Member Spotlight: Bobbie Eisenstock

What do you do?
I am a university professor, researcher, consultant and media literacy advocate. I am on the Journalism faculty at California State University, Northridge where I serve on the Advisory Board for the Office of Community Engagement. I’ve also taught at Syracuse University Newhouse School in Los Angeles, UCLA, Antioch University and its college program for prison inmates at California Institution for Women. In a former life, I was a journalist, PR specialist, and book editor, and use all these skills to inform the work I do now.

Media literacy shapes literally everything I do – teaching, consulting, even parenting. My goal is to empower media consumers and content creators with the knowledge, skills and experience to actively participate in the world and use their voices for personal and social change. In my teaching, I integrate media literacy and service learning pedagogies to provide opportunities for students to apply their media literacy skills beyond the classroom by partnering with an organization to advance its mission. Most recently, my students partnered with NewseumED to use their resources to develop multimedia projects about news literacy, the Center for Media Literacy to expand its Commit2MediaLit campaign, and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to create media literacy resources for their website, including Get REAL! Digital Media Literacy Toolkit.

My consulting focuses on the social-psychological and cultural effects of convergent media technology on children, teens and families. I write fact sheets and issue briefs, develop media literacy resources and facilitate workshops for parents, K-12 teachers and librarians, public health professionals, law enforcement, youth advocates, and the media industry. Among the groups I’ve worked with are the American Academy of Pediatrics, Los Angeles County Psychological Association, USC Health Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Caltech Women, Planned Parenthood, Association of Independent School Librarians, Humanitas Masters’ Writers Workshop, and Film2Future (F2F) Filmmaking Program for At-Risk Youth.

Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
My work is driven by the emergent new media landscape and what my students are doing in the digital culture. Currently, I am involved in bringing media and news literacy to my campus and to K-12 parent education and teacher in-service trainings. Considering the enormous amount of time students spend on their digital devices, that they get most of their news from social media and that they lack the skills to distinguish facts from fake and misleading news, it is critical to teach news literacy. By the time students enter college, they should have learned these skills, but most have not. To fill this gap, I created the first-ever news literacy course on my campus.

The News Literacy course is an elective for journalism majors and a General Education option for non-majors, which results in an interdisciplinary mix of students that enriches the discussions enormously. I developed the course as a service-learning class and students partnered with NewseumED. During the 2018 mid-term elections, the students used NewseumED resources to deconstruct campaign messaging and facilitate a campus-wide teach-in about the candidates and ballot issues. For their culminating project, they applied their news literacy skills and knowledge about the First Amendment to create podcasts, infographics, Ted Talks, raps, op-eds, memes, video interviews, and digital scrapbooks. While I’ve always taught news literacy as part of media literacy, teaching an entire course in news literacy allows me the time and space to focus on the elements of journalism and develop worksheets that intersect news literacy and media literacy concepts.

Why is media literacy important to you?
Media literacy is my lens on the world and the cornerstone of my teaching. As the digital media ecosystem converges and transforms the way we communicate, socialize, work and play, teaching media literacy as a lifelong learning skill is more important than ever. In fact, I feel a sense of urgency to seize every teachable moment to help students practice these skills and understand the role media play in their everyday lives. It troubles me that a majority of my students aretech savvy but not media literate. Many tell me that my classes are their first introduction to media literacy. When they start to learn media literacy skills, it’s as if they are putting on a new pair of glasses that gives them the ability not just to “see” more clearly but to participate more purposefully in the digital world.

What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
My students. I never stop getting excited witnessing the “aha” moment of young people who have grown up on media yet never deconstructed a TV show or commercial, magazine cover or video game, news story or social media post or their own text or tweet. When students tell me they cannot use media the same any more after taking my course – that they now think critically about how they use media and its influence on them or look for bias in the news and fact-check news stories – I know I’ve accomplished my goal.

Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?|
I was a member of NAMLE before it was NAMLE!  I’ve been involved in the media literacy movement since Liz Thoman and I met in grad school at USC Annenberg and she shared her vision for the Center for Media Literacy. I have watched the field emerge into the national movement it is today with NAMLE at its helm. One of the greatest benefits of a national media literacy organization is to be part of a community of like-minded people who share common goals, learn from one another, and connect to a network of professionals who move the field forward on a global level.

The views and opinions expressed in the M-Passioned Member blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of NAMLE or its members. The purpose of the M-Passioned Member blog is to highlight our members and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.