Action for Media Education History

1989: Action for Media Education (AME) grew out of work taking place in a television project Marilyn Cohen was directing in the UW’s College of Education. 

  • This UW project provided educational programming designed specifically for preschool teachers and child care providers as well as parents.
  • These programs were broadcast weekly over all Washington’s PBS stations.

1990: The UW project attracted the attention of Washington’s first lady, Jean Gardner.

1990-1991: Marilyn, Barbara Johnson and project colleagues traveled the state with Jean Gardner surveying over 1000 parents in Yakima, Tri-Cities, Mt. Vernon, Bellingham, Vancouver and Seattle.

  • Surveys were completed during a meeting with the UW team and Mrs. Gardner.  Additional surveys were also distributed following each of the meetings by community-based organizations.
  • The purpose of these meetings (and the survey) was to find out more about the kinds of programming parents wanted to see on TV that would help and support them.
  • Instead the parents were eager to come to these meetings so that they could tell someone about their tremendous frustration with the programming that was currently available on TV.
  • Funding for this project was provided by Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), Division of Child and Family Services.

June 1991: The nonprofit Foundation for Family Television (Iater known as AME) was formed

  • The UW team shared results with the 6 communities involved in the survey.
  • As they listened to the results, members of the community groups expressed strong  interest in moving beyond the limited focus of the research. They wanted to begin addressing the needs that parents expressed in their meetings regarding their frustrations with family programming on TV.
  • As an outgrowth of community interest, it was decided to form a new nonprofit organization called the Foundation for Family Television (FFT)
  • FFT officers included Marilyn Cohen, Executive Director, Ann Suter, Chair, and Barbara Johnson, treasurer As an outgrowth of community interest, it was decided to form a new nonprofit organization called the Foundation for Family Television (FFT).

1991-1993: Foundation forms Academies for Family TV in 6 Communities

  • Action groups that became known as Academies for Family Television were formed in the 6 communities. Members of the first Seattle Academy included  Linda Kennedy and Vicki Schoettle, Chair.
  • All groups began planning PIXI Awards, an award designed to recognize quality TV programming for families.
  • To identify quality programming, it was first necessary to define exactly what we were looking for in a program.  To inform our decisions, each community assembled groups of reviewers representing a wide range of professionals working with children including teachers, child psychologists, pediatricians and social workers, along with parents.
  • While everyone who was asked to serve as a reviewer could name a list of things they didn’t like, they had great difficulty deciding how to describe what they wanted to see in a program. Therein became our first media literacy project!
  • Sources of funding for this endeavor included the Medina Foundation, US West Communications and the law firm Davis, Wright, Tremaine.

1993 – 2004: PIXI Awards

  • Named for the Pixel, the smallest component of the picture and its magical connection to the child, the smallest element of the audience.
  • Our first keynote speaker at a PIXI event, Peggy Charren of Action for Children’s Television once said, “You can’t turn on what isn’t there.”  So it became AME’s mission during those early years to identify what was there!  What were those quality programs that were being shown by local stations?
  • Based on extensive work by the reviewers in each community and the Foundation’s children’s media critic Lynn Ziegler, a group of programs for children and their families were selected to receive our first PIXI Awards.
  • The PIXI awards were given at special events held in communities where the meetings with Jean Gardner had initially been held .
  • The PIXI events sponsored by local groups resembled Emmy Award ceremonies. Local TV stations as well as producers and others involved in creating the programs received these special awards.

1994 – 1996: Seattle Public Libraries and the Watch Smart Bookmark

  • The Seattle Academy of the Foundation developed the Watch Smart bookmark.
  • These bookmarks were widely distributed throughout the Seattle Public Library system.

1994 – 1998: Washington State PTA Projects

  • The Foundation for Family Television (FFT) worked with the National PTA and their project Taking Charge of Your TV produced by Cable in the Classroom
  • Washington State PTA designated media literacy as a priority topic in 1995-97 and collaborated with the Foundation to distribute a “media wellness” packet with the title “Be Smart, Watch Smart. A poster was also designed at this time for distribution to PTA groups across the state.
  • The Foundation participated in the PTA’s Every Teen Counts project.
  • Foundation members gave presentations to PTA groups in the surrounding area.

