Media Literacy: Who's Responsible?

We had a really interesting discussion in my Ethics of Strategic Communication class today. What started out as an analysis of “stealth marketing” techniques segued into a discussion of media literacy.

There are a number of organizations that strive to protect consumers from the adverse affects of advertising and marketing (such as the FTC), but how effective are these regulations if they only protect “reasonable” consumers of media. Who protects the unreasonable ones?

As students of media as a whole, we tend to forget that we may be more aware of the techniques used by marketers to get our attention. But in a society so saturated by marketing as ours, is it even necessary to promote media literacy? Or is it reasonable to expect a certain level of innate awareness?

My question is this: To what extent should we, as strategic communicators, be responsible for promoting an awareness of marketing and advertising techniques in young people? Is media literacy even a problem? If so, why or why not?

What's Up Google?

For the past 24-hours or so, all my Google services have been intermittently slow. That means Google Reader, Gmail, Blogger, Google Docs and so on. When they work they work fine, but when they’re slow they’re slow as molasses.

It’s not just me either. Twitter is all abuzz about this problem. Yet there is still no response from Google.

What could be wrong? Did someone seriously screw up a system update? Did one of Google’s server farms bite the big one? Who knows! Google hasn’t said a peep. Even the official Google blog has been quiet on the issue.

Granted, a problem big enough to affect all of these services must be keeping them pretty busy, but still. Not even a heads up? Not a smart move Google.

Obama's Weekly YouTube Address

For those of you who haven’t heard, Obama will be the first President of the United States to deliver his weekly address over video. Obama’s first address as President Elect went live Nov. 14, 2008, and is currently hosted on YouTube. Frankly, I think this is an amazing way to reach out to the public. I mean, how many people knew that President Bush had weekly radio addresses, let alone listened to them?

I do find it interesting that comments are disabled on Obama’s YouTube videos. Would full transparency not include feedback on the President Elect’s speeches? Perhaps they think that YouTube isn’t the best forum for discussing presidential mandates. YouTube has developed a less than stellar reputation for the quality of its comments. In either case promoting discussion is certainly one of the administration’s goals, so why disable commenting?

Another interesting point is brought up by Allen Stern over at Information Week (see article). Why is Obama exclusively hosting his videos on YouTube? There is no denying the ubiquitous nature of YouTube, but shouldn’t the Obama administration at least offer the original videos for download on whitehouse.gov or change.gov? That way users could upload the videos to whatever video sharing site they prefer.

It could also be that YouTube is simply a stop-gap until the administration has more time to figure out the best way to distribute the videos. What do you think?

Change Comes Quickly

Ok, I give in, I’m finally going to talk about the election. As you should know by now Obama won (I hope you’re not just finding out now). What I really want to talk about is what happened post-election. Specifically the President Elect’s new website change.gov. As a fantastic example of transparency, change.gov is designed to keep the public informed during the transition from the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration. What’s really impressive is that they managed to get the website up and going only a day after the conclusion of the election.

Change.gov has already received significant press from sites such as Ars Technica, Boing Boing and Slashdot. I’ve even been seeing tweets show up in my Twitter feed from friends who have been browsing the new site.

The site is a very characteristic move from the Obama campaign and I think one of the reasons they’ve been so successful. By pushing out this site so quickly it means that people aren’t left wondering “what’s next?” Instead the Obama Administration has given people a way to see that the work hasn’t stopped along with the election. In fact the work is just getting started.

Obama poster/photo by january20th2009.

How would you like to be fired today?

Gone Tanning

An interesting post over at the McBru Blog Deep Tech Dive asks how transparent should your corporate blog be? According to a recent New York Times Article it has become increasingly common for companies to discuss layoffs and downsizing on their corporate blogs. But is this an appropriate topic for the corporate blog?

Let’s look at it this way. Blogs are a means of communication, two-way communication specifically. People use blogs to talk about things that are happening in their lives. Many people discuss problems at work, at home, or in their social lives. Corporate blogs should be no different. If the company I work for (or invest in) is having problems then I want to know about them. I’d rather hear the whole story straight from the company than from someone else. If the company decides not to talk, then someone else will, and I’ll think that the company has something to hide, or is just plain incompetent.

Let’s face it, all companies have problems. If my corporation is facing layoffs I want to know why. I want to know that the head-honchos are at least concerned for my well-being and the overall well-being of the company. If I don’t hear anything from the top-brass then I’m more inclined to distrust them.

When it comes down to transparency more is usually a good thing. Assuming no legal issues prevent you from discussing a situation with your company then by all means talk about it! People will almost always prefer an honest discussion over a cold-hearted press release.

Thanks to Nick Farnhill for the photo.