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Media Reform Begins With Media Literacy

by Nuala Cabral

Recently I was invited by Media Literacy Project to join the New Mexico Delegation to the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver, Colorado. I was overjoyed to have this opportunity to travel to a conference that embodies my passion for media literacy, activism and media reform. The conference proved to be a transformative experience that I believe will benefit my journey as a filmmaker, activist and educator. Attending this conference connected me to a community of media makers, educators and activists who are actively working to make our media more fair, balanced and diverse. I left with new friends and potential mentors who are passionate about media and social change. This experience reminded me that virtual connections are helpful, but it doesn’t replace the value of meeting and building with colleagues in person.

The conference was packed with informative panels, speakers and screenings and I took away knowledge and resources to bring to my community in Philadelphia (namely, FAAN Mail and POPPYN). I was particularly inspired by the panels on phone justice, cultural organizing, and feminist digital activism. The very last panel of the conference - a conversation with young women activists who are challenging media stereotypes - was important and left me hopeful and motivated. I only wish more youth voices were integrated into the conference overall. What critical insight and energy they offer this movement.

One thing that I was so pleased about was how much media literacy was integrated into the conference. As an activist and educator of youth media and media literacy, I believe it is critical to promote media literacy within the movement for media reform. People are more likely to want and demand change if they are more aware and critical about the construction process and ownership of media. Some media literacy educators may shy away from conversations about media ownership and instead focus on media messages. I did this for many years. But in the context of media reform, critical media literacy is necessary. This process means we must interrogate the power dynamics that shape the production and distribution of media. The more solidarity we have between the media reform and the media literacy communities, the stronger our movements will be, and the closer we will be to achieving media justice.

Nuala Cabral is cofounder of the media literacy/activist project FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism & Alternatives Now!) and coordinates youth media programming at the University Community Collaborative in Philadelphia.