What do you do?
I am an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at George Mason University. I have spent over 10 years exploring ways to move media literacy education outside the classroom. I’m especially interested in creating and testing media literacy messages that can be placed where people consume news – for example, before online news videos or on social media websites. In addition to my research into media literacy, I also enjoy helping my students grapple with the complex interactions between the media, the government, and the public in determining the types of media that are produced and consumed.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
My latest project is with Melissa Tully of the University of Iowa. Together, we have been creating news media literacy messages in the form of short public service announcement style videos. We have been exploring whether the topic of these PSAs – for example, if they focus on the role of journalists in producing unbiased news versus the role of citizens to overcome their own biases in consuming news – can influence people’s perceptions of news content and their news consumption habits. Our research has suggested that these PSAs can be effective in limiting hostile media perceptions when political content is unbiased, but may also make congruent news content even more palatable to Republicans. Likewise, we presented data from our ongoing project at the NAMLE conference in 2017 suggesting that exposure to a PSA emphasizing citizens’ job to be critical news consumers may have limited selective exposure to congruent political content among Republicans in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Why is media literacy important to you?
As a graduate student, Professor Hernando Rojas introduced the idea of media literacy as a way to possibly combat hostile media effects in a graduate class. I was fascinated with the idea, and Melissa, Hernando and I started testing whether we could move media literacy outside the classroom and use it to reduce biased processing of news messages. The importance of media literacy has only grown as the media environment in which we live become more complicated. Helping people understand the complex way in which news and media are created in a world where the possibilities for media consumption – and production – are functionally endless is incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I’m currently most excited about the public interest in media literacy education and the increasing recognition that it may be an effective response to concerns about the spread of misinformation online. This is an opportunity for those of us interested in media literacy to explain why our work matters and how it can improve democratic functioning. Hopefully that leads to more public support and funding for our educational and research efforts!
Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
I became a NAMLE member in March of 2016, although I had been aware of the organization much longer. I’m an avid reader of the email digests, which help me stay up-to-date on special issues relevant to my interests and on the work that other people are doing in media literacy. I attended my first NAMLE conference in summer of 2017, and was incredibly impressed by the breadth of research being done and the opportunity to talk to many of the top scholars in the field. I’m excited to attend in 2019! Being a member of NAMLE serves as a constant reminder to consider the broader implications of my research and teaching for those interested in media literacy in all its forms and spaces and encourages me to emphasize the practical applications of my research.
For more information about me and my research, please visit my website at: http://emilyk.vraga.org/