my opinion.

  • First, there's year-round education that election administrators, municipalities, educators and others can to to let people know about which positions are elected and what those roles are responsible for.
  • I don't think we can underestimate sending out sample ballots ahead of an election to let people know what is on the ballot and what else they may need to address. (Making the ballot understandable to a wide range of people is important too!)
  • Hyper-local news sources provide information on the super-local elections that larger sources may not have time for - online in various forms. In this US, this may be judges, school boards, town/city elections, or in some places an explainer for a ballot initiative/referendum.
  • I've also seen many non-partisan, civic/community organizations create "voter guides" for people on specific issues. Sometimes these exist in hard copy, or on an app or a webpage. These are common in the States, but not everywhere.
  • In addition to non-partisan community groups creating voter guides on specific issues, these groups often hold forum or town halls on the issues so that people can ask questions directly and hear answers.
  • There are also several educational sites who try to do research for others and gather a range of perspectives to use for either educating yourself or for discussion.

ChaosOnline2 karma

How does one go about being a media literacy or democracy expert? Because that sounds like an interesting line of work.

MediaLiteracyEd3 karma

Love it u/ChaosOnline! They don't really teach you in high school or college about this career path, haha. BUT, I do think everyone can be a media literacy and democracy expert. As an active citizen, I consider the need to be media literate essential. I also think it's important to know the basic functions of government in a democracy in order to be an informed voter. It can feel overwhelming to learn about these subjects but starting out by thinking more critically about the information you consume and questioning it is a good first step.

shewholaughslasts2 karma

If this 'new' age of news is similar to our historical battle with 'yellow journalism' and snake oil salesmen, how can we re-approach news and information dissemination to re-equalize content with today's technology? Fact check notes on stories seem wildly under-used and ignored. How do we escape the clutches of this new insidious version of yellow journalism and get back to sources and facts and local content?

Also thank you for the work you do even if you don't get around to answering this. This IS the crucial question of our times and how we react to our current and upcoming challenges (climate, covid, racism) will all be filtered through the news each of us receives.

MediaLiteracyEd2 karma

u/shewholaughslasts yes history repeats itself. And once again this will not be solved with technology, but eduation. It is our belief and our members extensive research on the matter that shows how taking media literacy can help with discerning information as well as better understand where the message is coming from and why. By creating yet another algorithm/technology we will be subject to the same fallouts of misinformation and decision biases. Unlike yellow journalism that had a monopoly, we live a more democratized media environment that for good and bad have a personal reach and impact. Therefore, only each one of the users or consumers can deconstruct and evaluate the information.

Mundunggus1 karma

With all the information that we're able to consume on a daily basis, how can one build a healthier information diet?

MediaLiteracyEd4 karma

u/Mundunggus you're right. There is SO much information out there. It's like a firehose and almost impossible to avoid unless you consciously unplug from civilization. I try to build mindful habits around my information diet. For example, I limit the amount of time I'm on social media during the day because I know it can be really distracting. I also use the morning to read the latest news and figure out how it will impact my day as a journalism professional. The other important habit I try to build is to make sure I'm checking a lot of different types of information. It's hard to break out of our information bubbles, but it's important we do to gain different perspectives about issues. As long as the information is fact-checked!

mr_impastabowl-2 karma

What were you most nervous about in preparing for this AMA?

MediaLiteracyEd0 karma

Fear of no one asking any questions! Luckily, that's not the case. :) Loving this!