IMG_2686The 3rd annual National Media Literacy Week was November 6-10. As part of Media Literacy Week, five panelists spoke to Howard students about media literacy in the Trump Era. The panel discussion was titled “Media Literacy in the Trump Era” and took place at the Cathy Hughes School of Communications. The panelists included: Brian Gilchrest (Mount St. Mary’s University), Jaimee Swift (Howard University), Grace Virtue (HuffPost contributor), Robert Fergy (University of Las Vegas) and Jayne Cubbage (Bowie State University). The definition of media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, communicate and create using all forms of communication. Each speaker addressed a different point of that definition.

The first speaker, Brian Gilchrest presented a dialogue titled “Media Ecology: Addressing the Relationship Among Human Beings and Media.” He stated, “People are obsessed with the message and ignore the medium. No, media is not neutral but is undoubtedly biased because everyone produces with a purpose.”

Gilchrest discussed how in Trump’s era, he uses the mindset that all publicity is good publicity yet the medium is more important than the headlines about the President. He presented the question, “Why do media outlets choose to give so much attention to Donald Trump’s activities?” and allowed audience members to participate in the conversation.

Jaimee Swift’s speech was titled “Digital Activism and Communication: Dismantling White Supremacy and Advancing Social Justice in the Trump Era.” Swift’s speech focused on the power of black women who previously made themselves heard against injustice and who are now taking a stand on the digital platform against injustices. She cited people such as Zora Neale Hurston and Ida B. Wells to current activists such as Tamaron Hall and Jemele Hill.

Swift stated, “Social media is the largest playing field to erect change because of the power it has to influence people globally.” She explained how hashtags such as #saveourgirls #blacklivesmatter have caused a movement that caused people to speak out and get involved. She also emphasized that movements need a leader and the infighting that comes with selecting this leader can cause a dissolution of what they sought to do.

Robert Fergy’s speech was titled “A Rhetorical Framework to Understanding the Trump Administrations Administration’s Attack on the Media.” He discussed how the government’s use of language and metaphors are used to change the public’s  thinking on topicsespecially the media. He says, “The Trump administration is using a pro conflict guiding metaphor of force to guide our understanding of the media.”

Fergy provided three ways that politicians use metaphors to change our perspectives, the first being dehumanizing vehicles to create the narrative of there being heroes and villains and to make it easier to attack someone. The second use of metaphors was affirmation of threatening expectations, which he describes as creating a situation where the villain can act and show they are a villain. Fergy’s last point is the subversion of competing perspectives. This is when your credibility is shown to be that above the enemy’s. In Trump’s case he makes himself credible by saying his business ventures have taught him all the skills he needs to be the leader. Fergy ended his presentation with a reminder to the audience to think for themselves as Trump is trying to create a society where we only see his point of view.

The fourth speaker was Grace Virtue, titling her speech “America on Americans: Journalism on the Upside-Down Reality of Donald Trump as President.” She reports on how living in the Trump era is frightening for her because he is placing us against each other. In her viewpoint, Trump stands out compared to other presidents; none of them were perfect, but they did not disregard the morals and ethics our country holds.

She said, “Trump does not respect his position as president or the rest of the government as he appoints unfit people to government jobs.” As she continues, she begins to discuss the responsibility of the media to the people: they are supposed to serve the general welfare, inform us on issues, use relevant facts, be fair and have independence from political parties. In the end, she concludes that she believes the media gave Trump his position as president by trying to create an entertaining election between Trump and Clinton.

The final speaker on the panel was Jayne Cubbage with the presentation “Faked out by Facebook.” She discussed how the social networking platform is a multibillion dollar corporation that only seems to keep growing. She educated the audience on how Facebook generates its revenue from each of user’s clicks, likes, ads and shares. Cubbage says, “If you do not know you’re being used for profit then you’re being played.”

The panelists all had a running theme in their speeches, which is being more active in fighting against the Trump administration. Understanding what is going on is one thing, but action is required to change the current circumstances for the better.

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