Allied Media Conference Tackles the Process of Communication

BOWLING GREEN, OHIO — It’s the first full day of sessions at the Allied Media Conference here in Bowling Green, and there are three to five different sessions going on at any given time. There’s a lot to choose from.

I’m covering the event for CityBeat and learning a lot at the same time.

ACME’s (Action Coalition for Media Education)Bob McCannon discussed media literacy and education in his session, “Process is more important than content.” McCannon says that the fastest way to alienate students, or the public for that matter, is to tell them how much their media sucks — that it’s sexually exploitative, materialistic, crass, fluff-rich and content-poor. He said that makes his students feel guilty at best, angry at worst. Either way, it’s a turn-off.

McCannon, who teaches college courses on media, says introducing critical thinking exercises is key to getting people to become educated about what they’re being sold. And by “sold” I mean the concrete, as in the material goods that are being marketed in their media and metaphorically — as in the bill of goods and the brand identities they’re trying to sell.

In this session, McCannon shows a film clip from a Sean Connery movie in which he plays a Vietnam vet who’s a drunk, has post-traumatic stress syndrome and is redeemed by a scholarly, inner-city black kid. He says these elements — “all visible in a 14 second clip” — are counter to most of the images that are conveyed by the pop-media-industrial complex. Fourteen seconds, he says, is far longer than the attention span that’s ingrained by MTV’s scenes.

Several marketing examples were presented for discussion. Seventeen Magazine has one cover that advertised ways to boost sex appeal and asked, “Does your personality SUCK?” — covering the bases of both depression and obsession with body image. The magaine’s covers are decided by formula, McCannon says, as is the content, with stories decided on the basis of who’s advertising. More clothing ads equals more stories on clothing.

President Bush on stage with a Bush impersonator, McCannon says, was engineered by the administration to make Bush look softer and more like a regular guy.

“We never say the media are mad and we never say the media are good,” McCannon says. “But the media are always good and bad.”

— Stephen Carter-Novotni

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