Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

Week 4 Reading Essays

with one comment


Throughout this discussion between Tim Wu and Richard John of Columbia University, the theme of ‘big media’ vs ‘people in their attic’ was prevalent, in terms of media history, advancement, and the future.  On the side of big media was John, contending that in the rise of the telecommunication industry, structure shaped strategy: the captains of industry that guided the actions of Bell  and Western Union responded not just to technological advancements and commerce, but to the public interest and government regulation.  He argues, “Organizations can do things that people in their attic cannot, and have not done,” (John, 2010).  He expresses his dissent with the idea that ‘small is beautiful’, arguing that we may not be where we are today in the media industry if it weren’t for big media.  Citing Edward R. Murrow’s invaluable coverage during World War II as his example, he believes instances like this are the primary reason for the necessity of standards and training in the industry.

Wu argues a different point entirely.  Hw talks about the developments in the media industry as being a ‘cycle’, explaining that information technologies adapt “from a freely accessible channel to one strictly controlled by a single corporation or cartel,” (2010).  Wu’s prime example was that of the radio industry, which in its earliest forms, belonged to the amateur broadcaster; an industry that now belongs in the hands of ‘big media’. Now, Wu predicts that the internet is destined for the same fate, saying, “You can’t build a big enough fence around the internet to keep out what happened to other industries,” (2010). Wu supports the ideal of net neutrality as a way of challenging the cycle that has effected so many of the internet’s technological predecessors.

I thought one of the most interesting questions Wu raised in this forum was weather or not we are truly living in an ‘unprecedented era’.  Yes, we have made enormous technological strides in the media industry, but are they any more impressive than those of days past?  Wu questions where the excitement has gone over the technologies of yesterday, each impressive in its own right, and each thought to have changed the media landscape forever. I equate this line of questioning with that of ‘magical thinking’, and I have to question: Are we naive to think, as Wu suggests, that the internet changes everything, that it is somehow immune from his proposed ‘cycle’?




Question to be answered: What is the relationship between advertising and media production?  Does advertising benefit media production or hurt it?

The mass media and advertising, like it or not, are part of a symbiotic relationship; one needs the other to survive. Mass media has adapted from a public service, seeking to inform and enhance the lives of the public, to a full-blown money-making operation, and it’s the advertisers’ dollars that keep the lights on. On the other hand, without these mass media outlets there would be no business of advertising; no television screens to attract viewers, no radio frequencies to capture the ears of listeners, no newspapers or online publications to catch a reader’s eye.

It is this symbiotic relationship that is also a root of the problem of moral agency, or the obligation to provide the public with media content that seeks to inform and educate, as opposed to simply entertaining.  Advertisers pay for airtime that translates into the most viewers, and in turn the most purchasing potential for their product. More often than not, the media content that serves the public interest does not draw particularly high ratings, certainly not high enough to attract advertisers’ interest. The question must be asked then, who is to blame?  Is it corporate owned media, constantly in search of a profit and primarily concerned with the bottom line? Or are we as the public responsible for our own demise in terms of quality news and educational programming?  We may tsk and tut at the lack of  ‘quality’ programming available or the amount of ‘trash’ TV on the air, yet each time we tune our eyes and ears to shows like Honey Boo Boo or Jersey Shore, we are essentially casting our vote, through ratings data, for more of this type of media content.

So what then, is the solution? In the case of news specifically according to Eliot Cohen, paraphrasing the views of Robert McChesney (1998) in his study on journalistic virtue and corporate news, the answer lies in “the emergence of nonprofit, noncommercial news organizations whose executive boards are free from conflict of interest and affiliations with government agencies, special interest groups, and powerful corporations, and which are not dependent upon corporate advertising funds for survival,” (2004. Pg. 273).  While this line of thinking can be applied not only to news, but also publicly funded educational programming, the question of weather this is a viable solution remains. Even if more nonprofit news organizations and outlets of educational programming existed, would we as the audience embrace them and make them a relevant and desired choice in today’s buffet of media options?

This is just one question and area of interest I will seek to explore as I work on my final research paper, Less Informed in the Information Age.


Cohen, E. (2004). What would Cronkite do? Journalistic virtue, corporate news, and the demise of the fourth estate. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 19 (3&4), 255-275. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from

McChesney, R. (1998) Making media democratic. Boston Review, 23, 4-10. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from


Written by charityhitt

September 12, 2012 at 4:07 am

Posted in Reading Essays

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. You are second person to mention Honey Boo Boo.
    This is well thought out. Good critique and some good questions.
    Also, I just saw a study last week about young people not caring to be informed.,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=8d72e2ef7edbea6b&biw=1461&bih=754

    Ronald R. Rodgers

    September 16, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: