Get your KIM on: 6 easy tips for becoming a critical viewer of the media

  • MESSAGE Realize that all media messages and images are constructions. Media makers choose the visuals, the text, the layout, the language and their perspective to tell a story. Try to deconstruct the underlying message of the text (advertisement, movie, TV show, written article, news broadcast etc.): What does the text encourage you to believe? What ideas are being normalized? For example, a make-over reality show like Plain Jane has the underlying message that all women want to attract men.  Those who are shy about pursuing the man of their dreams just need a dress, some makeup, and some self-esteem exercises to capture their secret crush.
  • APPEARANCE Look closely at the appearance of media images: the people who are being portrayed and the roles they play, the editing, the camera angles, the music and the colours. What storytelling devices are used to get you to buy into the main narrative of the text?
  • IMPACT Ask yourself how the media text might affect people who engage with it. How do you feel and how will other people – with diverse backgrounds – feel after reading that news article, watching  that TV show or looking at that advertising.
  • IT’S HARD TO BE WHAT YOU HARDLY SEE Think about the messages and images that you don’t see frequently in mainstream media. What other stories about people and the world exist than those you see in the media? What kind of portrayals of people with diverse backgrounds (sex, gender, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical ability/health status) do you miss in mainstream media?
  • INFORMATION SOURCE  To be a truly informed citizen, you need to turn to multiple print, broadcast and online news sources. Never rely on one source of information. Also investigate which corporation owns the newspapers, radio stations, news stations etc. you encounter. How does the ownership structure of media affect the news and entertainment you receive?
  • KEEP ENJOYING MEDIA Being a critical media viewer doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favourite tv show, film, music video, magazine etc. I also have my guilty pleasures;). Discuss any form of critic regarding messages or images with people in your environment and/or express your concern to the creators of the text. And never forget that media, at its best, can open the minds of viewers.
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