No matter where you turn these days, it seems as though we are constantly barraged by various forms of media. From the commercials we see on television to digital media, news articles, and even social media content—it is a lot to take in. In fact, according to a 2022 Insider Intelligence survey, the average American adult spends more than 13 hours every day consuming media across a variety of formats.
Exposure to so much media content undoubtedly has a significant impact on our daily lives—but without the proper education, it can be dangerously easy to overlook that impact.
Enter degrees in communication and media studies, which are becoming increasingly popular among students who want to better understand and think critically about the media to which they are exposed. By becoming more “media-literate,” it is possible to see first-hand how different disciplines interact and how to avoid falling for misinformation and disinformation, or so-called “fake news.”
Understanding Media Literacy for College Students
So, what is media studies and what does it mean to be media-literate? In simple terms, media literacy refers to the ability to analyze and think critically about the media that you consume. People with strong media literacy can independently assess media and form their own conclusions about a story’s accuracy or an author’s credibility. These same people do not take everything they read or see at face value; they understand that behind each news story or advertisement, there are several competing factors at play.
The Importance of Media Literacy in the Digital Age
Media literacy has perhaps never been more important than it is in the digital age. Today, we are exposed to more media than at any point in human history. In many ways, it seems as though we cannot escape it—even if we try. On social media, we are barraged by advertisements and other people’s opinions with every scroll. Meanwhile, television and radio deliver their own messages in the form of news stories, commercials, and the like.
Likewise, it is worth noting that in the digital age, it is incredibly easy for literally anyone to publish a so-called “news” story, create a podcast, or put any other form of media out there without the need for information-vetting or fact-checking. If you want to avoid falling into the common trap of believing everything you see or hear online, you need media literacy. It really is as simple as that.
Overview of Media Studies as a College Course
With all this in mind, it is recommended that every college student commits to taking at least one course in media studies or a related topic while in school. In fact, most colleges and universities are push to have media studies courses included in general education requirements.
In a basic media studies course, you can generally expect to learn about the different types of media you encounter daily and what those media pieces most often look like as a genre. From there, you will learn about the different skills and methods you can use to analyze and think critically about these forms of media, ultimately determining for yourself whether a particular story is credible (or not).
Core Concepts and Components of Media Studies
In addition to classes on media studies, some colleges and universities dedicate entire degree programs to this area. A bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies, for example, could introduce you to what careers in publishing, public relations, journalism, and other rewarding fields might entail.
A communications and media studies program will generally have three core components:
- General Communication
- Emerging Media
- Strategic Communication
- Critical Thinking
- Research Skills
Depending on the program you select, it is possible that you may be able to choose an area of concentration to really hone in on your interests and specialize your studies as part of your degree program.
Exploring Degree Options in Media Studies
As you can see, there are several areas of media studies you can focus on during your time in college. In addition to the common concentrations listed above, there are some other degree options related to media studies that may interest you, including:
- Cinema and Media Studies
- Digital Media Studies
- Media Advertising
- Film and Television Production
Media Studies vs. Journalism: What Is Right for You?
Those interested in media studies often have an interest in journalism as well. If you fall into this category, you may be wondering how you can determine which field of study is best to pursue for your future career.
It can be helpful to think of journalism as a subset of media studies. If you are interested in studying online, broadcast, and print journalism with the potential to work in such an environment down the road, then this type of media studies degree may be right for you. On the other hand, if you wish to explore other forms of media as part of your future career, then you may be better off pursuing a broader media studies degree.
How Can Media Studies Enhance Your Career Prospects?
A media studies degree can prepare you to think more critically about the media to which you are exposed each day. This type of education can also prepare you for a career in any number of disciplines.
How Does Media Literacy Impact Social Interactions?
There is really no overstating the importance of media literacy among all age groups. Knowing how to appropriately consume and assess media allows people to develop informed opinions and be smart consumers of products and information. People who are media-literate can identify an author’s intent and biases when writing and publishing a piece of work and, therefore, determine the purpose and legitimacy of the media and its message.
The Role of Media Literacy in Shaping Public Opinion
Perhaps above all else, media literacy impacts social interactions by making people more critical and analytical. Rather than believing everything they are told or exposed to in the media, people with strong media literacy can pick apart stories and publications to form their own genuinely informed opinions, rather than simply “going with the flow” and following public consensus. All of this ultimately leads to a better-informed audience of media consumers and producers.
How to Evaluate Media Content Critically
You do not necessarily have to take a media studies course or major in media studies to learn how to evaluate and assess media content critically. In fact, there are a number of relatively simple steps you can start taking immediately to better break down and analyze media as you consume it and form your own understanding of it.
Steps to Identify Biases and Manipulations in Media
All forms of media content have their own inherent biases and manipulations, even when the author has attempted to be as objective and neutral as possible. This is because every media creator has their own unique worldview and personal experiences that they bring to the table (whether consciously or not).
So, how do you spot signs of bias in media content? Start by maintaining a critical point of view when consuming any type of media. This means taking the time to consider the source of the content, the reasoning behind why it may have been published, and the credentials of the publication itself.
From there, be sure to fact-check any statistics or any other information being presented as fact. Even if citations are provided, it is a good idea to verify information before you accept it to be true. The same goes for images or other media embedded into an article; performing a reverse-image search on an image will tell you whether it is current and authentic, helping you form more accurate interpretations of the content.
Last but not least, be sure to always commit to reading or watching the entire piece or story. As tempting as it may be to skim or only read the headline, you should always take the time to explore all the information provided before you form an opinion.
Why Is Media Literacy Essential for Democracy?
In many ways, media literacy is integral to democracy. We live in a country where, for the most part, we can freely and openly share our ideas and beliefs with one another. The problem is that without media literacy, we would believe everything we see or read. To keep the dialogue of democracy progressing, we need to be able to critically analyze and assess all forms of media with confidence.
What Are the Prospects of Specializing in Different Areas of Media Studies?
If you are interested in media studies as a potential educational path, you should understand the prospects of specializing in any number of areas of this field. Whether you choose to focus on general communication, emerging media, or any specialization in between, a quality education can prepare you for future work in this dynamic industry.
And if you are looking for a Bachelor of Arts Communication and Media Studies, Post University has you covered. This program, which is offered both on-campus and online, could help prepare you to become a better-informed and critical-thinking media consumer.
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