Faculty in the Spotlight with Noemi Montes

“Nowadays, everyone can produce information but the quality of it is a question mark.” This is the view of Dr Noemi Mena Montes, head of the department of media communications at Webster Leiden, and it is one of the ideas behind a new, revised Media Studies program starting in September.

 

The program – which can be studied as a major or to add useful skills to a business or other degree – aims to help students create, implement and analyze media messages across all modern platforms, giving them the media literacy and critical thinking, social media, research and communication skills that all communications professionals require. 

“We all need media for everything we do,” says Dr Mena Montes. “If you know how to design a website, run social media, take pictures and videos, whether you have a job as an entrepreneur, in an NGO or politics, you can use these digital skills to run your business and communicate your message. Personal branding is very important too, and we also teach public speaking and interpersonal communication skills.” 

Dr Mena Montes – whose own award-winning journalism has focused on sharing the stories of people who struggle to get their voices heard – believes that today’s social media present a particular challenge if we want to filter out facts from people’s agendas. 

“Young people grow up with social media and digital skills, however we have too much information, also created by non-professionals,” she says. “Often a political or other agenda is there, so there’s a need for critical thinking. Even when you do an interview yourself, you need to double check facts. One of the dangers of journalism nowadays that people don’t have time to do this, and that is creating a lot of misinformation.” 

There’s no better way to learn than to do. This is a message that she learned herself after doing a first degree in journalism and audiovisual media and then working at the Spanish University of Salamanca’s radio station. “I learned more there than in the whole degree!” she confesses. “My drive to study media is about connecting with people, looking for the story behind the story, giving a voice to the people who don’t have a voice and building a community in our individualistic society.” 

This is one reason why her department is also setting up Webstercanal – a website designed by and for students which launches in September and is currently running a ‘capturing reality in times of isolation and hope’ photo contest. “There are two main goals of this website: one is that it can be a multimedia platform where media students can publish a blog, stories, pictures podcasts, and videos,” she says. “At the same, during the last term with corona crisis, we have gone online and next year we don’t know what is going to happen, we want to build a community also online. Everyone can participate – it’s open to students from any degree and faculty, and it already has very interesting stories of the new reality of how students are living these days!” 

The students involved are already powering up this ‘canal’ of media learning:

 Ilayda Edali, 26 and from Turkey, who has studied media communications, said it is a great learning experience. “I especially enjoy getting to know media professionals, and listen to their stories through interviews,” she says.

Artyom Napolskiy, 22 and from Kazakhstan, who is an MBA student, said running multimedia has been a challenge. “It surprised me how many photographs are needed for each page on the website, and the organization of images was another factor in order to not lose track of our digital content,” he says.

Sophiya Gautam, 21 and from Nepal, is taking a BA in International Relations and Media Communications with minor in Photography.When I started, I didn't think my photography skills would come in handy for the website, but we have used a lot of pictures that were taken by our media students which look amazing, so that was a good opportunity,” she says. 

Nikki Jennings, 22 and from the U.S.A, is starting an MBA in August, and said the website allowed her to master many skills including teamwork.The need to ‘put on many different hats’ and take on a variety of jobs was an interesting part of the process and I learned new skills as I went along,” she says.

Maura Purnama, 22 and from Indonesia, is studying for a BA in Media Communications with a minor in Psychology, and valued the change to become more confident in writing. “The interviews I did allowed me to better articulate my thoughts into a readable piece for others and made me love writing again!” she says.