Media Literacy Online Project - Serving Educators Around The World
Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene


Media Watch: With Bill Walsh


Bill Walsh is a contributing writer to the Media Literacy On-Line Project and is an A/V Media Specialist at Billerica Memorial High School, Billerica, Massachusettes.

"Media Watch" is a series of weekly newspaper columns discussing the very broadest topics in media and media literacy with (often) a decidedly local flavor. Currently, "Media Watch" columns are carried in THE BILLERICA MINUTEMAN, a weekly newspaper in Massachusetts.

Mr. Walsh notes:

"I offer them here not so much because they are priceless pieces of literature (?!), but to suggest to others in the media field what can be done to broaden and discuss media issues with the general public.

In an ideal media world, there would be HUNDREDS of such home-grown columns running in local papers all across the country, some of them perhaps written by YOU.

These may be reprinted by anyone, anywhere, anytime, in any format. All I ask if you do is to include my name and let me know how you've used 'em. Fair enough?

Oh, yeah! And . . . let me know what you think. I'd appreciate the feedback."

Mr. Walsh may be reached at:


A Brief History of Media Education. The author divides the history of media education into four distinct historical periods.

A Modest Proposal for V-Chip Expansion. Common sense and good judgment are valuable and rare commodities these days. That's why we need to economize their use. The new "V-chip" does just that.

Buttons, Posters Are Media, Too. Posters, buttons, and bumperstickers DO communicate -- often more succinctly and memorably than paragraphs upon paragraphs of writing.

The Camcorder Revolution. The camcorder revolution is a revolution in theory, not in fact so far. It has not yet had any appreciable impact on our society at large or on our personal lives. This is unfortunate, and it is true for a number of different reasons.

Can Music Kill? Richard Kuntz is dead. The 15-year-old shot himself last December, but in testimony before a Senate subcommittee last week, his father said that rock music killed him. And the old debate continues.

CBS and Electronic Fakery. Article explores the use of inserted electronic images into background scenes alterning the actual landscape.

Cleaning Up After OJ. A summary of the aftermath of the circus-like trial of O.J. Simpson.

Computer Scoring of Essays a Bad Idea. I actually felt a chill run down my spine when I saw the headline on the front page of the education newspaper I was reading: "Pennsylvania tests essay-grading software." The sub-head was even scarier: "Officials mull using artificial-intelligence system to score state exams."

Corporations Buying and Selling Captain Kangaroo. In the 1990's we would like to believe that the idea of people being "owned" by others is an outdated idea, a despicable practice ended by the Emancipation Proclamation over a hundred and thirty years ago. In the legal jungle of media copyrights and trademarks, however, this is not the case.

The Creation of Christmas Spirit. What we often take for the spirit of the season is a construction of a reality that may not exist.

The Demise of Album Covers. For a while, there was a true "marriage" of two very distinct and different media -- art and music. In their heyday, LP covers were an outlet for experimentation, art, fun, social comment, and the power of the visual image to sell you the music that was contained therein.

Demonizing Media Not the Answer. For too many - and for too long - "media literacy" or "media studies" has simply meant bashing the media, as this article did. Exposing lies in advertising, lack of objectivity in news, or profit-driven media corporations is often the only agenda of those who pretend to educate about the media but who in reality want to tear it down or discredit it. And this sets up a "bunker mentality."

Dr. Laura and Media Realities. It's fun to watch the media all of the time, but it's especially rewarding to be watching when the little dog pulls away the curtain and we get a glimpse inside and actually see important media decisions being made. And these days, Dr. Laura is giving us the chance to see how programming and sponsorship decisions are influenced.

Driving the Ads. Well, there's one thing to be said for media advertising - it never gets boring. There's a company in California that has come up with a new advertising medium that has elicited an overwhelming response, both positive and negative. It's either revolutionary or revolting, depending upon whom you listen to.

The End of the Innocence? After a while, a trend develops. And then it isn't so much every single transgression of ethics that's a concern as much as a whole pattern of behavior that's disconcerting. The recent CNN/Time scandal where Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Peter Arnett erroneously reported that American troops used nerve gas in the Vietnam War against defectors is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Enough Jackasses to Go Around. At last report, 13-year-old Jason Lind was lying in a hospital bed in Boston, suffering from second and third degree burns after copying a stunt he saw on MTV's popular "Jackass" TV show. The show featured a guy wearing a flame-retardant suit and hanging steaks on himself as friends cooked him on a human-sized barbecue. On the show, they sped the steak-cooking along by squirting lighter fluid on the human spit.

