The technological and social shifts of the past several decades have brought about new modes of learning, participation and civic engagement. As young people work, play and socialize in online spaces, the academic community is exploring the challenges and possibilities of education in the digital age. New definitions of literacy emerge to address the importance of digital skills, play and collaboration. This paper explores the diverging perspectives on literacy adopted by new media scholars and old media outlets. Thematic coverage in the New York Times from the last four years is analysed and compared to academic texts produced in the same period. Measures of salience for literacy as a topic are used in conjunction with framing analysis based on semantic mapping. The results of this study suggest that mainstream media employ a legacy literacy frame, stressing basic language competencies and traditional institutions. That perspective is markedly different from the academic discourse, which emphasizes a host of new social, technological and critical evaluation skills.