CJR: News Literacy vs. Media Literacy

By Jihii Jolly

Three years ago, pioneer media literacy scholar Renee Hobbs published a short critique of what she viewed as troubling trends emerging in news literacy education. She argued on the site Nieman Reports against teaching news literacy in a way that romanticizes the industry or merely transforms a Journalism 101 class into a news literacy one, teaching students the fundamentals and ideals of the craft. In the comments, there is a lengthy rebuttal from Dean Miller, director of Stony Brook’s Center for News Literacy.

“Dr. Hobbs’ critique of News Literacy would be devastating if it described the way News Literacy courses are actually taught,” he wrote. “But, what a perfect lesson in the need for News Literacy,” he continued. Her piece “defines itself as unreliable opinion by offering no citations, no data and no evidence of direct observation of News Literacy classes.”

The exchange represents the existence of ongoing factions in the news literacy world, which have become starker as access to news literacy training grows. Hobbs views media literacy—widely defined as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in various forms—as a “big tent”, under which news literacy is a strand, and her approachto teaching news literacy is rooted in integrating journalism across courses through critical reading and thinking exercises, as well as helping students understand journalism’s structures and forms through creating media and discussing the process.

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