Emily Bailin Wells interviewed Katherine Fry, Professor and Department Chairperson of the Department of Television and Radio at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. The program began in the 1960s with the intent to prepare students for jobs working in the traditional broadcast industry of the time. Currently, the Department offers undergraduate degrees in Television and Radio (BA), and in Journalism and Media Studies (BS in JAMS). The department also offers a graduate level MFA degree in Television Production and an MS degree in Media Studies with a special emphasis in Media Literacy Education. Read the full interview here.
EBW: When did your organization launch and why?
KF: Since its early days the Department of Television and Radio has now morphed into an academic Department that has had to grow and respond to changes in the media industry and in the ways media are studied. The Department offers undergraduate degrees in Television and Radio (BA), and in Journalism and Media Studies (BS in JAMS). On the graduate level the Department offers an MFA degree in Television Production and an MS degree in Media Studies with a special emphasis in Media Literacy Education. We continue to re-assess what we offer in each degree program to meet the needs of not only the electronic media industries and their adjuncts (advertising, publishing, etc.) but also, and, importantly, the culture at large. We take very seriously our role in the Liberal Arts tradition of Brooklyn College, and faculty members in the Department contribute uniquely their talents in media theory, analysis, and production. Individual faculty projects and scholarship reflect a diversity of thought and talent. Currently, we are re-thinking the divide between production and scholarship because digital media demand it. Right now is an interesting time to be a part of media education at the college and university level.
EBW: What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is unique about your organization?
KF: What is unique about our Department is our diversity: demographically and in terms of interest and how we think about media. What makes us particularly unique at this moment is the fact that we offer a rigorous curriculum in at the graduate level in Media Literacy Education and we have dedicated the current academic year to showcasing our MS in Media Studies and particularly the Media Literacy track within the MS. Because of our faculty, our location in New York City and our access to media industry and so many organizations and efforts that support Media Literacy, we are incredibly excited about the prospect of becoming an important site for educating future Media Literacy educators in the community.
EBW: What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?
KF: Coming up on November 2nd, during National Media Literacy Week, we are holding a Media Night at Brooklyn College (streamed live and with an in-studio audience) wherein we showcase not only our Media Literacy Education efforts at the graduate level, but more importantly, the wide array of organizations in NYC and beyond that are engaged in Media Literacy in all its diversity. Right now we’re recruiting organizations and individuals to be a part of our Media Night in whatever capacity they can: from attending the Media Night to show something that they do, to sending us something to showcase, to making an appearance on Facebook live or via Twitter. We want to make it a multi-media, multi-presence affair that showcases media literacy while commenting on how media create new ways to be together and share.
In early May of 2017 — on May 5th — we are hosting an all-day Media Studies/Media Literacy Education conference at our 25 Broadway location in lower Manhattan. the Conference is called “Engaging the Digital: 21st Century Media Activism.” The conference call for proposals will be coming out shortly. We’re inviting individuals and organizations to propose projects, papers, panels and experiences around Media Literacy as Activism — very broadly defined. We’re hoping it will bring together lots of different types of people who think about and contribute to social change through all different kinds of media. We’re still planning and creating the event, and more information will be coming soon. The Engaging the Digital conference we hope will also showcase our graduate program in Media Studies and Media Literacy Education.
EBW: Why is media literacy important to you?
KF: Media Literacy, simply put, is the educational necessity of our time. Comprehensive Media Literacy education–which encompasses all the adjoining literacies (news literacy, digital literacy, etc.)– is imperative to a thinking people, a thinking citizenry, a thinking society. It’s one of the important ways we can make sense of who we are. The late media theorist, James Carey, argued that Communication is Culture. If that is true, and we believe that it is, then one cannot understand culture without understanding all of the components of communication. A thorough Media Literacy education provides that understanding.
EBW: Is there anything else you would like to share about your organization, your mission, or your staff?
KF: There are 13 full-time faculty in the Department of Television and Radio at Brooklyn College, and almost the same number of adjunct faculty. We’re very proud to say that the Executive Director of NAMLE, Michelle Ciulla-Lipkin, is one of our adjunct faculty members, and uses office space in the Department for her NAMLE work. Another NAMLE member on our adjunct faculty list is Belinha De’Abreu. One my goals as Chair of the Department is to continue to build a faculty that understands and shares the goals of comprehensive media education, and media literacy education in particular. I believe this will strengthen our Departmental mission, and will best serve the students we educate.