October 2nd, 2012
Why Alternative Media Matters for Media Literacy–And How You Can Help
You know that annoying person in the crowd that just can’t seem to happily go along with what everyone else is doing, saying, and thinking and feels compelled to speak out even if it draws criticism and scorn? Can you recall a moment or moments when you were this person? If so, I say congratulations. It means that you don’t just blindly accept everything you are told and you have learned to ask questions and use something that is becoming increasingly rare these days: critical thinking skills.
Actually I’m much better at silently disagreeing with the status quo than with speaking up and risking all that scorn and criticism, although once in a while I have my brave moments. Obviously it’s easier to stick up for an underdog or someone who is being bullied because nine times out of ten the people around you will support and applaud you as it’s seen as the right thing to do ethically. What is NOT easy to do is go against what everyone around you in society believes to be true and normal.
What is peddled as “true” is presented to us daily by the mainstream media. The problem is that nearly everything we see, hear, and read in the media is controlled by just six multinational corporations. This is a problem because large corporations that are run by the top .1% wealthiest people on the planet have a vested interest in protecting their business and political interests. Therefore by controlling all the media, they also shape and control public opinion, set the agenda and influence what is considered worth talking about, and even drum up all that scorn and criticism that rains down on anyone who questions their official messages. Of course, another thing to consider is how governments often work directly with the media to spin the news in a certain way or to outright run false stories or create media intended to confuse, enrage, or drum up support for particular aims (like war, for example).
ALSO: Learn more about how you can help The LAMP promote diversity in media through the Beverly Stanton McKenna Scholarship Fund!
Enter the increasingly popular alternative media (or independent media) which can most easily be found on the internet. Written off by many as incubators of crack-pot conspiracy theories and fringe stories, these news sources are not told what to write by multinational corporations, corporate and political lobbyists, governments, or others that would like to sell you their version of reality. Journalists like Arianna Huffington and Mike Drudge often come to mind first, but in fact there are many more people and resources that aim to bring people an untainted version of reality and the news and issues of our day. Check out this top ten list of the most influential people in Alternative Media as well as this list of recommended Alternative Media sources.
You can enhance your own media literacy skills not only by staying informed via the mainstream news outlets and channels, but by also weighing what you’ve been told against high-quality alternative media sources. What’s even more exciting is when these worlds begin to collide and “fringe stories” begin to become mainstream stories that then reach wider audiences.
One example from just the last few days is this documentary aired by PBS on Colorado Public Television that has been going viral via the internet and social networks:
“Over 40 experts in high-rise architecture, structural engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, physics, explosives, and controlled demolition share their professional expertise and insights about the events of 9/11. Additionally, 8 psychological experts discuss why proving controlled demolition of the three World Trade Center skyscrapers can be so difficult for individuals to accept.”
I would call this a “high quality” alternative media offering because the filmmakers do not get into far-fetched conspiracy theories, opinion, or idle speculation. Instead they focus on presenting facts obtained via the scientific method that can be proven and documented.
When you come across enough high quality alternative media sources and make them a part of your every day routine when you are trying to see what’s going on in the world, the world begins to look very different indeed.
Kristen Palana is a Professor of Digital Media at The American University of Rome. Visit her online at kpalana.com.