Media literacy and #Ferguson livestreams

I’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri all this week. There is a movement growing as a lot of ugly forces in American life are becoming impossible for a certain mainstream to continue ignoring. At the same time, it’s been really remarkable from a media perspective: a lot of the story built on social media, and in a lot of ways that continues to be the most thorough and timely source of information.

Media literacy is more important than ever with a story like this. A lot of the most important sources of info don’t have the traditional trappings of authority; people are independent or reporting from previously unknown organizations, they’re livestreaming or posting photos to Twitter, articles are interspersed with a constant stream of updates.

Readers and viewers need a command of media literacy not just to evaluate what news is timely and important, but also to contribute to the conversation where necessary.

I pulled this clip out of a livestream from Argus Radio. I’m not sure most people can do that with the tools they know how to use, which is a real shame. Being able to copy and paste from video like from text is an essential part of media literacy in 2014, and will only get more important.

I use a tool called youtube-dl to download videos, and then edit with a combination of different pieces of software. If you don’t know where to start, look at the software that comes with your operating system. On Mac OS X, for example, Quicktime Player has some basic trimming and clipping functions to allow for basic editing right out of the box.

It goes beyond video, of course. One journalist, a sports editor in DC, used a Google Maps screencap and what appears to be OS X’s Preview app to make an annotated map of the areas in Ferguson where the major news stories are taking place.

And late last week, as many were upset about a proposed Day Of Rage coinciding with an earlier and more community-driven initiative called the National Moment of Silence, my friend Sarah Jeong did a very basic image edit that drove that point home. These things don’t have to be complex; a simple image got this point picked up by major media outlets.

Different people will find different things that work for them. But if you can’t interact with the media you’re observing, it can be hard to have a voice.


  1. Posted 18 August, 2014 at 00:29 | Permalink

    Great thoughts. It’d be cool if you went into a little more detail on what you mean by “media literacy”. It almost seems like you are talking about a form of interaction, rather than just I taking and comprehending.

    • Parker Higgins
      Posted 18 August, 2014 at 01:07 | Permalink

      I think they’re more connected than ever. I know I’m a savvier consumer of media that I can interact with. As one really basic example, I think really learning how a high-end camera works enables you to see more in photojournalism, like what the framing does and how things like lens choice and camera settings can affect the composition.

      So, most of the time I just want to consume the news. But in situations where I see a thread I want to tug on, or something that I think ought to be highlighted, I need to be able to interact with it. It’s just like regular literacy, right? If you can read, but are incapable of writing, isn’t that a pretty stunted form of literacy?

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