Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

Reading Essays Week 6

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1. In Lippmann’s Nature of News , why does he say PR is important to the task of gathering news? Do you agree or disagree? What was the context of the times that Lippmann was writing? Hint: WWI and propaganda.

In Limmpann’s Nature of News, he expresses the role of the public relations specialist, or press agent, as a necessary guide and director of information and news to the reporter.  Lippmann describes their role as necessary facilitators of information to  reporters who “are not clairvoyant, they do not gaze into a crystal ball and see the world at will, they are not assisted by thought-transference.”  He goes on to assert, “The range of subjects these comparatively few men manage to cover would be a miracle indeed, if it were not a standardized routine.” With such a vast (and ever increasing) amount of information to be reported in our society, the role of the press agent is to make the reporter’s job easier, sifting through what is important and presenting it to the reporter in a packaged way. This standardized routine that Lippman refers to is the long standing system of the press agent.

While I agree with  Lippmann in regards to the necessity and function of the press agent, I also feel his recognition of  the flaws behind this system are valid, asserting that the role of the press agent can be exploited in the interest of individuals, corporations, or the government. The press agent has the ability to shape the news into a neat little package that sheds a positive light upon their employer or organization, conveniently sidestepping information that could prove harmful or a public relations nightmare. Lippmann states, “The picture which the publicity man makes for the reporter is the one he wishes the public to see. He is censor and propagandist, responsible only to his employers, and to the whole truth responsible only as it accords with the employers’ conception of his own interests.”  It is our job as reporters to recognize this possible one-sided or biased approach that a press agent may have when presenting the facts of a report. While the role of the press agent is a necessary one in our society, it does not come without flaw or danger of exploitation by those on both sides.

The context in which Lippmann points out the issues of the press agent in this article system stems from propaganda that was rampant in WWI.  Michael Schudson described journalists prior to the war “naïve empiricists”  not recognizing the difference between human interpretation of facts and facts themselves (2001).  From reporters’ experience with propaganda during the war, the term objectivity was born, as journalists discovered that presented information was not necessarily fact, but constructed views influenced by the bias of those press agents supplying the ‘facts’.


2. Describe what Hall means by encoding and decoding.

In his article, Hall discusses his belief that communication should not be defined as it previously has, in a linear fashion of sender-message-receiver.  Hall argues that a new model, one that consists of production, circulation, distribution/consumption, and reproduction is more appropriate. Within this model and in the case of television in particular, a process of encoding and decoding must transpire between the content producer and the content receiver, or audience.

The producer of certain content creates a message (encoding) that can then be interpreted by the receiver or audience member (decoding).  However, many forces throughout this process of communication can effect the way in which an encoded message is decoded by a receiver.  A receiver first must feel like an encoded message is important in order to decode the message in a way that will bring about action.  Constructs such as cultural background, political views, social standing, upbringing; all of these can effect the way a receiver absorbs and interprets a message.  So the process of encoding and decoding is one that is not strictly defined or predicted, rather it is dependent on and effected by the individuals who take part in the process.  An encoded message may have one intended message, that is interpreted ten different ways, by ten different viewers, leading to ten different courses of action (or lack of action) on the part of the decoder.

Written by charityhitt

September 29, 2012 at 9:41 am

Posted in Reading Essays

One Response

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  1. Good analysis of the the Lippman essay – like your summary of encoding-decoding — watch the difference between effect and affect.

    Ronald R. Rodgers

    October 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm

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