Involving the Media in Media Education

From New Directions: Media Education Worldwide, edited by Cary Bazalgette, Evelyne Bevort and Josiane Savino, British Film Institute and Centre de Liaison de l'enseignement et des Moyens d'Information (CLEMI), 1992.

Report from Commission 1 New Directions in Media Education Conference July, 1989 / Toulouse, France

Commission I, chaired by Odile Chenevez, training officer at CLEMI, comprised twenty-four participants representing ten nationalities and a range of professions, both in education and in the media (journalists and television producers). In its opening session the commission drew up a list of three different kinds of collaboration that the media could offer to media education. Each of the professional groups then outlined and compared their aims and objectives. The group concentrated on education about information media, although many of its conclusions could apply to a wider range of media. Five final recommendations were agreed.

Three Types of Collaboration

  1. Professional production of media materials which provide information or encourage thinking about the media.
  2. These productions utilize the media's own resources as well as aids designed specifically for the world of education: videocassettes, reports and a variety of other materials. They can focus on a particular educational objective or they may be integrated with other elements of fiction or entertainment. Thus some media products, not in themselves aimed at media education, nevertheless encourage thought about the medium concerned and thus constitute an invaluable support to learning. In the case of media specifically designed for education, restrictions are sometimes imposed by the educational institution concerned.

    However, in contact with young people, the materials can foster considerable creativity and new styles of production, through a fusion of technology, youth culture and influence of schools. Within the school context, students sometimes achieve original productions bearing the stamp of a creativity which the commercial channels could never allow themselves.

    These concerns receive varying levels of attention, depending on the country and, in particular, on the television networks involved.

  3. Direct interventions by media professionals in educational activities.
  4. These can include conferences, workshops or media events, involving young people, teachers or other educational personnel. Some media systems have organized teams of professionals available on demand to contribute their services. This form of input gains from being linked to current educational activities so as to avoid the risk of leading (or reinforcing) a form of mystique, increasing deference to the media and to journalists. Moreover, this professional contribution is enriched through being put in the context of work carried out by researchers. On this point, two comments are worth quoting.

    a. A study of media productions, however penetrating, is inadequate if it only examines the product. Comprehensive critical analysis requires a recognition of the entire process of information processing and accordingly demands direct contact between young people and the organization concerned
    b. Journalists are well aware of the difficulty of being objective in talking about themselves. They will not refer, for example, to the pressures to which they are submitted and to which they often have to yield.

  • Support given by media professionals to productions by young people.
  • Such support can be given either in schools or within the enterprise concerned. It can consist, for example, of technical back-up by professionals to the production of films or newspapers carried out by young people; or of acceptance by a public network of material produced by young people; or of the availability in a daily newspaper of space devoted to articles written by students. The Quebec daily newspaper La Press has required a woman teacher whose role is to organize the pages of the newspaper given over to young people's writing and to news items which concern them. This teacher emphasizes the fact that, through her work, she has made a number of the publication's journalists aware and convinced of the importance of these activities.

    Aims and objectives of each group

    Having completed this series of descriptive accounts of practice, the media professionals and the educators stated their positions and outlined their aims and objectives.

    The commission underlined the need for the two partners to clarify the perspectives from which they address the issues. The journalist must remain news professionals belonging to an enterprise which aims to increase its audience and which operates under financial imperatives, while maintaining an educational role. The teachers must remain educational professionals who belong to an educational system or institution, and whose sole aim is to educate the young people who are entrusted to them.

    1. Educators' aims and objectives
    • to reveal the hidden structures of the media;
    • to show that news is not 'real', but simply one possible construction of reality;
    • to profit from the media in order to develop teaching strategies that are innovative, active and in touch with the world today;
    • to encourage and help young people to plan and produce news materials for themselves. (How can they achieve a better understanding of professional realities and constraints unless they produce their own school newspapers, films and youth programs for radio?)

    Educators want to give life to democracy and to shape future citizens through the development of a critical spirit applied to the media and through making demands on media professionals to improve the quality and the openness of their output.

  • Media professionals' objectives
    • to act in defense of the written word;
    • to develop a demanding and critical attitude in readers, listeners and viewers;
    • to rise to the commercial challenge of collaborating with young people's productions as well as maintaining a permanent concern for quality;
    • to become better acquainted with the needs of the public and to draw on their resources, in order to create products which are both useful and entertaining for readers, listeners and viewers.

    For media enterprises, the quantitative considerations that are integral to the competitive business world must go hand in hand with concerns for qualities, the desire to make products that are both informative and entertaining. Media professionals are stimulated by a public which is clear-sighted, critical and demanding.

    However, one television journalist noted that her male colleagues had no wish to take on or develop an educational role. They were caught up in the logic of audience maximization, where any concern for quality in news presentation was ruled out. Nevertheless, the press, which in many countries is losing readers, is strongly involved in educational activities, in order to build its future readership.

    While the media are not competent to develop an active teaching strategy, it is desirable for them to participate in an educational process. Since they need demanding readers, listeners and viewers, the media themselves often initiate this desire.

    Many media professionals and educators wish to collaborate, in a mutually constructive critical spirit. There are certain intermediary professions which may be able to establish a bridge and a meeting point between fields of media and education.

    The final aim is to achieve an innovative strategy linking education to the outside world and integrating school-based production of media texts in order to achieve a better understanding of media realities and constraints. In relation to this aim, Maura Ricci, of the Council of Europe, emphasized the importance of involving researchers, both in the field of media education and in studies of developments in the media themselves.


    Professionals in both the media and in education are agreed on common targets. In the context of freedom of expression and public's right to information, the commission's recommendations are as follows.

    1. The development of a critical spirit.
    2. The initiation of action which enables media education, production and training centers to develop learning programs concerned with ways of gaining access to information and to means of expression.
    3. That the media put an emphasis on the process of democratizing the channels of communication.
    4. That schools take cognizance of media education. They do not, however, provide the only context for ensuring that media education takes place. Other institutions and associations (parents, popular education, socio-cultural organizations, television viewers) should collaborate in this process.
    5. The encouragement and development of research into the media and into media education, in collaboration with professional people and agencies in both fields.