A Plea for Expanded Media Literacy. In the media education world, there are two schools of thought about "teaching the media." One suggests that there should be a separate course of study in media and media literacy. Certain localities, states and even foreign countries have established distinct media literacy courses - and sometimes make them requirements for graduation.

Expanding Media Literacy. In the media education world, there are two schools of thought about "teaching the media." One suggests that there should be a separate course of study in media and media literacy. Certain localities, states and even foreign countries have established distinct media literacy courses - and sometimes make them requirements for graduation. The other view is that media literacy - like text literacy - is a part and parcel of every subject in every department and in every course.

On Faking Photographs. Faking photographs to impress somebody is also what the University of Wisconsin tried to do last week, except they got caught at it. Attempts to deceive take on a more serious tone when they're tried by a major university on the cover of their undergraduate application pamphlet.

Florida Recount A Great Soap Opera. I must report to you (the reading public) that I've been suckered into the biggest soap opera of all time - the Florida Recount (gasp!).

Gettting the Story First . . . Maybe Right. I did not, of course, witness the actual bomb blast at the Olympic Park last Friday night, but I WAS up watching TV at that time and DID manage to catch the live TV coverage of that awful event. And for those of us who watch the media work, it was fascinating.

Great American Smokeout: Me, the Media, and Addiction.Thursday is The Great American Smokeout, and like millions of other addicts, I'm going to try to stop smoking for at least 24 hours. It's tough and I wish I'd never begun. It would be easy to blame the tobacco companies and their advertising, but it's much more subtle than that. The media in general - ALL media - is a real co-conspirator in getting me hooked. I was just dumb enough to fall for it.

Growing Up with TV. Perhaps one of the reasons that it is so hard to discuss, analyze, or write about the influence of television is that it's so pervasive, so much a part of our lives -- both past and present. Our TV memories parallel our actual life in so many ways and at so many times that often our memories are framed by TV itself. It has become in a very real sense, a part of us.

Hard Lessons To Learn. Explores the commercialization of media and that media must sell in order to remain on the air.

Hard To Believe. You're not going to believe this story. I'm warning you. But it's true. Every word of it. No foolin'. It centers around Bob Grant, who sounds like not a very nice man.

Home Sick with TV. Remember when you were a little kid and got to stay home sick from school? I do. In the Walsh house, it usually meant settling in on the couch in the living room with a pillow and a blanket, warm ginger ale and a whole day's worth of daytime TV.

TITLE. It's pretty rare these days when the printed word incites controversy. We're so concerned about the modern media of TV and film and Internet and rap music that a bad word in a book hardly seems to bother us anymore - unless, of course, that book is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the word is "nigger."

I'm a Computer Game Addict! Personal observations about becoming addicted to computer game.

Influencing Our Attitudes and Perceptions. If we needed reminding that TV is not "real," there's another study out, this one from the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Not surprisingly, they found a rather unrealistic treatment of this important medical procedure

Journalistic Ethics and Other Oxymorons. We so often see the evidence of media intrusiveness, media insensitivity and media sensationalization, that it's easy to believe that the media has no soul, no compassion, no humanity.

Lesson Learned. Perceptive, faithful and regular readers of this column can perhaps learn from an embarrassing mistake I made.

Local TV Coverage Crossed the Lines of Decency. I know that our moral choices are often varying shades of gray -- that is very little in this world nowadays that's clearly black-and-white, right or wrong. But there ARE some things that are clearly wrong.

Jerry Rubin and the Media. A review of the life of Jerry Rubin and his use of the media to present a cause.

Joe Camel. Most advertisers are moral people, and their advertising is simply a way to publicize their product or service. But when a company advertises poison to young children, we need to draw the line.

Lou Grant On Media Literacy. There are some things one medium does better than the others. We often use more than one form to get a clearer picture.

Mass Media and Cultural Literacy. Increasingly, media literacy is tied to cultural literacy. One simply cannot be a literate and aware citizen of our culture without knowledge of the mass media

Measuring Global Trends with Mom. I have a confession to make. Sometimes, as I try to figure out global trends in technology and media, I look very close to home. As a matter of fact, I sometimes I look at my mother.

Media Can Show Us Ourselves. Each of us takes our own individual meaning from the media - from films, records, plays, TV. Some pieces nearly speak to us directly, and we cherish them not only as works of art, but also because of what and how they speak to us.

