Heuman to support media literacy initiatives as College of Media Dean’s Fellow

Josh HeumanJosh Heuman, a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Media & Cinema Studies and the Department of Journalism, has been appointed by College of Media Dean Tracy Sulkin as a Dean’s Fellow for the coming academic year. Heuman will work with department and college leadership teams to facilitate activities around the college’s 2022-2023 annual theme of media literacy.

The idea for an annual theme emerged from the College of Media strategic planning process in 2020. Each year, college faculty and students brainstorm about possible themes and then vote to select among them. Last year, the inaugural theme focused on social justice

“This is a critically important time to be examining media literacy,” said Dean Tracy Sulkin. “We’re excited to bring together perspectives from advertising, journalism, and media and cinema studies through class projects, college events, and public engagement. I’m very pleased to have Professor Heuman join our leadership team this year to support these initiatives.”

Heuman sees the theme as particularly timely. As the pandemic has increased our time spent online, there are concerns about how to be an informed citizen amidst the spread of misinformation.

“We are at a moment where the ways that we engage with media have qualitatively changed,” he said. “It’s hard not to peek out into the scary world outside and see lots of ways that [media literacy] is very relevant, whether we’re talking about the field of politics or social media, and [the effect it has on] young people.”

As part of his duties, Heuman will engage with IMEDIA, a joint collaboration between faculty in the College of Media and College of Education that is helping Illinois public school educators learn how to teach media literacy to students and hosted a media literacy workshop this summer. 

“I think it’s a really exciting time to think about these questions, maybe at a more abstract level, but also to recognize and engage with the people who are putting these ideas on the ground, in schools across the state and other states, too,” he said.

Heuman’s own research explores media industries and regulation, especially in television, with an emphasis on the regulation of media work. He’s also interested in the evolution of the television writers’ room—the place where stories are first introduced.

“What kind of an environment is this, in which the stories that we see on the screen come to be formed and come to be shaped?” Heuman asked. “We have a sense of struggles and tensions and what’s at stake in the stories that we end up seeing on screen.”

As media literacy events are announced, Heuman invites faculty, students, and alumni, within the college and beyond, to engage in the conversations.

—Vivian La, Communications Intern