Message: What does the message say?

Next, evaluate the content of the media message by asking these questions: What is the subject? What is the main point? How is the main point supported? Is the support strong or weak? Is the message accurate? These questions are particularly important when you are analyzing a persuasive message.

Identifying the Subject, Main Point, and Support

The subject of the message may be a person, a place, an event, a product, or so on; and the main point is the focus or central idea about that subject. Main points can be stated or implied.

How a message supports its main point depends on the format (see page 247) and purpose (see page 250) of the message. An online news article, for example, may use interviews, statistics, or graphics to support its main point, while a television infomercial may use demonstrations and testimonials to promote a product.

Checking for Accuracy

Besides double-checking facts and details, it is important to recognize flaws in logic (see the facing page). To do this, you must understand the difference between statements of fact, opinions, and claims.

  • Fact A fact is a statement of truth that can be checked for accuracy. It is not debatable; it is either correct or incorrect. (See page 96.)

    Thank Me Later is the debut studio album by recording artist Drake.

  • Opinion An opinion is a personally held belief. It cannot be proven to be correct or incorrect, because it is a matter of personal feelings. (See page 96.)

    Drake is my favorite rapper.

  • Claim A claim is a debatable statement that can be supported with evidence and reason. (See page 104.)

    With its self-aware yet playful lyrics and emotional appeal, Drake’s Thank Me Later album redefines what it means to be “real” and pushed Drake into pop stardom.

Fact-Checking Resources

You’ll find many fact-checking resources online, including encyclopedias and government databases. Also consult the media specialist at your school or local library for help.

Your Turn Identify a fact, an opinion, and a claim in a media message. Write them down and explain how they are different from one another.


Message: Is the information fair and logical?

Today’s media messages, particularly the product and political ads, are littered with claims and rhetoric. Sometimes these claims include fuzzy, biased, or incomplete information, also known as logical fallacies. The following list highlights a number of fallacies often used in media. (See pages 108-112 for more examples of logical fallacies.)




Bandwagoning (see page 112)

Implies that something must be true because a majority of people support it, ignoring the minority’s point of view.

Sixty-seven percent of residents support the new bill, so it will clearly benefit the state.

Appeal to Popular Sentiment (see page 111)

Associates an idea, product, or person with something widely approved, such as family, patriotism, or apple pie. Also plays on emotions rather than employing reason and logic.

Anyone who loves his or her country should buy only American-made automobiles.

Argument from Authority (see page 111)

Uses a nonauthoritative person to testify in favor of a product, person, or idea.

A celebrity endorsement

Half-truth (see page 112)

Distorts an issue by telling only part of the story.

The state lost 1.2 million jobs under Gov. Terry. (The message did not mention that the state also experienced a net job gain.)

Threatening (see page 112)

Uses statements that intimidate those with opposing views.

You better support this bill. Otherwise, our schools will fail, thanks to you.

Broad Generalization (see page 108)

Uses scant evidence, offers no exceptions, and often includes intensifiers such as all, every, never.

All vegetarians push a liberal agenda.

Detecting Bias

A biased statement is characterized by partiality, preference, or prejudice. The following are indicators of biased information:

  1. The language is extreme, characterized by all-or-nothing statements.
  2. The message appeals to emotion rather than to reason and logic.
  3. The message simplifies or generalizes information.
  4. The message offers a one-sided or limited view on a topic (see page 244).

Your Turn Search the Internet for a political ad. Does it include any of the logical fallacies listed above? Can you detect any bias? Explain.


Message: What points of view are included? Which are left out?

All media messages reflect the values, lifestyles, and points of view of their creators while excluding others. A thorough analysis can tell you about the creators’ values as well as uncover perspectives missing from the message.

Analyzing Values, Lifestyle, and Point of View

Consider a fictional ad for “Fresh Surf” scented men’s deodorant and body wash. Its tagline reads, “Become Freshest Smelling Bro on Earth.” Below are five critical questions you can ask to analyze its values, lifestyle, and point of view.

Cravers Snack Mix Video

What values and lifestyle are represented in the ad?

  • Analysis: Using this type of deodorant and body wash reflects confidence, masculinity, fun, adventure, fitness, attractiveness.

What point of view is represented?

  • Analysis: Smelling good is manly; the “Fresh Surf” scent helps a man smell fresh.

What does the message imply about its creator?

  • Analysis: The creator has a sense of humor and considers comedy, extravagance, physical fitness, charm, and confidence to be marketable.

Do the embedded values, lifestyle, and point of view reinforce present-day societal assumptions?

  • Analysis: The advertisement shares a generalized view of masculinity: a man should be athletic, adventurous, strong, confident, and well kept.

What values, lifestyle, and point of view are omitted from the message?

  • Analysis: The message ignores the fact that many men don’t fit—and perhaps don’t want to fit—this generalization about masculinity.

Your Turn Analyze the values, lifestyle, and point of view represented in your favorite TV show. How would the show be different if other values and lifestyles were also represented? How would the point of view change? Explain.


Message: What images or sounds catch my attention?

Beyond words, media messages create meaning through images and sound. The following elements and techniques can affect your interpretation of a message.

Visual Elements

  • Lighting Low lighting conveys gloom or fear, while bright lighting expresses happiness or joy. Soft lighting conveys beauty and romance.
  • Camera Angle A low-angle view makes people or things appear larger than they actually are, often indicating importance. Conversely, a high-angle view makes people or things appear smaller and less significant.
  • Composition The arrangement of visual elements in a picture or video affect the viewer’s perception. Close-ups of a face convey tension or intimacy, while wider views showing people or things relative to their surroundings usually express something important about the setting (menacing, breathtaking, overbearing, and so on).
  • Body Language The words are often less revealing than the body language of the person expressing them.
  • For more information on visual elements, review Chapter 14, “Developing Visual Literacy,” on pages 217–236.

Sound Techniques

  • Music The mood and intensity of a scene can be profoundly affected by music. Fast-paced pieces use rhythm and volume to heighten drama and often accompany fight scenes, car chases, and other action-packed scenes. Slower, softer, intentionally expressive compositions can create tension and foreboding, as in horror films.
  • Sound Effects Usually added after the filming, sound effects enhance a scene and make it seem very real, although the effects themselves are often artificially produced.
  • Narration (Voice-Over) Some films and television shows use a narrator, someone other than the characters in the story, to speak to the audience. For example, a newscaster acts as a narrator when he or she describes a video clip during a news show.

Your Turn Go online and find a scene from a movie that includes music. First watch it with the sound muted, and then with the sound on. What is the impact of silence on the scene? Of music?