Connie Hicks asks her students to distinguish between what they see in the media and where it’s coming from. She also asks them to make independent decisions about what they’re reading or viewing. 

“People in this country — and not just college students — seek selective exposure,” she said. “They have a tendency to seek that which mirrors their own thoughts, and then they can say, ‘See, it’s just what I’ve been telling you.’” 

Hicks, a former television reporter, is assistant professor and professional in residence in the communications department of Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. She has been teaching for eight years. 

Media's Role in Education
“In today’s society the mass media have a particular role: They not only inform but also form the minds of their audiences, and so they can make a significant contribution to the education of young people. It is important never to forget that the connection between education and communication is extremely close: Education takes place through communication, which influences, for better or worse, the formation of the person.” 
 
Pope Benedict XVI in his 2012 World Day of Peace message

“One of the things that dismayed me is that a lot of students don’t watch TV, read the newspaper or listen to the radio, the three basic forms of media that most of us grew up with,” she said. “The Internet is their place of concentration for getting information. It’s such a different society where everyone knows everything about everybody else. They are not looking at the established form of media. So I try to encourage them to make an appointment with the news.” 

Hicks cautions them to discern if straight news is reported fairly and accurately, and to know that when they become media professionals, they have an obligation to be fair and accurate. 

“When you’re reading a blog from someone you don’t know or never heard of, it’s not the same as a news Internet site,” she told Our Sunday Visitor. “I want them to distinguish who the author is, and whether or not they have a bias and are out there to polarize. I take pains to bring some media literacy to students with the hope that they can distinguish between so-called legitimate versus entertainment, and sensationalistic and just plain biased forums.” 

There are many good news sources available, she added, everything from documentaries to faith-based programs. 

Media Usage
According to a Pew Research Center survey, Americans of the millennial generation — including today’s college students — are increasingly dependent on the Internet as their main source for news. Here is a breakdown of how millennials get their news:

Television - 65%
 
Internet - 59%
 
Newspapers - 24%

Radio - 18%
 
Other - 4%
 

“I want students to go out there and remember that they have a public trust in regard to everything you do should be fair, even-handed, well-researched and accurate,” Hicks told OSV. “You should not be swayed by your boss telling you to do it this way, and you’re going to have to make some very hard choices. Most important, if you don’t have a system of ethics, you are going to have problems.” 

Newspaper editor

According to the student activities link of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., The Rambler, the student-run newspaper, is dedicated to training the next generation of Catholic journalists and intellectuals to engage the world through the media. 

“Being editor-in-chief of The Rambler is making me a better writer,” said senior Matt Naham of West Milford, N.J. “I’ve received some positive and encouraging constructive criticism that has helped me to come to a fuller understanding of what it means to be a Catholic. I think it’s pretty discouraging that there’s no positive reinforcement in secular journalism.  

“What people need to realize more than anything is that to be a Catholic, especially in our modern society, is to be someone who stands apart and is not meant to conform to some of the secular influences,” he added. “It’s really difficult for students, too. Since writing is about context and being able to understand where it comes from, it’s very difficult [to be ] a conservative traditional Catholic without getting weird looks. There’s a lot of misinformation [in the media] about what Catholics believe, even among Catholics.” 

So, how can the new generation of Catholic journalists promote what’s right? 

“By simply expressing what they believe in and practicing what they preach, and by having a basic knowledge of exactly what they are up against,” Naham told OSV. “Go full speed ahead in knowing what side you’re on, and ultimately, that is the side of Christ, to restore all things. And journalism is an important avenue for doing that.” 

Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller writes from Pennsylvania.