Aspen Institute Report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy

Posted with permission of the Communications and Society Program of the Aspen Institute, Washington, D.C.

1992 gathering puts media literacy on U.S. educational agenda.

As the movement for media literacy education emerged in the US in the early 1990s, there were many questions and opinions about what media literacy was all about. For the most part, media education activities were limited to grassroots efforts — an innovative teacher here, a pioneering school district there; some efforts were concerned about issues, like violence in the media or tobacco advertising; others were focused on skills, like video production and enabling young people to produce their own media.

So a landmark event in the history of media literacy in the USA was the December, 1992 gathering of 30 leaders from the fledgling movement for a leadership conference convened by the prestigious Aspen Institute / Communications and Society Program. Following extensive preparation over two years, the 3-day conference was held at the Institute's Wye Conference Center outside of Washington, DC, and provided an unparalleled opportunity for emerging leaders in the field to meet one another, share perspectives, establish relationships and, with skilled facilitation from the Aspen Institute staff, develop common definitions, engage in strategic planning and coordinate a plan of action.

The resulting Aspen Institute Report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy proved to be an invaluable framework for collaboration and action over the next several years. Consisting of three interrelated documents, including an extensive background paper sketching important developments and contributions in the early years of the movement, the report was distributed widely to the worlds of education, media and philanthropy. With the highly respected Aspen Institute name attached, doors opened, calls were returned and funding proposals began to be approved. Many will attest that although media literacy was actually born in the US years before, it was this report that served as the official birth certificate.


Ten years later, over two-thirds of the participants in the 1992 Aspen Conference continue their leadership in the field. The following list, however, is their affiliation at the time of the conference:

Wally Bowen, Citizens for Media Literacy / Asheville, North Carolina
David Considine, PhD, Appalachian State University / Boone, North Carolina
William Costanzo, Westchester Community College / New York
August Coppola / Los Angeles, CA
J. Francis Davis / Atlanta, GA
Allen De Bevoise / Los Angeles, CA
Roger Desmond, PhD, University of Hartford / CT
Deirdre Downs, Downs Media Education Center / Stockbridge, MA
Barry Duncan, Association for Media Literacy / Ontario, Canada
George Gerbner, PhD, Temple University / Philadelphia, PA
Steve Goodman, Educational Video Center / New York
Renee Hobbs, EdD, Babson College / Massachusetts
Karen Jaffe, KIDSNET / Washington, DC
Bobbi Kamil, Cable in the Classroom / Alexandra, VA
Roselle Kovitz, Nebraska ETV Network / Lincoln, NE
Deborah Leveranz, Southwest Alternate Media Project / Houston, TX
Kathryn Montgomery, Center for Media Education / Washington, DC
Marieli Rowe, National Telemedia Council / Madison, WI
Patrick Scott, Mediascope / Los Angeles, CA
Elizabeth Thoman, Center for Media Literacy / Los Angeles, CA
Kathleen Tyner, Strategies for Media Literacy / San Francisco, CA
Karen Webster, New Hampshire Public Television / Durham, NH
Robin White, National Alliance of Media Arts and Culture / Oakland, CA
Joe Zesbaugh, Pacific Mountain Network / Denver, CO

Aspen Institute:
Patricia Aufderheide, Rapporteur
Charles Firestone, Conference Moderator
Katharina Kopp, Program Coordinator

Karin Egan, The Carnegie Corporation / New York
Ingrid Hamm, Bertelsmann Foundation / Gutersloh, Germany
Marc Vinson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation / Winston Salem, NC
Roger Desmond, PhD