Media Violence and Shades of Gray. I was sent a Perry Ellis ad from the New York Times Magazine recently. It features a woman in an overcoat sitting on the floor of a tiled bathroom. She's got this vacant, drugged-out stare. From the top of the frame, a male hand is roughly tugging at the belt of her coat. Other ads in fashion or lifestyle magazines leave less to the imagination. These things trouble me.

Memo On PBS. PBS says that they're concerned with only quality, not ratings. So how come it's only during pledge time when their stations pull out Rolling Stones shows or Eric Clapton retrospectives?

More Media Savvy Than She Thinks. I've got a pet theory (I've got a couple of them, actually, but only one is worth sharing with you here). People are smarter than they think they are; they're also more creative than they think they are. And in the area of video production, they know more than they think they do. Luckily for me, my theory was proven correct just last week.

Misusing Computer Technology "Just because I own and see the usefulness of a computer doesn't mean that I think computers can do everything. The misuse of media technology is perhaps as big and as real a danger as is its under-utilization."

Napster & "Free" Music. Mondays federal appeal court decision against Napster has thrown the already tumultuous marriage of music and computers into even more turmoil. It is, everyone acknowledges, truly a landmark decision.

Natural Born Product. Should a director be held legally responsible for the actions of people who see his films?It's not as ridiculous as it sounds. The courts are already about to decide this crucial question.

New Eyes and Ears Through Media Literacy. The more we learn about the media, the more that knowledge changes our perceptions; changes how we look at an ad or read a newspaper, changes how we listen to music or watch TV ourselves. Anyone who's ever acted as a director - even on a three-camera, local access TV show; begins to watch TV paying attention to how professional directors work.

New Findings Unveiled. In a dramatic and startling announcement from his home in Billerica, Massachusetts yesterday, writer, teacher, and media know-it-all Bill Walsh announced his conclusion that watching TV actually INCREASES a person's intelligence.

News That Isn't. Media has the power to show us things we've never seen before, bring us to places we've never been before, and reveal to us things which we did not know before. That's one of media's strengths.

Newspeople Say the Stupidest Things! On the morning announcements at school the other day, one of the reporters said something stupid. I'm not going to make fun of him - it just got me to thinking about stupid stuff you see and hear on TV.

One Less Voice in the Night. The company of radio late at night is recalled with the death of a Boston radio tradition.

One Who's Beginning to 'Get It. Remember that pivotal scene in "My Fair Lady" when Eliza Dolittle finally says, "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" correctly? Professor Henry Higgins is thrilled. "I think she's got it! By George she's got it!" Well, I feel not unlike Professor Higgins these days, having found someone who's "got it," although not necessarily from me.

Our Problem is Defining Violence: The statistics are frightening. We have a problem with violence on TV in this country. One of the major problems is that we don't know what -- if anything -- we should do about it.

Paula Jones and Penthouse. Last week it was announced that Paula Jones will be featured in an upcoming Penthouse magazine photo layout, a little tidbit I found particularly interesting. Ms. Jones, you may recall, once vowed "never, never, never" to pose naked. She's apparently changed her mind (financial arrangements have not been disclosed), because it's reported that the Penthouse feature will feature Paula "naked inside and next to a swimming pool." The pictures were taken (ironically enough) in California during the Democratic National Convention.

Phone Call on Rock Hall of Fame. "Hello? Office of Cultural Affairs, Enforcement Division, Good Taste desk? I'd like to report a crime. The victim? Well, I guess good taste is the victim. Truth. Justice. The American Way - all of that stuff. The perpetrator? The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Yeah - they're the Grammy people, but this isn't about the Grammies. You must get a lot of calls about those. This is about something much more lasting."

Politicians Promise Us Everything. The battle between style and substance in political campaigns ended long ago, with style emerging as the clear winner. Some point back to the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960 as the crucial turning point. Those who watched the debates on television thought that Kennedy had won. Those who listened on radio (and were therefore deprived of visual images) thought Nixon won.

The Pope in a New Comic Book. There's a new Caped Crusader in the comic book business these days. It's Pope John Paul II.

Princess Di and the Media. The media has compounded the death of this very nice lady with its own special brand of hyperbole and hypocrisy for an entire week.

Programming the Deadly Sins. The television industry is not noted for its honesty, so I (for one) applaud the newest trend in TV programming in which shows are pretty frank about what they're offering. First came "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on ABC, appealing in a not-too-subtle way to the audience's avarice. Then came the Fox program honestly-titled simply "Greed." Truth in programming, finally.

Put Me on TV. There are a great many things I don't understand generally. Rising to the top of that fairly lengthy list this week is why aiming a video camera at some people seems to cut their IQ or maturity level in half. I just don't get it.