1996 – 2002: Creating Critical Viewers Curriculum

  • Our organization attracted the attention of the Seattle Chapter of National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS).
  • NATAS had sponsored the development of new media literacy curriculum called Creating Critical Viewers (CCV).  It was written by Yale educators, Jerome and Dorothy Singer.
  • The decision by NATAS to develop a media literacy curriculum in the 1990s was a statement by certain broadcasters to take seriously the ethical and social questions being raised about the impact of their work and to learn how to address those questions through education.
  • NATAS identified CCV coordinators in 17 cities to promote CCV and work with educators. Because Seattle had a very active NATAS chapter and the Foundation for Family Television had a strong interest in media literacy, it was chosen as one of the major sites.
  • Marilyn Cohen, Vicki Schoettle (who became coordinator of the CCV Project and later one of AME’s chairs) along with Seattle NATAs representative Catherine Carbone met with John Stanford, then superintendent of Seattle Schools. This group convinced him to try using CCV in select Seattle classrooms.
  • With support from the Superintendent and his administrative staff, the Foundation   began recruiting interested Seattle teachers in becoming involved with the new CCV project. As a result, CCV, this first media literacy project in the Seattle area, became a reality.
  • Teachers who became involved in the CCV Project represented a wide range of areas including Language Arts, Social Studies, Health and Graphics Arts.  One of the teachers also taught a video production class. These teachers all found strategies for integrating CCV into the curriculum for their respective subject areas.
  • It should also be noted that as the Seattle teachers became more involved in CCV, they began producing and sharing their own lessons to supplement those in the CCV curriculum.
  • The Seattle CCV Project received special recognition at the Northwest Regional Emmy Awards (2000)

1996 – present: Conferences and Presentations

  • Presentations featuring Foundation speakers were given at two institutes (Spokane and Seattle) sponsored by the Washington State Department of Health (1996).
  • Foundation members also gave presentations in a variety of venues focused on media literacy-based curriculum materials for health related issues (1997-2000).
  • Foundation (AME) speakers have given presentations at national media literacy conferences including the early conferences held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, St. Paul, St. Louis, and Colorado Springs.
  • Presentations were given at Washington’s Images of Youth conferences sponsored by UW’s Northwest Center for Excellence in Media Literacy with funding from Washington State Department of Health (DOH), DSHS and OSPI.  (1997-2006). 
  • AME has continued throughout the years to make presentations at state conferences  as well as to many different school and community groups that have requested its services.

1998 – 2002:  Violence and Media Project

  • With support from the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Committee and NATAS, we were able to launch a major violence and media project in Seattle Public Schools involving 9 Seattle middle schools and 4 high schools.
  • Working with its UW affiliate the NW Center for Excellence in Media Literacy, we developed a new Violence and Media curriculum that was used in this project. AME member Jennifer Slack was coordinator of this project.
  • The curriculum involved youth in expressing their own voices about how to prevent violence and led to school-wide violence prevention campaigns in several Seattle schools.
  • The project culminated in a city-wide Youth Violence Summit where youth showcased their projects.
  • In the project’s final year, the Violence and Media Project was expanded to Kitsap County.

1998 – 2002: Aki Kurose Middle School Media Lab

  • With support from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and NATAS, we were able to introduce a media lab to Aki Kurose Middle School.
  • With this funding, the school was able to purchase cameras and other equipment needed to offer a fully functional media lab.  The funding also allowed them to fund two part-time media instructors for this lab.
  • During this period Linda Kennedy and former AME chair Claire Beach served as instructors.
  • The students began producing regular newscasts including health related messages for their school.
  • A highlight for the students took place when their teacher took a group to film at the WTO. There the students met and taped interviews with then-President Clinton to include on their newscasts.

1999:  Official name change made from Foundation for Family Television to Action for Media Education (AME)

2001 – 2002: Tobacco Prevention Projects (highlighting the teen voice)

  • Our members led several projects focused on tobacco prevention highlighting the student voice. One of these grant funded projects was launched by AME members Linda Kennedy and Claire Beach at Black Diamond Community Center. The purpose of this project was to educate students who would then educate their communities

In this project, students took the unprecedented step of taking their proposals to the City Council and asking to get the rules changed about the distance that second hand smoke could be generated from a public facility.  In 2002, this was quite ground-breaking!

  • Another of these projects led by Linda and Claire focused on Somali youth. Student leaders from the training sessions then conducted sessions for adults, community leaders and other community members focused on tobacco prevention and media literacy.

2003 – present: AME’s Online Presence

  • AME member Lila Cabello Drain totally upgraded, revised and redesigned the AME website (2015) including a blog which she initiated and regularly updated until 2017.
  • AME member Sue Cook continued the blog and in addition initiated an AME Facebook page (2017 -2019).
  • AME member Jenny Gawronski assumed AME communications team lead (2019), continuing the work of updating the AME website, blog and Facebook page.

