Founding Inspiration


"Media literacy is not about having all the answers but knowing how to ask the right questions."
— from Media&Values editorial philosophy

Media&Values was born in spring, 1977 as founding editor Elizabeth Thoman navigated her way through afternoon traffic in Los Angeles to a graduate seminar in "Communications and Social Values" at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

Excited by the technological innovations of the mid-1970's --- VCRs, cable television, global satellites, the vision of desktop computing -- she had been struggling with how to share the educational potential of the new ideas she was encountering at Annenberg with the grassroots educational community which was, in many cases, still stuck in a chalkboard mentality.

Struggling to identify a final project to complete the seminar, she was inspired that afternoon driving to school, to "start a magazine – to create a forum to explore how new technologies will transform schooling, health care, family life, indeed all of social and cultural reality." The goal would be to do it in a language, style and format that grassroots educators could understand.

Professor Richard Byrne challenged her to "turn in the first issue for credit." She did and got an A for the course. Media&Values magazine continued for 63 issues until December, 1993.

Elizabeth Thoman CHM, Founder


Elizabeth Thoman founded the Center for Media Literacy in 1989. Although no longer active inthe Center’s day-to-day management, Thoman is one of the pioneering leaders of the media literacy movement in the United States. Thoman has spent more than 30 years defining the promise and potential of media literacy education in schools and afterschool programs, libraries, religious and community centers.

Engaging and entertaining as a writer, editor, speaker and teacher, Thoman's fresh, creative voice effectively raised the bar for our collective conversation about what it means to be "literate" as the media culture dawned in the late 20th century.

Drawing on her varied experiences as a high school journalism teacher, an award-wining still photographer and a public relations consultant, Thoman founded Media&Values magazine in 1977. The acclaimed publication, designed to share information, research and ideas for action about mass media and new technology, was described by the London Sunday Telegraph as "the smartest magazine about media published in the U.S."

By 1989, it had become the cornerstone of the Center for Media Literacy, a 501(c)3 organization established to encourage new ways of thinking about television and media and to develop new teaching resources for exploring the impact - pro and con -- of media and new technology in our daily life.

A long-time student of the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, Thoman adapted his research to create the "Empowerment Spiral" as a model for effective "inquiry" into media topics and issues. The four-step process of Awareness / Analysis / Reflection / Action became the foundation for the Center's teaching philosophy and curriculum development. For nearly 15 years, the Center's work has touched thousands of parents, teachers and students with innovative educational resources on topics such as sexism in the media, how to watch the news, parenting and television, violence in media and tobacco and alcohol advertising.

She is one of four founders of the Partnership for Media Education, formed in 1997 to promote professional development in the field through organizing and hosting the National Media Education Conference. In 2001 PME evolved into a national membership organization, the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA); Thoman continues to provide leadership as a board member and corporate officer.

In 2000, Thoman received the Daniel J. Kane Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Dayton (OH) in recognition of her commitment, innovation and leadership in the field of media literacy education.

Known as an articulate and passionate speaker, Thoman has testified before Congress and was one of 50 media and educational leaders in the U.S. invited by President and Mrs. Clinton to the White House Summit on Children's Television. She has keynoted conferences in the US and Canada, including the National Association for Science, Technology and Society, National Catholic Educational Association, Kentucky School Boards Association, the Southern California Psychiatric Society and has presented hundreds of media literacy trainings and workshops nationally and in over 25 states. She has also participated in international media conferences in France, the Philippines, England, Germany and Canada.

Thoman has also been interviewed by Bill Moyers for Frontline, and by NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio, CNN, Time, The Los Angeles Times, National Catholic Reporter, Associated Press, the Today Show, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal among others. Her articles and interviews have appeared in a wide variety of educational publications including English Journal, Momentum and Educational Leadership.

A native of Nashville, Tennessee, she received an M.A. in Communications Management from the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Southern California. She also holds a B.A. in English from Marycrest International University, Davenport, Iowa, which honored her in 1990 with the Henderson Medal in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the field of education. A Roman Catholic nun since 1964, she is a member of the progressive Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Davenport, Iowa.


The Heart of the Matter: Reflection / Action