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Communication intern updates media literacy resources

In her summer internship with the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media (NW-ARM), Caitlin Chaffee, a communication major at Gonzaga University, will update presentations on how media influence culture and train speakers to give them.

Caitlin Chaffee
Caitlin Chaffee

The alliance, which monitors media influence on society, has six presentations to educate people in schools, churches and other community organizations.

“I want to do something about what I see in media.  In learning communication theory and concepts, I see ways to affect change by telling how media, TV, movies and newspapers portray race, gender, ethnicity and religion,” said Caitlin, who grew up in Catholic schools in Federal Way and came to her father’s hometown, Spokane, to attend Gonzaga.

With her Catholic upbringing, she has often been involved in community volunteering.

Having observed concern  about the human impact on the environment during a spring semester class on global environmental politics with  students from political science, journalism, biology, communication, engineering and other majors, she plans to create a presentation on media responsibility related to the environment.

“In that class, we talked about the need to be environmentally responsible to change the world,” Caitlin said.

“Now many corporations say they are going green.  Maybe it’s true,” she noted.  “Messages in advertising, in store displays and on shopping bags talk about being environmentally friendly.”

Caitlin wonders if ads may convince the public to go green, even if some advertisers actually are still “polluters with horrible impact on the environment.”

In communication studies, the GU junior has also observed the impact of a dynamic of media coverage—presenting two “sides” or two perspectives to issues and news—intended to assure objective and balanced coverage.

However, rather than telling what someone is doing as a solution to a problem, the practice of showing two perspectives or opinions—as if in an argument—may subtly undermine the readers’ ability to focus on the positive solution, she commented. 

Her NW-ARM presentation on environment will address that dynamic and how it influences discussions. 

“We who have resources need to change our consumption and help others have technologies for a cleaner environment,” she suggests, noting growing anti-pollution efforts among churches.

NW-ARM’s other resources on media responsibility and media literacy include digital slide presentations on body image, violence in media and advertising. 

She will insert new statistics and change the overall look to make the presentations more visually attractive and relevant to today’s technology. 

The Center for Media Literacy also has presentations on parenting in a media world, tobacco and alcohol in media, and violence and video games.  The one on video games was created this spring by recent GU graduate Ryan Davenport.

Caitlin, who recently presented the video violence program to a class on recreation and leisure at Eastern Washington University, notes that video games have changed from Pacman and Ataris 20 years ago to more realistic and interactive games that involve people in moving their bodies as if boxing, rather than just moving sticks with thumbs.

“The presentation raises questions about the impact of video games on youth, the culture and violence.  They present unrealistic understandings of interactions, many extremely violent.”

Caitlin will also present these programs at schools, churches, universities, nonprofits and other settings, to encourage wider use of NW-ARM presentations. 

She will provide CDs with three presentations for people trained as presenters. The presentations, which are in Powerpoint, include handouts.

She recently sent letters to Boy Scouts, after-school programs, day cares, youth centers and youth ministries to promote use at vacation Bible schools, summer programs and camps.

 “How we are portrayed in media and advertising affects what we think of ourselves,” she said.

The Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media also works with professionals to promote responsible journalistic practices.  During the summer, its offices will be moving to Fuller Hall on campus.

The alliance board plans to continue its series of videos at the Magic Lantern with a program on democracy, elections and media on Sept. 25, consumption and media on Nov. 13, race and media on Feb. 5 and pharmaceutical big business and media, April 16.

For information, call 313-3578 or email