Reading is NOT Dead. I met Harry Potter last weekend, and I've got to tell you that it was a pretty positive experience. Suddenly I'm a little more optimistic about books, reading, and young people in general.

Reading TV Guide. I've just read TV Guide. Yes, READ it. All of it. All 212 pages. All 7,997 program listings. And you learn some interesting things when you do that.

Remembering Kent State. While some readers are (no doubt) too young to remember, and others may have blocked it from their memories, it remains for some of us a very important and unforgettable date. Today is the 30th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, and attention must be paid.

Responding to Media. Media -- any media -- is a medium of communication. And communication requires both a sender and a receiver, one who creates the message and one who "reads" it.

Rock and Roll Is Not Meant for Me. I don't like a lot of the popular rock and roll music that's out these days. Much of it I cannot understand. Some of it I find offensive. I can't understand the words to a lot of the songs. It's often played too loud. And the artists look and act like very unsavory characters. Which is, of course, exactly how it should be.

Season Finales and Cliffhangers."Finale" is supposed to be some grand or super-exciting ending to a work. For those of us who endured the "season finale" of Seinfeld last week, it's distressing to learn that it was only the beginning. Twenty-seven programs listed in this week's TV GUIDE are described as "season finales" and five advertised as "cliffhangers.".

Selling Ads. Part of my extensive media experience includes a stint as advertising director for a weekly newspaper here in Massachusetts. Before you're unduly impressed by the title, let me tell you about it.

A Solution for "Road Rage". Stories in the media about road rage are all the fashion these days. In fact, it's become a very hot topic in both TV reports and newspapers during this heavy-travel summer season.

The Sounds of Silence" or"Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend. I was less surprised by the advertising on the phone than I was by the fact that there was ANY kind of recorded message on the line while I was waiting. I was frankly a little disappointed to discover that my friendly neighborhood car repair place had joined the twentieth century.

Sterotypes of Teachers In The Media. We had been talking about sterotypes on TV and how various groups are represented: Blacks, women, minorities. I started thinking about TV's depiction of teachers.

Stereotyping the Post Office in the Media. At an important (but generally ignored) press conference recently, the United States Postal Service unveiled a report which tries to prove that the term "going postal" is incorrect. The 249-page, two year study was funded by the postal service, but conducted "independently" by the U.S. Postal Service Commission on a Safe and Secure Workplace. That's what they say.

Sticker Shock. I just got one of those record club things in the mail, and instead of being excited by the possibilities, I'm either bored or confused by the selections. It's a sign of rapidly approaching old age, I'm sure.

Student-Produced Morning News. Frankly, it's both fun and rewarding to watch them work, these students who run the daily morning announcement TV program here at Billerica High.

Superbowl of Commercials. I am an advertiser's dream as I settle down in front of my TV set at 6:00 PM Superbowl night to watch the big event. I couldn't care less who wins the football game. I am here to watch the commercials. And I realize that they've finally done it. They've made the ads at least as interesting as the game itself -- so interesting that the commercials are drawing their own audience.

Superbowl '99: Excess and Entertainment "... the Superbowl has, indeed, become nearly a symbol of America - a symbol of American consumerism, arguably the pinnacle of American sports, the most-watched (and most pretentious and most expensive) TV coverage of a single event in our American culture. And it is also so much more - both good and bad.

Superbowl XXXV and America. I'm not a TV reviewer by occupation, but Superbowls have taken on such a life of their own and such monumental importance in our culture that I figured I just HAD to watch Superbowl XXXV last Sunday and then try to make some media sense of it.

Talent, Character, and Class. In a media world where mediocrity often passes for talent, where special effects are often used to disguise a lack of skill, and where the most important character trait seems to be the ability to call attention to yourself, the Billerica High Musical remains not only a training ground for young talent, but also for the development of character.

Talk Radio and Citizen Participation. When we talk about active citizen participation in the media -- true two-way interaction -- a free and open exchange of ideas -- we may think of talkradio.

Take Your Pick. It seems that police cruisers in St. Clair County, Illinois have became "moving billboards"

Television Changes Us. I'm not one of those people who allege that TV is evil. But that is not to say I'm blind to some of television's rather obvious and glaring faults. And perhaps one of the most serious is that television changes us, not so much our behavior - that question is still under discussion - but our expectations, the way we see the world around us and even ourselves

"Testing . . . Testing". The big story in the local media these days is testing "the testing" of Massachusetts students with the MCAS tests and the testing of Massachusetts teachers on a new certification exam.