2004 – present: AME Supports Net Neutrality

  • AME members organized an event on UW campus to raise awareness about upcoming FCC action.
  • AME members spoke out at Town Hall meeting focused on Net Neutrality.(2005)
  • Lynn Ziegler, as AME’s representative, submitted a 7-page document of AME comments to the FCC.(January, 2010)
  • AME members reached out to their networks regarding the need to submit comments to the FCC. (2017)

2005 – 2008: AME and Food for Thought Project

  • With support from Seattle-King County Department of Health and CDC, AME was able to work on a media literacy-based nutrition education project called Food for Thought.
  • This project was designed to reach parents of preschool children enrolled in the Puget Sound Educational Service District’s Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Educational Assistance) programs.
  • For this nutrition project AME developed a 60-minute multimedia presentation which was then offered to 10 community groups reaching over 160 parents.
  • AME modified their presentation package by placing the materials in both English and Spanish on an easy to use CD. AME also printed copies of the booklet it had designed to accompany each of the Food for Thought presentations.
  • AME member John Engerman designed all the graphics for the Food for Thought program.
  • AME provided a training session for all interested partners at Seattle-King County Department of Health.
  • The focus of this highly successful project was to train parents to serve as presenters to other parents. The project focused largely on parents in South King County.
  • Presentations were given by parents in settings ranging from living rooms filled with neighbors, friends and relatives to PTA groups, faith-based groups and other organizations to which parents belonged.

2006 – 2011: Images of Youth Festivals

  • The purpose of these festivals was to allow teens to use video as a medium to express their views as to how middle and high school students see themselves and the world in which they live. Selected topics were highlighted for each festival.
  • The primary focus was on the content of the videos; the production quality was considered of secondary importance.
  • AME members developed a set of guidelines as well as other background and submission information for applicants. These materials are still posted on our Images of Youth website as resources for other organizations offering video festivals. Videos showcased in each festival can also be found on our Images of Youth website (www.imagesofyouthfilmfestival.org)
  • All video submissions were first reviewed by a group of festival judges including media professionals and educators. AME also recruited youth to serve as a panel of judges carefully critiquing festival entries and determining which of the many entries would receive special festival awards. In addition, youth were an integral part of the video festival event, introducing all videos that were showcased.
  • These festivals attracted youth entries from throughout Washington along with some entries from out of state and even a few from outside the US.
  • The mini-grants we received from the King County Community Organizing Program were an important source of support for some of these festivals.
  • Festival audiences included peers, teachers, parents and interested community members.
  • Roberta Johnson, former AME chair, initiated the festivals and served as their coordinator (2006-2007).  In later years, coordinators were AME members Jennifer Slack (2008-2010) and Barbara Johnson and Stacey Jenkins (2011).  All graphic design for Images of Youth posters and other festival material was provided by AME member John Engerman.  AME’s Cheryll Hidalgo served as technical coordinator and production manager for the festivals.
  • As an outgrowth of these festivals, two AME members Cheryll Hidalgo and Claire Beach were invited to bring students to an international film camp held in Seoul, South Korea. The contacts at this camp have led to other invitations to attend international film camps.

2011 – 2012: Exploring New Directions for Promoting Media Literacy

  • In 2011 after much consideration AME determined that there were now many more opportunities for youth to enter their work in video festivals than there had been at the time our first festival was launched. In addition, the festivals were beginning to detract from our core mission of both promoting and providing media literacy education to children and youth as well as to those who work and live with them.
  • AME members examined several new options for focusing more directly on its mission.

2012 – 2014: Action Media Project (AMP)

  • The goal of the Action Media Project was to educate youth about media literacy.
  • The youth board that AME recruited described their mission as “helping young people create their own lens through which to critically examine and understand media.” 
  • Teen board meetings were held with the AMP coordinator Kathryn Middleton and select AME members.
  • Teens were regularly contacted by the AMP coordinator.
  • AME developed materials for the teen board members.
  • As the teen board began to discuss content, it became clear that the primary venue for this group would be a webpage where content could take the form of articles, videos, news stories, movie reviews and more. Teens also envisioned developing content for a YouTube channel which would link with the website.
  • The teen board met with AME member and graphic designer John Engerman to determine the “look and feel” for their new website. (The AMP website has now been integrated into the AME website (www.action4mediaeducation.org)
  • AME members started during this time to focus on the importance of working with legislators to support new media literacy legislation.
  • The Action Media Project initiative was proving extremely labor intensive for the group to maintain as other projects began to take precedence.

Fall 2014 – present: Media Literacy Legislation and Follow-up Efforts

  • Claire Beach, former AME chair, recruited Senator Marko Liias from her 21st District to serve as a sponsor for Washington’s media literacy legislation.
  • Through its many actions, AME has served as a major catalyst for the legislation that has now passed in Olympia.  
  • AME members have testified in Olympia before both House and Senate committees.
  • ESSB 6273 passed in 2016
  • ESSB 5449 passed in 2017
  • Legislation passed 2019 providing OSPI funding to support the first media literacy-based grants to teams of educators representing school districts across Washington.
  • Following up on the legislative mandates, AME members have served on advisory committees for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA).  

2015 – present: Participated in National Media Literacy Week

  • AME 25th anniversary celebration was held during Media Literacy Week 2016
  • Michael Danielson, AME chair, was the National Association for Media Literacy Education’s (NAMLE) Northwest Chair for Media Literacy Week 2017.
  • AME highlighted on its website some of Washington’s champions for media literacy education (2017).