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?