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Media Literacy

4 Tools For Developing Critical Media Literacy Skills From NAMLE


As misinformation runs rampant across all media channels, it has become critical for people to … [+] develop media literacy.


With Twitter announcing a few days ago that, under Elon Musk’s leadership, it will stop policing Covid misinformation, the wide-ranging and rampant spread of falsehoods about elections and vaccines across all social media channels, and other known attempts at mass deception, it has become more important than ever that people learn to question and investigate the sources of any information they find online. Media literacy has emerged as a critical issue in the 21st century.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) is devoted to convening experts, promoting media education, and teaching people – especially children – to be savvy consumers of all forms of media. Executive Director Michelle Ciulla Lipkin speaks frequently to the press about how media literacy is an essential life skill in today’s world, and how media literacy education can combat misinformation, give people confidence in their decisions, and protect democracy.

By uniting a community of educators, practitioners, and researchers, NAMLE develops resources to develop the vital skills of media literacy. With 82 organizational partners, over 7,000 individual members, and an educator reach of 300,000, NAMLE empowers leaders and educators with the knowledge necessary to help students navigate the most complex media ecosystem that has ever existed.

During the run-up to the US midterm elections on November 8, 2022, for example, NAMLE organized Media Literacy Weeks, a series of events and programs that took place across the country. NAMLE partnered with organizations such as PBS, The National Media Literacy Alliance, Lego, Sesame Workshop, and Roblox to offer sessions on topics including how to teach media literacy in classrooms for kids ages elementary through high school and the impact of media on civic engagement. The organization has also enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Reuters.

Michelle Ciulla Lipkin is the executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy … [+] Education (NAME).


“Being media literate means asking questions, being curious and skeptical about all media messages all the time,” says Lipkin. To get started on your media literacy journey, she suggests asking these questions:

● Who made this?

● Why was it made?

● How does this make me feel?

● How might different people understand this issue differently?

● What is left out that might be important to know?

NAME’s core principles teach people that:

1. Media messages are produced for particular purposes – whether it be to entertain, sell something, inspire us, make us laugh, or even manipulate us to act and feel a certain way. Understanding the intent behind a media message is key to being media literate.

2. All media messages contain embedded values ​​and points of view. No media message is neutral. Everything has an agenda and is created by humans who have different perspectives. Think about what the values ​​and points of view are of the creator of the content when analyzing media.

3. People use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages. Each individual perceives the world and the media they both consume and create differently. Recognizing those differences allows for a more nuanced understanding of each other.

4. Media and media messages can influence beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, and the democratic process. Media are powerful and they impact almost every aspect of our lives.

Name convenes leaders and educators to teach children how to be critical thinkers when it comes to … [+] media consumption.


Lipkin developed a passion for media literacy for very personal reasons. On December 21, 1988, when she was 17 years old, her father was coming home from a business trip in London when the plane he was on, Pan Am flight 103, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. Experts later determined that a bomb had been placed on board by terrorists.

This was before cell phones and the internet, so Lipkin and her family actually learned of the terrible tragedy through a breaking news story. They had to watch the television news to get all their information about the crash, its cause, the other families impacted, and even – that first night – to learn that there were no survivors.

“It was a life-defining moment,” says Lipkin, “an incident that would forever change the person I was. It changed the way I thought about the world, the way I saw myself, the way I understood everything. It also shaped my relationship with the media – in profound and powerful ways.”

Three and a half years later, Lipkin and her family set out to investigate the Lockerbie disaster for themselves. That decision, she said, changed everything. “I had believed that what I was seeing on the news was my father’s story. I hadn’t even realized that there were questions I should have been asking. Answers I should have been demanding.” In the 30 years since, she has made endless media appearances regarding her father’s death.

Furthermore, what she discovered led Lipkin directly into a lifelong career of media production and media literacy education. “I have found the perfect cause for me to keep fighting for,” Lipkin says. “I feel very proud of the work that I do and the growth of NAMLE and the media literacy movement. It is valuable work that makes a real difference in people’s lives.”

That said, Lipkin faces numerous challenges in running a non-profit, including fundraising and capacity issues around whether they can bring on the staff they need. In addition, Lipkin says, the media literacy community is large and diverse, meaning that people have many different ways to approach it. Finally, she feels that “the movement to save our country from falling into a disinformation abyss is a 24/7 job. It’s on my mind all the time.”

With the Covid pandemic, the rapid spread of misinformation became about more than just democracy; it became a life-or-death situation. And so, Lipkin feels more motivated than ever to continue her work with NAMLE. “Our services have never been in more demand. Our work has never been more important.”

Lipkin has an original take on connecting with your life purpose. “I always prefer to be the least intelligent person in the room,” she says. “I love learning from others. I am curious about other people’s expertise and perspective. My advice: surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and have different skills than you. This can inspire you to take yourself to the next level.”


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