Media Literacy Shouldn’t Be Limited To The Classroom

It was one of the most interesting discussions I’ve ever had with a students. 90 minutes zoomed by.

I had the privilege of speaking with the sports law class at Wayne State University’s Law School in Detroit. We discussed the intersection of media, sports, business and, as much as I could speak to it, law. The professor likes to have a speaker come in each year to talk about media, as it’s a fast-changing component of the business of sports that would-be lawyers need to begin to understand.

As I spoke about TV network ownership, broadcast agreements, athlete endorsements and the PR implications of policies on college athletics, I thought about how curious these students were but how little of the fine points of media they actually knew. The same could be said about so many in business, including those out of school for generations.

These conversations shouldn’t just be taking place in classrooms. They should also happen inside of businesses and inside the hotel ballrooms and conference rooms where professional development sessions take place every week.

What more important subject is there now to enhance professional development, for just about anyone in business than media and its affect on an industry? What more relevant or useful skill is there now than media literacy?

At the beginning of the class, I asked how many communications majors were in the room. There were none. But just a few minutes later, all made it very clear they were media consumers in some form. One of the myths we have seen over our years in our business is that heavy media consumers think they understand how and why media works but often quickly discover that there’s a disconnect.

In this era in which media ownership is comprised of bigger-than-ever entities, knowledge of who-owns-what is power to help you make both personal consumption and business decisions. Understanding how media companies make money (and struggle to make money) allows for understanding of how they cover or don’t cover your industry.

As a citizen, media literacy helps you make more informed choices. As as professional, it can help you understand your industry or your organization’s reputational challenges. Credit to adjunct professor Deb Schneider for bringing the effort to her classroom. Credit to anyone else who brings the conversation to the workplace or industry gathering.