Last Wednesday, The Center for Documentary Studies hosted a forum on media literacy. It was, to say the least, an interesting experience. I saw many of my friends from the Youth Document Durham program, many other people from various organizations, and a handful of reporters. The reporters, they say, were there to give and receive insight from the youth who want the media to work with them, and not just market to them. It was very easy to listen without having to talk, and for the first time in quite a while, I didn’t complain about the many, many socio-political issues that I enjoy complaining about.

We all started in the downstairs auditorium of the center, where all the youth got to hear from all the reporters about how they got into their profession. There were two reporters from The Herald-Sun, one from the Indy, one each from the NBC and ABC affiliates, a program director from N.C. Central’s public radio station, a DJ from K97.5, a freelance writer and an organizer from the youth media group Generation U. After our introduction, we all split into three different groups, each with a different topic. I was in Group 2 (the most crowded) with three of the members of the panel. Our group delt with how the media portrays youth. Our discussion certainly encompassed a broad range of views, from white and black, lower and middle class, and most importantly, youth and adult.

I noticed a trend develop in the views of the youth: No matter how the media views, capitalizes off of, or treats us, they don’t advertise to us with what the real world is like. One of the high school kids made the point that “even if the models are attractive, most people don’t have figures like that.” The corporate media (in straightforward terms) shamelessly lies to us about who we are, to mold us into supporting the industry that they get rich off of. Young girls starve themselves to look thin, and show off as much skin as possible. Most of the females in my generation have lost their self-respect. Young guys (and girls, too) have decided that being a nerd or dork (intelligent in regular terms) is corny and lame, so they go out of their way to be stupid. If my generation is the future of America, then the future of America is looking worse already.

After our separate discussion, we got back in a big group to share what we discussed. But I’m sure that our experience runs deeper than what was said. You can’t escape supporting companies that are assimilating all of America’s different cultures, because they all either are, or are related to, media corporations. Most of them are interconnected. All in all, the point was well served: The time for media literacy is now.