Remembering Bob McCannon

I was saddened and shocked to learn that media literacy pioneer and consummate activist, Bob McCannon, passed away. One of the founders of the New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP, now renamed the Media Literacy Project), he was a mainstay in numerous media literacy debates going back the past 20 years. On the national stage he promoted media education like an evangelist, making it more visible to professional fields like health and psychology. On a local level he was a staunch critic of the Albuquerque Journal and vociferous activist against Walmart.

Bob was my “gateway drug” to media literacy. It was through initial contact with him that I become exposed to the power of media literacy and it was under his tutelage that I became a media literacy educator. After taking one of NMMLP’s catalyst trainings (by far the best media literacy training I ever got) I continued to work with Bob on a number of projects, including developing the first ever media literacy curriculum in Spanish. He was mindful to expand the audience for media literacy, making the effort to reach out to Latinos, Native Americans and incarcerated youth.

Admittedly Bob wasn’t easy to work with. He and I engaged in a number of “pissing contests” (his words, not mine). I wanted to include him in my dissertation research but he made several demands that were impossible to meet. Yet it was this principled, dogged approach that set him apart from other media educators. For example, when he felt that the mainstream media literacy movement was getting too cozy with the media industry, he organized with other like-minded media literacy activists to form Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME). While researching the media literacy movement in North America, ACME stood out as the most principled and independent media literacy organization. As I analyzed ACME’s documents I continuously heard Bob’s deep, booming voice forming a barricade against media corporations. He continuously affirmed the importance of media literacy that is independent of corporate influence.

Bob was larger than life–physically and morally. His huge presence commanded rooms and filled pubic space. It’s hard to imagine that such a force of nature is no longer with us. In his honor, I hope that all of us will continue to keep up the good fight and do our best fill his massive shoes.

To read the Media Literacy Project’s response and memorial, follow this link.