Spotlight On: Media Literacy Now

This month, Emily Bailin Wells of the Student Leadership Council interviewed Erin McNeill, founder and President of Media Literacy Now.

When did your organization launch and why? Our vision is to see Media Literacy recognized as a key element in the education of every child in the US. For that to happen, the concept of Media Literacy must be part of the public discourse to a greater extent than it has been. I realized we need to get policymakers on board, so I worked with a legislator to get a bill introduced in Massachusetts in 2011 to elevate Media Literacy as a priority in schools. It soon became clear that working one state at a time would take too long to make change on this urgent issue, so in 2013 I launched a national effort – Media Literacy Now – to make policy change in as many states as possible across the country.

Joni Siani, filmmaker, "Celling Your Soul: No App for Life" Reggie Williams, Press Pass TV Rep. Dave Rogers testify on media literacy bill before Education Committee in Massachusetts in 2015

Joni Siani, filmmaker, “Celling Your Soul: No App for Life”, Reggie Williams, Press Pass TV, and Dave Rogers testify on media literacy bill before Education Committee in Massachusetts in 2015

What does your organization do what are your main goals and projects? Improving Media Literacy among children and young adults requires progress in many areas. The goal of Media Literacy Now is to put the issue of Media Literacy on the public policy agenda in each state to raise awareness about the urgent and critical need for students to learn key 21st century skills. We are using the vehicle of legislation to ignite passion, and generate directed action for Media Literacy policy. Legislation is helping us build a critical mass of advocates.

We are actively working with advocates in 14 states. We provide support, resources and information so advocates are empowered to initialize state legislation and follow through to enactment and implementation. We provide legislative language samples, supporting documents for legislative sponsors, toolkits for advocates, email newsletter support, fund-raising infrastructure, referrals to subject matter experts, curriculum examples, customized support, and help develop strategies.

We’ve created a structure that can support a chapter in every state – a central place where ideas specific to each state can be addressed for the purpose of coalition building and calls to action. Here, statewide and local organizations connect, endorse, and build critical mass. In addition, we’ve created a national repository for legislative and policy activity tracking on Media Literacy issues. We’re monitoring where and what kind of Media Literacy-related policy action is happening in the states, examining trends, developing and disseminating a policy knowledge base, and providing thought leadership in the public discourse.

Washington House Education Committee hears testimony from Action for Media Education members this week.

Washington House Education Committee hears testimony from Action for Media Education members this week.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members? The Washington state bill on media literacy and digital citizenship is moving quickly through the legislature, thanks to the diligent and effective work of Action for Media Education, led by Claire Beach and guided by Media Literacy Now.  In addition, a new Rhode Island bill has gathered significant support thanks to the leadership of Media Literacy Now chapter leader Mike Trofi, a former social studies teacher and civics education activist. We’re very optimistic that bill will move forward.

Please refer to our website for the progress in 12 other states.

Anything else about your organization, your mission, your staff? I want to invite anyone interested in Media Literacy to visit our website to see where policy action is taking place, and consider getting involved in their home states. In addition, we invite you to submit your Media Literacy story to the blog, and let us know if you have online resources to list on our resources page. A local resource guide is in the works, as well, so let us know if you do local workshops, classes, seminars, etc. Also, I am seeking a communications/marketing consultant or manager, so please get in touch if you are passionate about this work and want to make a difference.


Washington State Sen. Marko Liias speaks to the senate about his media literacy bill.



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