Partner Spotlight: Action for Media Education

When did your organization launch and why?
Action for Media Education launched over 30 years ago as an outgrowth of a statewide survey of parents. At that time, Marilyn Cohen, AME’s Executive Director, was leading a television project based in the University of Washington’s College of Education. The project worked with a network of Washington State’s PBS stations to provide educational programming for early childhood educators and parents. Because the programming providing parent education had been quite popular, Marilyn and her colleagues decided to conduct a statewide survey designed to explore parent education topics that would be of greatest interest as a guide for the project’s future programming.

In conjunction with the survey, the project also conducted a series of statewide town hall meetings chaired by our then-Governor’s wife who had taken a great interest in the idea of providing parent education via television. Parents came out in great numbers for these meetings; however, rather than discussing topics they would want parent education on TV to address, they used the meetings as a vehicle to vent their tremendous frustration with the lack of quality programming for families on TV.
After the work of the University project had ended, Marilyn and her colleagues felt they needed to do something more. Parents wanted action! They wanted, first of all, a way to engage their local TV stations in listening to their feedback about the types of programming they felt the stations should be airing.

Several of the people who had been involved in organizing the town hall meetings joined Marilyn and one of her University colleagues to form a nonprofit organization that was designed to help parents start taking action. This organization originally called the Foundation for Family Television gradually evolved into Action for Media Education. The first action that the organization took was to organize teams of people throughout the state who would commit to spending time together to define what they meant by “quality TV programming for families.” What criteria would they use to judge programming? This proved to be our first step toward media literacy education! Those programs which met the group’s criteria for quality programming were given awards. Awards events were held at each of the locations where town hall meetings had been held. Representatives of local TV stations along with, when possible, those who had created some of these programs were invited to the events so that they could receive these community awards for quality programming.

What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?

Action for Media Education promotes, supports and provides media literacy education. One of our main initiatives is to integrate media literacy education across the K-12 public school curriculum in Washington State. Another initiative is to support educators in providing media literacy education in their classrooms and after school settings. Still, another initiative is to support and promote the youth voice.

What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your organization?

The organization has served as the catalyst for all the media literacy legislation that has passed thus far in the state of Washington. Washington was the first state to pass media literacy legislation impacting our state’s schools.

What are recent projects or new resources that your organization would like to share with other NAMLE members?

Action for Media Education encourages NAMLE members to check out a recent project, International Expressions of Kindness. This multimedia showcase was designed to provide a vehicle for children and youth worldwide to share their thoughts and feelings about kindness and the many diverse ways it can be expressed. Over 1,800 young people 3-18 years of age from 45 countries submitted entries in a variety of mediums ranging from video, photography, music and dance, arts and crafts to written word. The War in Ukraine became a focus for several of the projects after this project was launched. We hope NAMLE members will also visit our earlier project focused on the youth voice, the Corona Multimedia Showcase.

What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?

The work of our organization is focused directly on media literacy education.

Why is media literacy important to your organization?

The need for media literacy education has never been greater. We must continue to work to reach out to educators, parents and all those who live and work with children.

Anything else you want our readers to know about your organization, your mission, or your staff?

Action for Media Education have managed for 30 years to maintain our organization as a dedicated grassroots group of volunteers. The organization has never had a paid staff.

The views and opinions expressed in the Organizational Spotlight 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 Organizational Spotlight blog is to highlight our Organizational Partners and give them a place to share their reflections, opinions, and ideas.