Occupy Media Literacy

Whether we know it or not, people are surrounded by media for the better part of their waking hours.  People are exposed to media messages 68.8% of their waking hours, via emails, television, text messages, Facebook, Twitter — the list seems endless. This is why it is important to have the skills to analyze the media messages we all are swamped with.

For about 11 hours a day people are receiving the medias messages.  These messages are eagerly absorbed from exposure to radio, books, magazines, television, and the Internet.  These media sources are believed, by most, to be important “facts.”  People assume these media sources are reliable and factual.  This, however, is not necessarily true.  If one were to listen, for example, to the “facts” from Senators such as Senator John Kyle, we would “know” that Planned Parenthood spends 90% of its activities with abortion procedures.  However, the correct statistic of abortion procedures performed at Planned Parenthood is 3%.  If people listen to Glenn Beck they “know” that conservatives founded the civil rights movement.  Conservatives actually fought the civil rights movement with hearty determination.  These “facts” have been blown out of proportion.  Yet millions of people accept these “facts” as truths; they depend on media sources to report information truthfully and factually.

This is the reason that it is so very important to be media savvy.  Americans, on a daily basis, are being told lies by many media sources.  Many media sources omit facts or report on the sources’ own personal views on issues.  They spin tales and trusting Americans believe these lies.  Partial truths, lies, and personal viewpoints are hammered into citizens as truths.  For these reasons it is important for people to be cautious and carefully discerning.

With this in mind I purchased a well-known and highly praised magazine; TIME.  To be specific TIME: The Year In Review: 2011 edition.  I thumbed through the 122 pages, pages that cost me a whopping $12.99, until I saw an article about the Occupy Movement in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Movement that I had heard about. I was instantly drawn to this article, since it happened in my city, to my people.

The article reported that the Occupy movement’s original goal was to stand up to the 1% of those who were economically wealthy and to defend the 99% of our population that is suffering.  The Movement was protesting the distribution of power in the United States due to the corporate elite.  The Movement’s anger was not towards the government but towards the extremely wealthy.  The Occupy Movement, I read, originated in Canada. The article stated that the writers of Vancouver, Canada’s anti-consumerist magazine, “Adbusters”, decided they were fed up.  The news spread and the Occupy Movement spread to the United States.  On September 17th the Occupy Movement was born in Manhattan, New York. Movement protesters proceeded to spend the night in the cities Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, right in the heart of the financial district.

TIME’s article then went on to say the Occupy protesters were joined by the “unemployed and the underemployed, scenesters, community organizers, middle aged activists, and folks who don’t bother to vote.”  TIME magazine went on to poll United States citizens through a TIME/Abt and SRBI poll.  By early October, over half of those polled had heard of the Occupy Movement and 54% of the Americans polled were found to have a “favorable view” of the Movement.  The Occupy Movement spread rapidly to other cities and by October 10th almost every state had protesters eagerly joining the Occupy Movement.

What TIME failed to mention in its 1,517-word account of the Movement, was that Occupy was in over 95 cities and 82 countries.  They also failed to mention that in America alone over 600 communities participated in the Occupy Movement.  TIME clearly omitted important facts and put negative emphasis on a sub-population of Movement participants who were portrayed as negative participants instead of an important section of the population who has suffered the most during our economic woes. TIME mentions the underemployed and unemployed but did not explain the main, and probably the most important reason, as to why these citizens felt the need to join their voices in the Occupy Movement.  In addition to that, TIME magazine did not mention the many reasons as to why the other 46% of the American population had strong negative reactions to the Occupy Movement.  The magazine failed to report so much information.  I knew, by speaking to my Portland neighbors and friends, that many Portlandians were annoyed with the Occupy Movement because of physical damage done to our city parks that were used by the Movement and that their frustrations had nothing to do with the political message that Occupy protestors were proclaiming. Rather than use the space allotted to the author of the article, TIME magazine instead chose to splash their pages with a huge photo and extra large title font.  The writer had been given a full two pages yet only wrote 1,517 words (coverage of the Royal Wedding had a full four pages!)

The author of the TIME article used negatively charged words and phrases throughout the article.  An example of this was, “Protesters claimed to represent the vast majority of the United States.”  Another example was within the first paragraph.  “The first people to respond were a motley collection of punks, anarchists, socialists, hackers, liberals and artists.”  TIME failed to mention those who had jobs and were just mad because of the social and economic injustice.  The author went to describe some of the participants as, “…bearded and shirtless youth playing bongo drums, rolling their cigarettes and painting their bodies in Zuccotti Park.”

It was at this point in the article I paused to think about what I had read and realized how powerful the media coverage of events can be.  I began to see how difficult it is in this media rich environment to get a full and unbiased coverage on important issues.  I found, being a media literate person, I was left disappointed, shocked and angry, especially since I had spent $12.99 on this poor piece of reporting.  In addition, the  lack of media coverage in comparison to the full media coverage of the Royal Wedding leaves me wondering where the media’s priorities are.

Perhaps TIME magazine limited (and biased) report on the Occupy Movement as opposed to the Royal Wedding four-page article was because the magazine knew that more people were interested in the life of the Royals than the lives of ordinary citizens.  Maybe gossip and tabloid topics are more interesting to people and, therefore, sells more magazines.  Or perhaps the Occupy Movement did not have enough public interest to justify the funding of such an intricate and mind boggling story.

The media industry in this democracy is failing us media literate concerned citizens.  We all need to know important facts about news, not just what kind of ridiculous hats the royal guests wear.  No media literate person would be happy with the amount of coverage this story contains.  To be truly media literate one must inform oneself with many media sources that present a variety of different viewpoints.  My suggestion to TIME magazine — take out the Royal Wedding half page on hats and gowns and focus more on what people really need to be informed about as citizens of the world. True knowledge is power.

One thought on “Occupy Media Literacy

  1. I think that we have to look at media in the context of capitalism and our market oriented society. Media companies exist to make money for their shareholders. They make money by selling advertising space, so it makes sense that they would pay most attention to the stories that sell the most advertising space, like the Royal Wedding; and that they would reflect the opinions they think most of their readers hold, like mainstream Americans’ ideas about who and what was behind the Occupy Movement. Even my cherished New York Times has to get a good return for it’s shareholders, though it’s still family owned, I think. So it maybe can be more journalistically ethical…It can be very informative to look at the BBC or AlJazeera to get a more rounded picture of what is going on in the world.

    Like your writing, a lot. Sorry it took me so long to read your blog!

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