MODULE 1 - THE MEDIA UNIVERSE
SESSION 1 : FUNCTIONS AND TOOLS OF INFORMATIONEducational sheet 3
CHAPTER 3 – INFORMATION AND MEDIA
Level : Easy
Objective 1: Instructors are able to define the terms ‘media’ and ‘information’
Objective 2: Instructors are capable of explaining the three ways of communicating information
Objective 3: The instructor is familiar with the information cycle
1.) Media are, above all, physical support for the mass spread of information, including print, radio, the internet, and television.
The supply of information has grown and diversified
After World War II, the information available to us increased, as did the types of media: households acquired televisions, radio stations multiplied, and numerous magazines and newspapers were founded. This is the start of ‘mass media’. After that, the amount of available information grew larger and more varied than ever before, a trend that has continued into today’s digital age, which has fundamentally changed how we get information.
Our relationship with information has changed
As the information available to us has grown and diversified, it is our relationship with information that has changed, especially with the dawn of the internet in the early 90s. Media are a true democratic check on power and have become vital to people’s lives. This includes during election campaigns for example but also extends to the entire year; the media are representatives’ and officials’ primary means of getting the word out about proposals, debates, and policy.
In addition, the changes to the media landscape, especially the advent of the internet, has increased the spread of ideas and opinions that were once on the periphery – that is, less accepted by public opinion – such as conspiracy theories and extremist ideologies. This has made it easier for them to spread among the general public.
However, less visibly, the media also provide structure and professionalism. That is, they represent a system that is organised both economically (funding structure, pay structure for journalists) and socially (knowing what it means to be a journalist, best practices, uses, journalism training).
2.) Information, in the context of critical media literacy, is a conveyed fact that comes from sources that have been identified, verified, and corroborated. This may also include contextualisation that explains or interprets the fact through a social, cultural, and political lens. Furthermore, information must fulfil three criteria:
- Of public interest: To be considered information in the media and social sense of the word, a fact must be of public interest. For example, one arbitrary citizen’s presence at a football match does not constitute information that is likely to be of interest to all the other citizens.
- Factual: Information must involve fact; it must be factual. Following on our example, this means that the score of the match or a player’s being injured on the field are information in their own right because they comprise observable facts, actions, and results. Conversely, rumours of a player being transferred to another club or any potential tension there might be within the team are not information in and of themselves.
- Verified and verifiable: To confirm its status as information, a fact must be verified and verifiable. In other words, we must pay heed to the idea of proof to check the fact.
HOW THE MEDIA CONVEY INFORMATION
In print media, there are three possible ways of transmitting information, which are used by a variety of journalistic styles:
- Explained information: The journalist analyses the facts, breaking down information and informing readers of the ‘how’ and ‘why’. This writing style is used for analyses, investigative pieces, dossiers, and interview pieces.
- Commented information: In this type of writing, journalists have more freedom to interpret and decipher the facts by using humour, giving their opinion, or giving their opinion or judgment. This writing style is used in editorials, op-eds, columns, caricatures, and criticism.
- Straight news: In this very narrative journalistic style, journalists present and recount the facts in detail. This is the style used in news briefs, press wires, news reports, minor news items, meeting minutes, and witness accounts.
THE INFORMATION CYCLE
The information cycle has a number of different steps:
- The fact
- The alert (the reporter is informed by a source)
- Verification (multiple reporters are called upon to go on site to interview organisations, people, or institutions involved)
- The media outlet may hold an editorial meeting. The editor-in-chief calls in the heads of the different sections to decide whether to send journalists to the scene to cover various angles: description, hypothesis, backstory, straight news, story of the day, etc.
- During the writing process, the journalist drafts the article or opinion piece, which the editors then proofread, add captions to any photos, etc.
- After the information is corroborated, it is time for publishing. The information is published as a breaking item, an alert, or a dispatch depending on its importance.
Note: Having a scoop means being the first to publish a piece of news. Other media can use it, but must state where they got it from.