In My Opinion: Courtnay McLeod: Getting ready for next week’s Future of the Media conference

TALKING at a conference always sounds straight-forward: stand up, talk, sit down, cross your fingers for easy questions. Done.

But in advance of talking at next week’s Scotsman Conference on the Future of Media, I decided to rally some troops. I needed to ensure I didn’t simply vent my own views (and increasing frustrations) at the provision for media education in Scotland.

Of course, I started by consulting some academics – the ‘experts’.

Lecturers in colleges said one thing, lecturers in universities said something slightly different but all tended to agree that some of the age-old problems were still to be remedied. Let’s be fair, it’s a tough nut to crack – theory versus practice, with shades of work experience built in, and attempts to squeeze in some ‘graduate attributes’. None of this is easy.

I also talked with school teachers. There were some mixed views from Primary school teachers but a general consensus that the Curriculum for Excellence presented opportunities for the inclusion of media training, but these were still to be exploited. High school teachers seemed more than enthusiastic about media education, but generally anxious that ‘media teachers’ could do with a bit of media training themselves.

To balance the debate, I talked with parents at the school gates. Now, if you’ve ever stood at a school gate you will know these mums (and some dads) know everything: the good teachers, the bad teachers, the lack of art provision, the broken water fountain, and if there’s any horse meat in the lunches.

The overwhelming response from them to any question on media education was that it probably happened at High school, but if possible they would like some before their child got to High school in order to safeguard them from future Facebook and twitter mishaps.

Of course, I also talked with students – arguably the most important group of all. The feedback from them was pretty conclusive – media education is about who they are, what they do, how they live – not just about their career intentions.

Okay, so this is a snapshot, some might call it idle gossip, but to me it’s telling. It shows that media education in Scotland is needed and wanted by many, but still reserved for the privileged few.

Whether independent or not, Scotland needs a robust and creative from of media education – its political, social and economic prosperity depends on it.

And I am looking forward to the debate next week.

Conversations can be a catalyst for change.

Courtnay McLeod is director of the Scottish Media Academy and regularly teaches broadcast journalism at various universities and colleges, with special interests in media convergence issues and broadcast writing styles.

She is speaking in Edinburgh on Tuesday at a conference on the future of the media.