Media Literacy Glossary

Media literacy involves a specialized language. The following list of definitions will help as you interact with the media.

Agenda-setting theory: A theory that the news media shape public opinion by controlling the transmission of stories

Audience: Anyone exposed to a media message, or anyone for whom a message is constructed

Bias: Partiality, preference, or prejudice for/against a person, thing, or idea

Branding: Creating an identity for a product or service based on a name, slogan, symbol, or feeling

Censorship: Controlling or suppressing any part of a media message or text

Connotation: Meaning added to a media message by the audience

Consumer: Any person who experiences or interacts with a media message

Convergence: Several separate media industries (newspapers, video, music) operating together through advances in technology (e.g., smart phones)

Demographics: Measurable characteristics of a particular group, such as age, gender, locale, and income level

Denotation: The literal meaning of a media message (what is seen, heard, etc.)

Digital media: Electronic media that use a digital code

Gatekeepers: Those within the news media who control the flow of information and spread of ideas (see also agenda-setting theory)

Mainstream media: Media that disseminate messages to the general public via the largest distribution channels

Mass media: Media that broadcast messages to large audiences (see also mainstream media)

Media: All channels of communication combined

Media literacy: The ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms

Media specialist: Someone knowledgeable about accessing a range of information in a variety of media formats

Medium: Any single channel of communication (the singular form of “media”)

Product placement: “Advertising” products by using them as props in television shows and movies

Propaganda: Information intended to influence an audience to adopt a certain point of view

Subtext: Indirect meaning contained in a media message

Target audience: The person or group that a media message is meant to reach

Text: Any media production (a newspaper article, song, music video, podcast, etc.)

Visual literacy: The ability to analyze, evaluate, and interpret visual elements