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Frank Baker

From Telemedium, The Journal of Media Literacy

Vol 60, No 1&2. Published 2013

Frank Baker [& Barrie McMahon and Tessa Jolls] Receives the 2013
Jessie McCanse Award For Individual Contribution to Media Literacy

In this year of 2013, as we celebrate our organization’s sixtieth Anniversary, we at the National Telemedia Council are delighted to present our time-honored Jessie McCanse Award to three eminent leaders, all passionately representing essential and different building blocks for a media literate, global Society of the Twenty-First Century.  The recipients, honored during the NTC’s Anniversary celebration on November 8, 2013, are Barrie McMahon, distinguished Australian pioneer, teacher, mentor, author and a founder of media education in Australia. Tessa Jolls, rigorously grounded visionary and brilliant entrepreneurial genius dedicated to the cause of media literacy. and Frank Baker, eloquent spokesman for media literacy education, author, communicator, the joyful Pied Piper and genial Master of the Media Literacy Clearinghouse.

Frank Baker

A most passionate, warm-hearted and genuine communicator and spokesman for the cause of media literacy, Frank Baker brings to his chosen career all the best qualities that have guaranteed his success. A college major in Journalism, a two-year stint of TV News in the world of commercial TV stations, and a subsequent shift to a career in a public school system as administrator of Instructional TV and Distance Education, provided a unique perspective and the enthusiasm for dedicating his efforts to work toward a media literate world. He had seen it all.  He knew all the angles and understood the need along with the problems at hand.

While working in the Orange County  (Orlando, FL) Public School System, he collaborated with both Time Warner Cable and the Orlando Sentinel’s Newspapers- In-Education (NIE) to bring media literacy education to teachers and students in the nation’s 16th largest school district. Upon returning to South Carolina in 1997, he co-taught a college level media literacy course for educators and developed a nationally recognized media literacy resource website.

Building on the experience as TV journalist and school media expert, with a dedication to community, people and public service, Frank began the adventure that made him an enthusiast in this field with a dedication that has continued to grow to this day.

Author of several books and numerous articles in various publications, he keeps his media literacy audience well informed through his valuable and frequent postings on websites and the Media-L list.  His contributions to the field are legion: they range from keynote addresses to chairing conferences; from running workshops to developing and writing teaching standards...and to serving as a former president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), and Vice President of the National Telemedia Council (NTC). Today, as a much sought-after educational consultant, Frank has become an indispensable catalyst, and a charismatic leader in this challenging field.

Frank Reminisces

I will never forget what I overheard the high school student say to her friend as they exited the classroom following one of my talks several years ago: “I will never look at commercials the same way again!,” she exclaimed.  A little smile came over me. I made an impact, I thought.

Like the eyeglasses I wear each day that help me see the world a bit clearer, so is media literacy like a lens through which we can better understand our mediated world--but understand it only if one has been trained to see.

The late Marshall McLuhan said the fish that swims in water is oblivious to the water, until it is taken out.  But we are never taken out of the water--the media are always there.

In my work with educators I remind them that most teach with media, but few teach about it. I have also observed that most of our students, already fascinated by media, tend to believe everything they see, read and hear. They’ve not yet acquired those important critical thinking skills they need in order to be competent communicators in a 21st century world.

I will never forget the time the associate superintendent of schools in Orlando, where I worked as an administrator, agreed to allow me to conduct my first professional devel-opment workshop with teachers. It was after school and it was all about using Saturday morning television toy commercials to teach their students about media literacy, media production and persuasion. Little did I know then that I was practicing what I preach: using popular culture and youth media to engage your audience in order to meet those all important teaching standards.

Later, during an election year, I worked with The Orlando Sentinel newspaper, and the Newspapers-in-Education organization, to bring in a national political consultant who spoke on the history of campaign ads. (Shortly after that, I started my own web site on the role of media in politics.) My approach has always been a non-technical one.

A few years back, I participated in a panel at the annual NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference. The title was “Teaching Media Literacy On A Shoestring Budget.”  During my part of the panel, I spoke about using storyboards (on paper) to teach one of the most important process steps in video game production, commercial production and film-making.  So in my workshops with teachers--a photo from the morning’s news; a magazine cover featuring a popular celebrity; a commercial from a television program--all become tools for me to use and to demonstrate media literacy to my audiences.

I must confess: media literacy education in American schools still lags far behind our partners in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. This is a huge problem: the American educational system does not value media as texts; so teachers don’t get trained and today’s textbooks give scant attention to media literacy. And that’s a shame.