Becoming a Savvy Media Customer

Posted: Oct 25, 2007 12:01 AM
Becoming a Savvy Media Customer

Even in the highly competitive world of magazine covers, it’s hard to miss the latest issue of Salvo. A stark mannequin face, flanked by two other mannequins, stares out, a large computer cable port embedded in its forehead. The headline: “Under the Influence: The Media and Their Messages.” Above the picture is the slogan “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

Not exactly the reverential attitude toward the media that we typically encounter in … well, the media. And that’s the point. Salvo actually uses some of the new media’s favorite tactics -- flashy layouts, trendy graphics, short bursts of information -- to get readers to think critically and reassess the messages the “mainstream” media bombard us with daily.

Sure, most of us old enough to drive know that advertisers try to sell us things and the media bring some bias to the table. But that doesn’t mean we’re immune. We’re surrounded by the same tricks all the time, so it’s easy to lose our ability to be critical.

Take the obesity epidemic. It’s the fault of all that readily available fattening food, right? No, Salvo contributor Denyse O’Leary writes. As a child in the 1950s, she ate plenty of high-calorie food -- “greasy grilled cheese sandwiches, heaps of buttered potatoes drowned in rivers of gravy, and huge banana splits whenever we could get them.” But, O’Leary writes, she and her friends were also active -- riding bikes, swimming, running -- for hours every day. Unsupervised, at that.

The protected kids of 2007 follow a similar diet, but they exercise mainly their thumbs on the latest video games. “Today’s children will ride bikes and stay slim if their parents take them on bike trips,” O’Leary writes. “But the parents must then forego working overtime to pay for their next big purchase. Thus, our affluent society makes good health a question of choice, not chance.” Good luck finding that message in Time and Newsweek!

Then there are the ads we see daily. How good are we at dissecting them? Before you preemptively award yourself a passing grade, read “Advertising from A to Z” by Salvo editor Bobby Maddex. You’ll learn the “Language of Ads” -- 10 basic types of advertising tricks, from the Weasel Claim to the Scientific Claim. (What exactly is the “Retsyn” in Certs, anyway?) You’ll get a primer on “manipulation techniques” and pick up the “keys to ad analysis.” Chances are, it’ll affect the way you watch television or flip through a magazine. For that matter, you’ll become a savvier film-watcher after screenwriter Barbara Nicolosi explains how films have changed society and why some that are technically brilliant offer a depraved worldview.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Salvo if it didn’t look toward the future and consider the promise of technology. For example, perhaps you’ve seen the latest billboards for Svedka vodka, featuring a voluptuous female robot and the line “The Future of Adult Entertainment.” And if you scoff at such a notion, consider this recent news article:

“MAASTRICHT, Netherlands, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The University of Maastricht in the Netherlands is awarding a doctorate to a researcher who wrote a paper on marriages between humans and robots.

“David Levy, a British artificial intelligence researcher at the college, wrote in his thesis, “Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners,” that trends in robotics and shifting attitudes on marriage are likely to result in sophisticated robots that will eventually be seen as suitable marriage partners.”

As you can tell, Salvo covers some pretty heavy topics. Fortunately, the editors have a sharp sense of humor, which often surfaces in the fake ads they’ve sprinkled throughout. One is for a fictitious reality show. Under a picture of two families, it reads: “Can two couples have sex-change operations, raise each other’s children and redecorate each other’s houses without ruining their friendship or screwing up their respective families? Find out on Triple Switch Complete Household Makeover Challenge, a new reality television series -- 10 years in the making!”

As the mother of three young adults, I’ve witnessed firsthand the ability of Salvo to reach young readers and challenge them. I’m proud to be a pro bono member of Salvo’s editorial board, contribute from my own wallet to their efforts, and introduce this stunning publication to as many people as possible. Why? Because I believe Salvo is the most important magazine of our day.

Today’s young adults are bombarded with cultural sewage. They must be equipped to critically think about and dissect the negative images, lies and distortions that rob them of their best futures. The original editors launched the inaugural issue a year ago, and I’ve come to count on Salvo to present truth in the language of a generation that so desperately needs to hear it.

I urge you to check it out for yourself. At Salvo’s Web site, you can order single copies and subscriptions, as well as sample some of the content. You can also read “The Salvo Blog” and click links to relevant articles in other publications.

Finally, amid all the media garbage, there is hope -- because there is Salvo.