What kind of people are more likely to develop their news media literacy (NML) skills, ask Melissa Tully, of University of Iowa, and Emily K. Vraga, of George Mason University. The authors surveyed 946 American college students before and after a semester of taking general communication courses.
Against their expectations, Tully and Vraga noticed that the communication courses themselves seem to have no effect: exam scores and course grades do not significantly correlate with the students’ gains in news media literacy. This may be because the courses were not designed specifically to promote NML, or because the measures used in the study were too general, the authors suggest.
Some of the students’ qualities, however, seem to predict gains in news media literacy. Most notably, students who reported enjoying mental challenges (i.e. high “need for cognition”) increased their NML more. Strong partisanship (either towards the Democratic or the Republican party) predicts increases on two of the five NML dimensions. Being affiliated specifically with the Democratic party seems to boost one additional NML dimension, the “perceived value of news media literacy”.
Lastly, the authors investigated whether increased news media literacy would affect the students’ political behaviour and attitudes. Indeed, students who gain NML are also more likely to see value in political disagreement. However, only one of the five NML dimensions predicts the willingness to actually listen to opposing viewpoints: “self-perceived media literacy”. The result “may reflect that it is easier to change attitudes than behaviors”, Tully and Vraga suggest.
The article “Who Experiences Growth in News Media Literacy and Why Does It Matter?” was published by the journal Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: And the pieces came to life… by HonghuW, licence CC BY-NC 2.0.