Teaching the science-art of media production, be it writing, video, or graphic design, has always seemed to be a slippery thing to me. Despite my reservations, teachers everywhere have managed to break down these intuitive crafts and teach them well; the first step is always to draw a solid distinction between the medium and the content it carries.
I think separating media from content is an excellent thing. It allows me to critique your story structure, your editing, or your color scheme without tearing into your personal philosophy. But as a communication student with an interest in producing media, I think we sometimes overemphasize the importance of good structure – the key to a great presentation is, after all, a great message.
I’ve learned a lot in my year and a half as a communication student, but I’ve heard very little critique directed towards the content of my projects. On the one hand, I love this situation – it means total creative freedom on my end to choose what to talk about! But that’s not what communication is. Communication demands content that an audience finds relevant. With this in mind, I think we should devote at least a little time – not too much, mind you, but a little – to finding out what the audience wants to hear, rather than always how they want to hear it. A little market research could go a long way.
As it turns out, history class, not a communication class, was where I received my most solid content critiques. It was refreshing to hear someone else’s perspective on my arguments and ideas once in a while, and reinforced my hopeful idea that what I say matters.
Great presentation is an excellent asset! But a communicator also needs a great message.