Blog Essay Class 2

Jessie King

I found the readings this week to be an interesting introduction to the world of mass communication.  My experience with mass communication, particularly journalism is limited to participation in a school journalism program over 16 years ago, so I found the basic background information provided by Rashomon, Adam, and Carey to be helpful. Additionally, the readings on the media effects provided information on the change in media influence over time.

I found the basic message behind Rashomon – that truth is difficult to verify due to conflicting accounts of witnesses – to be a common state of news and media today.  I was, in general, quite defeated after viewing the film.  Several of the comments made by the characters (“it is human to lie”, “men are weak and want entertainment”, “everyone is selfish and dishonest in order to survive”, etc.) really made me question our society, and if we truly are these selfish, egotistical individuals.

G. Stuart Adam’s “Preface to the Ethics of Journalism” identified some differences between journalism and media.  According to Adam, journalism is a form of expression marked by news, facts, narratives and analysis, usually in the form of writing.  Compared to media which encompasses a multitude of outlets that may primarily be for entertainment, journalists are writers, reporters and critics and are morally bound to deliver a message that promotes understanding as well as delivery of facts.  I found Adam’s sacred rule that “none of this was made up” inspiring, but it led me to wonder how many journalists truly follow this.  (Perhaps starting with Rashomon made me a bit of a skeptic throughout the readings!)

Carey further explained some of the basics behind mass communication in seeking to define and compare the transmission and ritual views of communication.  I was very surprised to find that both were rooted in religion, though our society has moved away from this.   Whereas transmission is sending and sharing information, the ritual view of communication is more focused on the maintenance of society over time.  A line that stood out in Carey’s article was “there is reality and then our accounts of it”.  From a communication standpoint, even when transmitting information, we are bringing in our own perspectives and understanding of an event.  Going back to Rashomon, perhaps each person did alter the story to make themselves look better, but there’s also a possibility that they truly interpreted the acts differently.

The Curran text as well as the historical summary explored the change in media influence over time.  Iyengar (in Curran, 2010) pointed to the increased availability of channels as a reason for a less informed and more polarized electorate.  People are able to choose which channels they watch, perhaps limiting the scope of information received.  With the recent news of Senator McCain’s ‘a la carte’ cable tv bill, this could increase even more.  While it makes sense to pay for what you watch, this could greater limit the amount of non-biased information to which people are exposed.

Each of these go back to the idea of providing factual, unbiased information.  I am yet unsure whether this is truly possible, but I think adhering to ethical principles as those provided by G. Stuart Adam are a positive place to start.

One of the critiques provided in David Gauntlett’s “Ten things wrong with the media ‘effects’ model” is “2. The effects model treats children as inadequate”.  It goes on to state in general psychology views children in a negative light – focused on what they cannot do.  Discussion Question: What long term effects could this view have on child development?


6 thoughts on “Blog Essay Class 2

  1. Hi Jessie,
    You brought up many of the same points and issues I did in my entry. Glad I wasn’t the only one who picked up on those things. 🙂
    Re: “People are able to choose which channels they watch, perhaps limiting the scope of information received” – this type of “validation media” only encourages the creation of thought silos where people can’t get past their own ways of thinking and opinions to consider any alternatives. It kind of reminds me of the divisive and polarized choices we have for mainstream media sources. There’s Fox and there’s CNN, who always seem to be pitted against each other even in everyday conversations. Go up to a random person on the street who watches Fox and ask him/her to criticize CNN and you’ll probably be standing there for longer than you’d like. And vice versa. But do those people ever get out of their comfortable little thought bubble to consume other media sources? Generally, not – but probably moreso for “liberal” viewers.

  2. Hi Nicki,
    The Curran text (I think!) mentioned something similar about people adhering to their preferred television news sources. The example given was the significantly higher number of Fox News viewers who believed that the US had found WMD following the US invasion into Iraq. It’s scary when we consider that decisions may be made based on information gathered from these news sources!

    • It is called selective exposure — Keep this in mind while you read chapter 3′s defense and rationale for partisan media.

  3. Jessie, you have done a great overview of the readings and film. Good point raised, thanks. I agree that with “a la carte” cable tv is going to open understanding on the consumption of tv. The on-line Catalan tv, the one from my country, is all “a la carta”. From viewers´ options, the public tv have been notably changing. Good way of understanding tv preferences. But journalist´s mission, and media committent to society, is it just about consumption? I feel lost regarding this question usually.

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