Why Media Literacy Matters

Children and adults are bombarded daily with media messages. Some are meant to trick and confuse. Others are just meant to sway.  Study after study tells us that in the age of “fake news,” it is critical for students and adults to be able to analyze and discern the purpose and truthfulness of what they see and hear.

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In January 2019, Giarrusso was invited to speak at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

As a former journalism professor and mother of three, Theresa Walsh Giarrusso was constantly asking her students and her own kids, “Who says?” “Who’s your source?” Giarrusso founded Who Says Media to help people examine where they are getting their information.

“Can they corroborate the information from other sources? Does the source have an agenda? What is the purpose of the information? Our kids have to learn to use critical thinking skills and online tools to parse out what is fake and what is real,” Giarrusso says.

In response to meetings with educators and PTA members, Giarrusso created discussion- and activity-based media literacy workshops called “A Journalist’s Toolbox to Fight Fake News” to help students and teachers learn:

  • To define fake news, the forms it can take, the motivation for it, the history of it and why it is so prevalent now in our society.
  • To identify types of media and develop a vocabulary to discuss media terms.
  • To identify reliable sources for news and sources within the stories.
  • To analyze and think critically about the messages within the media and their purpose.
  • The hallmarks of real news and fake news.
  • How to search more efficiently online and have a basic understanding of search engine algorithms.
  • How to fact check like a news researcher.
  • How to identify media bias within news sites and in stories.
  • How to reverse search for memes and images that may have been altered or misrepresented.
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A fabulous thank you card from students at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism.

In the fall of 2018, Giarrusso taught the program to 56 high school language arts and social studies teachers at Montclair High School in New Jersey. In January 2019, she taught her program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. In the spring, Giarrusso was brought back by the Montclair School District to work with the middle school teachers and librarians. Giarrusso also has been hired by the Montclair Library System to lecture about media literacy for adults.

The workshops are non-partisan, and she can tailor the program to all grade and skill levels.

Who Says Media also offers writing workshops for kids: Creative writing, intro to journalism and WordPress skills.