what: MEDIA_awareness network (MNet) is a Canadian non-profit organisation that has been pioneering the development of media literacy programs since 1996. Working out of offices in Ottawa and Montreal, it promotes media and Internet education by producing online programs and resources, working in partnership with Canadian and international organisations, and speaking to audiences across Canada and around the world.
mission: MNet’s work is based on the belief that to be functionally literate in the world today – to be able to ‘read’ the messages that inform, entertain and sell to us daily – young people need critical thinking skills. The organisation focuses its efforts on equipping adults - namely teachers and parents -with information and tools to help young people understand how the media work, how the media may affect their lifestyle choices and the extent to which they, as consumers and citizens, are being well informed. MNet also provides reference materials for use by adults and youth alike in examining media issues from a variety of perspectives.
media & youth: do you feel frustrated with today's media coverage of young people?
In recent years the mainstream media have featured alarming stories involving teens: sensational murders, violence, drugs, youth gangs... These incidents make exciting headlines on TV and radio, in newspapers and magazines, and on the Internet. But they offer a distorted image of young peoples' lives today. While most adolescents are positive, contributing members of their communities, that's often not the image reflected in the media. Too often we see stereotypes of teenagers as gang members, powerless victims, social outsiders or criminals.
what’s behind it? Wanting to change this scenario, and after consultation with youth-based organisations, community groups, journalists and educators, MNet developed a media toolkit that aims at helping youth to both understand the media and gain access to them in order to change negative youth stereotypes in the news. The toolkit is intended to help youth understanding how the news industry works, how stereotypes function in the media, and how to approach the media to get positive youth voices and stories heard. A guided discovery of the news world is articulated on the MNet web pages in different key topics:
Many groups have been successful in challenging negative media stereotypes. It takes planning, preparation and persistence. But if you know how to access the media, you can get your voice heard and your message across. By actively trying to change the way the media portray youth, young people can influence the way society—and policymakers—view the roles of youth in society. The toolkit is a proactive way to start thinking critically about news ‘fabrication ’, reading what’s behind apparently neutral information and becoming aware of the importance of media pluralism.
- news industry: what sorts of stories make it into the news, and why? Who decides which stories get reported, and from what angle? What challenges do reporters face, and how do these challenges affect the news we read and watch? By knowing how the news industry works, we can find out how to reach the people who shape the news in order to change these stereotypes.
- stereotypes: what image of teenagers is being portrayed by the news media in your community? Do the headlines give us a balanced perspective on the lives of today's youth? This section examines the definition of a stereotype and looks at how and why negative stereotypes of youth find their way into the news. It also reflects on the effect these negative images have on youth and on society's attitudes toward teenagers.
- accessing the media: how do you go about getting a story or event covered by the media? How to contact community media? How to hook up with youth-friendly media on the Internet? How to educate news reporters and editors about youth issues, and get them to change negative images of youth? How to create your own communications strategy, organise media events, and/or write news releases?