Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Need to Teach Transliteracy

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. –

I connect this idea of transliteracy to the recent rush to judgement on the initial media coverage of USDA official Shirley Sherrod. Organizations, newscasters, media pundits and professional journalists need training in research to verify stories. Consider the flap caused by a Tea Party activist when he deliberately edited film to defame Sherrod.

The NAACP’s statement:
With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.
Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans.
The fact is Ms. Sherrod did help the white farmers mentioned in her speech. They personally credit her with helping to save their family farm.
Moreover, this incident and the lesson it prompted occurred more that 20 years before she went to work for USDA…
Next time we are confronted by a racial controversy broken by Fox News or their allies in the Tea Party like Mr. Breitbart, we will consider the source and be more deliberate in responding. The tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech at an NAACP banquet was deliberately edited to create a false impression of racial bias, and to create a controversy where none existed. This just shows the lengths to which extremist elements will go to discredit legitimate opposition.

This makes me wonder how increasingly flawed the nightly news is on any channel.
This certainly isn't the era of Walter Cronkite. Therefore, it is our duty and mission as librarians to teach critical thinking, the value of verifying sources, and the need to look at a variety of perspectives and viewpoints. As you can see, FOX news isn't the only culprit in this story. The NAACP went along with this story on racial bias before making any serious inquiry into it. Is it really necessary to come out with a statement in the middle of the night? Yes, information is coming at us like a firehose, but our responses to it require deliberation.

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