WMU News

Alcohol awareness campaign is Nov. 13-17

Nov. 10, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Whether hawking basketball shoes or beer, America's media moguls are promoting a culture of excessive consumption, according to a media literacy expert who will be speaking during Western Michigan University's fall 2000 alcohol awareness campaign Nov. 13 through 17.

The campaign, called Project FATE--Facing Alcohol Through Education--employs education to encourage and acknowledge responsible drinking. The main event will be a presentation on media literacy--the ability to "read" television and mass media--by Robert McCannon, director of the New Mexico Media Literacy Project and an author, educator and consultant.

His interactive multimedia program, "Under the Influence: Media and the Culture of Compulsion" is free and open to the public and will take place 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in the North Ballroom of the Bernhard Center.

Also planned are a variety of other speakers and activities, including Greek Day on Tuesday, Nov. 14, when students will be adding their names to a giant poster set up by the flagpole near the Lee Honors College to show support of responsible drinking.

The week-long campaign will conclude on Friday, Nov. 17, with two events in the Student Recreation Center. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Penny Norton, founder and executive director of
FACE--Truth and Clarity on Alcohol, will give a public talk about alcohol awareness and responsible drinking. Then at 9 p.m., several on-campus bands will "Rock the Rec," as students are treated to an entertaining night of dancing complete with food and kegs of root beer.

A large turnout is expected for the presentation on media literacy, says Victor J. Manzon, director of WMU's Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention.

"It's an inspiring and sometimes hilarious interactive multimedia program that exposes deceptive advertising techniques, demonstrates how the media promotes addiction and violence, and gives people the skills they need to analyze and counteract unhealthy messages," Manzon says.

"Media literacy education represents a new and exciting approach to protecting children and adolescents from the unhealthy effects of the media, an approach that is not dependent on Hollywood's or Madison Avenue's willingness to accept responsibility for the effects of what they produce."

McCannon analyzes television commercials and movies to highlight how the media creates and promotes a culture of excessive consumption. He contends that once people understand the media's motivations and production techniques, they are less likely to adopt unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.

Being media literate is critical, he argues, because Americans are spending more and more time in front of the TV--22 to 23 hours per week for the average teenager and about 10 solid years for the average American. That means people are seeing more commercials and more images of excessive consumption and compulsive lifestyles.

"Bob McCannon recognizes the entertainment benefits and powerful education possibilities of television, films, video games and online services, but believes the majority of content and uses of media negatively affect our culture," Manzon says.

"The question he poses is this: 'Is it the individual who really wants another beer, pair of shoes or donut, or is it the influence of thousands of hours of commercials?'"

McCannon's appearance is being sponsored by WeCARE/SADD, WMU's Students Against Drunk Driving chapter, and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Prevention. Additional support is being provided by the WMU Alumni Association, Campus Activities Board, University Recreation Programs and Facilities, and other organizations.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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