As a country, we are yet again faced with a moment to reflect upon; a moment that some view as a triumph of our justice system and others as a failure. Regardless of which perspective you believe to be true, in a moment such as this we all must take pause to understand how mainstream media coverage and social media messaging has impacted our understanding of recent events.
Watching the trial of Derek Chauvin was not an easy thing to do, but it was a rare occasion for us all to see the reality of a murder trial played out in real time, giving citizens the ability to view all the evidence put forth and develop a deeper understanding of what happened that day as a uniformed police officer kneeled on the neck of an unarmed civilian for over 9 minutes, resulting in the death of George Floyd.
In spite of this ability to see first-hand the information needed to make a logically informed decision based upon evidence, many Americans still relied on mainstream media outlets and social media content and conversations to develop their opinion on the case. When we take information, like that which is being presented in a murder trial, and boil it down to a 10-word headline or a 45-second broadcasting segment, a lot can get lost in translation as choices are made in the construction of how certain information is being presented. Even a 2000 word article can not fully articulate the depth of information that was provided each day of the trial and ends up being a narrative curated to provide what the writer and editors believed to be the most “essential” information for their target audience to learn.
This understanding of the construction and presentation of information is essential to our ability to critically analyze the news presented to us each and every day.
This ability to analyze information is essential to functioning successfully within our democracy.
Engage with your own media literacy, create more mindfulness in your media use and help us to strengthen democracy today!