Marilyn Cohen

Emeritus Professor

My primary research interest as well as much of my teaching and service to the community centers on the area of media literacy education. While media literacy is considered a part of the curriculum in many countries around the world, here in the United States where we produce a great deal of the world’s media, curiously enough, media literacy education lags far behind.

Those of us who are deeply committed to this field of study strongly believe that it is difficult to discuss the topic of literacy without addressing the media, since our students live in a media-saturated world. It is no longer possible for us to avoid the influence of the media, for they too are "teaching our children" and their messages and potential impact can in no way be ignored.

As Director of the NW Center for Excellence in Media Literacy ( I am directly involved in the field of media literacy education. Our Center has been very active since the early 1990s in using media literacy as a strategy to address health issues such as teen pregnancy prevention, substance abuse prevention and violence prevention as well as more recently, the areas of nutrition and physical activity. As an example of our work, we are currently collaborating with Washington State University on a 5-year program designed to evaluate the impact of a family-based media literacy approach to improving youth and family nutrition. This program is made possible with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).   Support for the Center’s work focusing on nutrition issues has come from a variety of sources including Public Health-Seattle & King County, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Center continues to maintain a strong interest in providing curricula which involve teens both during program development as well throughout the implementation phase when they serve as teen leaders presenting these materials to their classes and after school programs. Our programs addressing sexual and reproductive health as well as tobacco prevention are examples of our work made possible with support from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), American Legacy Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I remain committed to fostering and promoting the area of media literacy education research and have served as chair for the nation’s first media literacy education summit held in 2007 and sponsored by the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Our Center here in the College of Education has also been responsible for organizing this region’s first conferences for teachers and health professionals focused on the areas of teen health and media literacy.  The NW Center for Excellence in Media Literacy continues to offer numerous media literacy workshops and institutes throughout the region.

Ph.D., University of Washington, 1975

Pinkleton, B.E., Austin, E.W., Cohen, M. & Chen, Y. (in press) Assessing effects of a media literacy based intervention on U.S. adolescents responses to and interpretations of sexual media. Journal of Children and Media.

Pinkleton, B. E., Austin, E. W., Cohen, M. & Chen, Y. (2012).  The role of media literacy in shaping adolescents' understanding of and responses to sexual portrayals in mass media.  Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, 17:4, 460-476.

Pinkleton, B., Austin, E., Cohen, M. & Chen, Y. (2010, August).  Media literacy as a catalyst for changing adolescents’ attitudes and behaviors toward sexual media messages.  Association
For Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Mass Communication and Society
Division, 2010 Conference, Denver.  Selected to receive award for 1st place paper.

Pinkleton, B. E., Austin, E., W., Cohen, M., Chen, Y.*, & Fitzgerald, E. (2008).
Effects of a Peer-Led Media Literacy Curriculum on Adolescents' knowledge and attitudes toward sexual behavior and media portrayals of sex.  Health Communication, 23, 462-472.

Pinkleton, B., Austin, E., Cohen, M., Miller, A, & Fitzgerald, E. (2007). Statewide evaluation of the effectiveness of media literacy to prevent tobacco use among adolescents. Health Communication, 21(1), 23-34.
Lisosky, J., & Cohen, M. (2007). A four-year study of a media and violence curriculum in Seattle Public Schools.  Paper presented at Research Summit, Alliance for a Media Literate America, St. Louis, June.