News & Notes

Is Media Literacy on the Ropes?

By Maria Carmen Barranco

I recently attended the Weds One event, “Women in the New Political Climate”, organized by WIFV in Washington, DC. The panelists, veteran journalist Amy Lynn Alexander and Dr. Renee Carr discussed how technology has shaped the way media is presented to the consumer, and as a consequence, the political landscape.

As consumers, we expect the kind of fact-checking journalism committed to provide information without bias, but given the multiple news platforms we have access to nowadays and the speed of publishing, some of us are starting to wonder if technology is compromising the legitimacy of mainstream media. As Alexander stated, this situation is provoking an erosion of trust between consumer and media. So, is media literacy on the ropes?

The last electoral cycle has certainly been the arena to a media spectacle in which whipping words and serious accusations were exchanged between the candidates in all media based platforms. Fake news and unfounded statements polarized the public opinion in a way that even when proven wrong, they lingered in people’s minds long enough to create doubt for indecisive voters. As Dr. Carr explained, psychology is also an important component for our political decisions. But let’s be honest, candidates apply psychology to their own benefit telling voters exactly what they want to hear.

That made me wonder, to what extend do we allow our emotions trump our common sense? And if so, where does that leave our female political leaders? During the last electoral cycle, I watched in dismay as many Americans defended Trump’s misogynistic comments by attacking Clinton for her husband’s behavior, completely shifting the attention to her, and planting the seed of doubt in her ability to lead a country based on the way she had handled her private domestic problems. It was hard for me, as a woman, seeing how often public attention on Clinton’s wifely duties eclipse her individuality as a female politician. However, many looked the other way and catalogued Trump’s inappropriate comments as locker room talk. Unfortunately, the “men will be men” theory is also present outside the political arena. Just last week, controversy emerged when Beth Mowins became the first woman to call play-by-play on Monday Night Football. To my surprise, many negative comments on social media came from women. One stuck with me; “let a man be a man”.

How predetermined are we to let our stereotypical instincts dictate our beliefs? And to what extent is it critical to be informed if our instincts prevail, then? If we let subjectivity dictate our political choices, we are neglecting our responsibilities to the community by making decisions that will affect many, based on incomplete information. In the same manner, we should judge women’s professional abilities solely based on their individual career achievements and not on their wifely and motherly duties. Otherwise, we will continue to be stuck in second row.

News & Notes Categories