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Jeff Share: The Need for Critical Media Literacy

Jeff Share, lecturer in the UCLA Department of Education, was interviewed for, on his 2019 book, “The Critical Media Literacy Guide: Engaging Media and Transforming Education” (With Douglas Kellner). A former photojournalist and classroom teacher, Share discussed the urgency for critical media literacy in a rapidly evolving media landscape. 

In the interview, Share outlined the book’s concepts of critical media literacy, including social constructivism, analyzing the medium as well as the message, audiences and positionality, politics of representation, traditional institutions of communication, and social environmental justice. 

“An important part of critical media literacy is recognizing power and understanding how information is always somehow connected to power,” Share said. People are benefiting and people are losing by different information, by what’s being chosen to be shown or told, and what’s not. What’s missing and also how it’s being framed and how the information is being communicated.”

Share described media’s creation of biases, and said that “… media reproduces things and, in a way, oftentimes very subtly that it just makes something seem like it’s just more normal, more right and correct.”

“In our culture, we have a lot of dominant myths and mythologies that many of them are very harmful,” Share said in the interview. “I mean, patriarchy is one ideology that reproduces male superiority over females, and that’s really problematic. And these are often things that are reproduced often in the media, white supremacy, heteronormativity. A lot of these dominant ideologies are things that we want our students to start to question and challenge and ask, wait, is this really fair? Is this being equitable?”

Share also spoke about the differences between good bias and bad bias; how the consolidation of media further limits the number of corporations and individuals who control it; and the need for users of media to triangulate their information in order to make more informed decisions. 

“… All information… has bias and all information has elements to it that we need to be questioning and saying, well, wait, what are we missing here?” noted Share. “What’s it not telling or how are they framing it? Simply oftentimes just by the words that are chosen to tell about an event, that right then positions people to think a certain way.

“… This is a part of democracy. This is the part about being a responsible citizen. That it isn’t easy, it takes work. And I think that’s what we need to help remind our students, is that anything worthwhile takes work.”

In March, the LAUSD school board passed a resolution to require critical media literacy instruction, beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

For video and a transcript of Share’s interview for The PropWatch Project, visit this link.

Photo by Michael Dressler