There's No Such Thing as Free Chowda. Who would ever think that handing out free stuff could start a controversy? Well, soon commuters in Boston will be handed a coupon for a free bowl of chowder at Legal Sea Foods as they pay their tolls in the tunnel.

This Much Madness....It's not often that we have a mass suicide, local town elections, and April Fool's Day so close together. In the event that this odd coincidence harbingers the Apocalypse, I think that it might be time to reveal the existence of ANOTHER cult - mine. It's called the Society To Observe Obviously Puzzling Irritating Dolts (STOOPID), and I'm its temporary leader. Until we can get Clarabell out of retirement.

Toilet TV. From a media watcher in Canada comes news which is both amusing and sobering, According to AdNews Online Daily, a company called NewAd Media has already installed new videoboards in public bathrooms in Toronto. From what I can gather, the video screens are mounted above the urinals in men's rooms and inside the toilet stalls in ladies' rooms. An infrared sensor turns the board on when someone stands in front of it (for the men) or when one sits on the toilet (for the women). The boards display "45 second full-motion broadcast quality video clips with sound," it is reported, and although the news item I saw didn't mention it specifically, you can bet that what the videoboards are showing is advertising

Trademark Battles. Bobby's mother was busy with the white-out, trying to fix a mistake on the manuscript before she xeroxed it. Meanwhile, Bobby had finished crying, threw away his soggy kleenex, checked the new band-aid on his knee, and ran back outside to continue rollerblading with his pals. Welcome to the wonderful world of trademarks.

TV Is Fun. Amid all the critical viewing talk and media literacy analysis and trying to get you involved in making your own media messages, that simple fact has gone un-stated for far too long. Watching TV is fun.

TV Poet: Charles Kuralt. Kuralt's "job" for 28 years was to drive the back roads of America in a CBS camper and report to us what he found there.

TV Turn Off Week. Is the focus of TV Turnoff Week rid ourselves of some sort of evil influence or a "TV fast," to find one's own nature.

Two New Sites on the World Wide Web. "As it gets easier and easier to develop Web sites (it's now so easy, even an English teacher can do it!), we're going to see more and more organizations and individuals turn to the Internet to get their message across."

Uncivil Wars. Media DOES change people and the way we think and act...and sometimes the changes are discouraging to see

Vulgarity Bites. One thing that can be said about the popular media -- ALL of the popular media: newspapers, magazines, music, TV -- is that they serve as a barometer of the changes we go through as a society. Changes in thought, philosophy, behavior and even language are seen first in the media, and the media's use of certain images, ideas and even phrases seems to OK their use in our society.

Wearing The Ads. Those of us who are "over the hill" can remember a time when thepurpose of clothes was to clothe, not to communicate a media message.

What Makes a Celebrity. This is more than merely an academic question. Forbes magazine has just released its list of the top 100 celebrities in the world today, and its an interesting and intriguing list for anyone interested in the media and its effect on our society.

What's The Frequency, Connie? The firing of Connie Chung raises some interesting questions about our tastes in news (and newscasters) and the role of women inthe media.

Why Don't Kids Know the News?. At times I'm alternately discouraged and/or appalled when I realize how little news some of my students get. From time to time, after reading an interesting piece in the newspaper or seeing something on TV that I'd like to discuss with them, I ask in class the next day, "Did anyone see the story in the Globe (or Herald or Sun or whatever) about such-and-such?" Or "Who saw `60 Minutes' last night?" It's not that there are so few positive responses; it's that there aren't ANY.

Why Im Not Buying. One of my students asked me if I'd purchased the new Beatles' CD yet. I guess he figured that, being a child of the 60's, I'd snap up ANY "new" Beatles material immediately. I told him that I hadn't and tried to explain why. But I'm still mulling it over in my mind.

Working With Basics.At my high school, there are three levels of English classes -- Honors, College Prep, and "Basic" (We don't call it "basic" when anybody's listening, but that's what it is). Those of you who are teachers probably understand that the class can be a "dumping ground" for non-college kids, screw-ups, discipline problems, lazy kids, unmotivated kids and anyone else who slips through the cracks.

XFL - A TV Show About Sports. I am not a sports reporter; nor am I a sports columnist. In fact, I'm probably not even a big sports fan - although I do watch some games on TV. But since the new XFL football league is more about television, sex, and violence than it is about sport, I figure I'm qualified to discuss it



Media Watch articles reflect Mr. Walsh's personal observations and opinions of the media scene and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Media Literacy On-Line Project or the University of Oregon.