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Thursday 21 June 2018

We need Media Legibility as much as Media Literacy

Reuters Digital News Report 2018
As part of the Reuters Digital News Report 2018 survey a question was asked of the public in each country 'Who is typically responsible for writing a press release? The results of the Irish survey carried out by FUJO surprised me.

33 percent thought journalists and news outlets write press-releases for organisations; only 36 percent correctly identified the role of a PR spokesperson.
Would a "Press Officer" answer option let more people choose the correct answer? , or was there a confusion between a press release tha its usually written and then offering spokesperson (as in speech) as the correct answer option? A survey is fine but why did they get the answer wrong?

I read some other US studies/surveys of media literacy recently and the most of the questions seemed very basic to me, Im not sure how familiarity with the particular phraseology used by the news media is actually a news literacy test, a lot of the phrases are not actually used in the news, questions on general sceptism would be more useful. The 2018 and 2017 Reuters report seem to be about how the ignorant public get things wrong and are being misled by social media and outside forces, no mention of a catastrophic unending Mid-East war based on lies buoyed by the media or phone "hacking". The 2017 questionnaire directly compared social media and news media and seem to prime the respondents to compare and contrast them rather then consider news media by its self.

Media Literacy vs Media Legibility
One of the functions of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is 'media literacy', news/media literacy seems to be (generally aimed children) but also to be all about the public's ignorance of the media and how it works, how about the media be more transparent.

I think the other side of the coin to 'media literacy' might be 'media legibility', as an example, the Reuters Digital Report 2018 report says a lot of the public were not clear about who writes press releases. If the media was clearer about often just turning press releases into articles (perhaps by including the entire press release they were sent at the bottom of the article or linking to it), that would be 'media legibility', ie. being clearer about what they are doing. Does BAI have Media Legibility Policy / Network or does is my example have any part of the Media Literacy policy?

I think media correcting their mistakes and using hyperlinks or embedding to source documents is crucial. Maybe news media literacy is a consumer facing issue and news legibility is a journalism industry issue. So does anyone in Ireland promote news legibility for the public benefit? The Press Council/Ombudsman is extremely limited as I recently discovered, its for the press not the public. The NUJ seem to be like lawyers and just defend reporters no matter how they carry out their job. The are number initiatives like the Trust Project Indicators which would aid media legibility but none are active in Ireland. The Centre for Critical Media Literacy is for student journalists, will they be able to change industry practices once employed in the industry?

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland operates under the Broadcasting Act 2009

Among the functions of the BAI is to,

(g) to undertake, encourage and foster research, measures and activities which are directed towards the promotion of media literacy, including co-operation with broadcasters, educationalists and other relevant persons.
it also funds
(b) new television or sound broadcasting programmes to improve adult or media literacy,

Definition of media literacy
“ media literacy ” means to bring about a better public understanding of:

(a) the nature and characteristics of material published by means of broadcast and related electronic media,

(b) the processes by which such material is selected, or made available, for publication by broadcast and related electronic media,

(c) the processes by which individuals and communities can create and publish audio or audio-visual material by means of broadcast and related electronic media, and

(d) the available systems by which access to material published by means of broadcast and related electronic media is or can be regulated;

Can this not include media legibility? can you not bring about a better public understanding of the nature and characteristics of material published by means of broadcast and related electronic media by encouraging the publishers to provide transparent and rich content?

BAI Understanding media and the Media Literacy Network

Media Literacy Network Ireland

BAI's Media Literacy Policy Document on the working groups of the Media Literacy Network Ireland and the Interim Steering Groups and an infrequently updated mailing list.

Press Council / Press Ombudsman

There is independent of government Press Council/ Press Ombudsman which was set up to accompany the Defamation Act 2009 which outlines the mininum standards Minimum Requirements in Relation to Press Council.
The principal objects of the Press Council shall be to—

(a) ensure the protection of freedom of expression of the press,

(b) protect the public interest by ensuring ethical, accurate and truthful reporting by the press,

(c) maintain certain minimum ethical and professional standards among the press,

(d) ensure that the privacy and dignity of the individual is protected.

Could this include encouraging media legibilty (or even media literacy?) The Press Ombudsman doesn't take complaints from third parties only those "personally affected" which leaves a lot of mistakes with no outside body to enforce correction.

Further Research

I came across Brian O'Neills papers on media literacy which revealed to me why I dislike the concept of media literacy so much in Communication Rights, Digital Literacy and Ethical Individualism in the New Media Environment
Commentators have noted that the new emphasis on media literacy in public policy represents a significant shift of responsibility from collective forms of regulation and control, represented by legislation and regulatory control at member state level, to the individual who is now deemed responsible and assumed to be capable of making informed choices in matters of communication and social interaction in today’s mediated environment (Livingstone, Lunt et al. 2007; Penman and Turnbull 2007). The ideal subject of digital literacy appears to represent a form of ethical individualism in which the source of moral values and principles, and the basis of ethical evaluation is the individual (Lukes 1973).

Sonia Livingstone has highlighted media legibility as the other side of media literacy but seems to be mostly referring to bad interface design rather then the content, I don't quite see it as problem to be overcome but an opportunity, the usefulness of hyperlinks and embedding in order to make news media legible, perhaps if I referred to it as "news media legibility and transparency (honesty...opacity) that would be clearer.
As with our other pairings, the notion of literacy implies a text to be read, raising questions of legibility – what interpretations are afforded, what knowledge is expected, what possibilities are enabled or impeded. The case may also be made in reverse – the more complex or, especially, the more “illegible” (or hard to read, to decode) the text or media environment, the greater the task of media literacy. On this account, many new digital interfaces should be understood as illegible (illdesigned, non-user-friendly, possibly deliberately obscure or deceptive); only as literacy develops and, one hopes, as the text/technology is redesigned responsively, can literacy and legibility achieve a tolerable balance.

The focus on legibility, together with the recognition that literacy is culturally and historically conditioned, not simply a matter of individual cognition (Scribner and Cole 1973; Snyder 2001), foregrounds a critical perspective long important to audience research.

Maybe in the second paragrpah she also means in the individual versus collective sense that she and Brian O'Neill wrote about? (when will academic papers be legible?)

Reading other mentions from her of legibility...
Her definition of media legibility,
for internet literacy depends on online ‘legibility’ – namely a transparent, interpretable, conventionalised environment for users.

But if Sonia Livingstone suggests that media legibility is essential for media literacy should it not be core of the BAI Media Literacy Policy and the Media Literacy Network?

‘Build credibility through transparency’ The American Press Institute.