Media Meltdown: A Graphic Guide Adventure
Media Meltdown is one volume in a series of Graphic Guide Adventures that serve to educate while entertaining. Other topics range from wilderness survival skills to manipulating the food supply to skateboarding. I found out about the series, illustrated by Mike Deas, because the writer, Liam O’Donnell, previously created the Max Finder Mystery Collected Casebook series.
I was interested in Media Meltdown because of its topic, teaching kids how to recognize media manipulation through corporate control and advertising with the goal of improving media literacy. To do that, we’re introduced to Jagroop, whose family owns a fruit farm that developers are pressuring them to sell for a subdivision; Pema, whose sister is an intern at the local TV station; and Bounce, whose father sells wind turbines for alternative energy sources. Someone tries to burn down the barn at the farm, to force the family out, and what happens next shows the kids how cops and local news can be influenced by money and preconceptions.
The quickly-moving story incorporates a bunch of concepts:
- How TV news is cut for time
- Overdevelopment of natural land spaces
- How video editing can present a certain viewpoint, regardless of facts
- The influence of advertising on keeping media afloat and determining which messages are visible
- Job roles at a TV station
- Advertising hooks and saturation
- Alternate message venues to fight media consolidation
- Skepticism and the need to double-check what you see
- Movie scripts, shots, and editing
The panels are often heavily narrated to get the points across, and the tone can be similar to a classroom, as expected for a comic designed to be educational. It’s a dense 60 pages of story, and the lettering sometimes crowds the balloons because they’re shoving so many words into the panels. Still, these are great things for kids to think about, and there are a lot of ideas included here, which makes for excellent points to start a discussion.
You can read preview pages online or find out more at the writer’s website. There’s also a website supporting the book that includes tips on making your own media. (The publisher provided a review copy.)