Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

Archive for October 2012

Analyze This Week 10

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While there are capabilities of the internet that can contribute to the public sphere and make participation in the conversation easier through comments, etc, if the public sphere is intended to represent an entire population and provide a forum to achieve a public opinion, then I don’t think we can say that the internet is a model of the public sphere.  Because of the fragmented nature of online media, the very utility that members of an online community seek is the selective exposure that the internet provides.  Sure, there are some members of society that will use the internet to investigate all sides of an issue, but for many, the internet is a place to find like minded opinions and reinforcements of our already inherent beliefs through blogs or niche media.  Social media sites, though commended for their ability to connect anyone and everyone, also defy the model of the public sphere by allowing users to pick and choose who and what they are exposed to.  The internet, in my opinion, is more of a model of our own individual and selectively exposed to private spheres, than a model of the public sphere.

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October 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm

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Week 10 Essay

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What is meant by a public sphere and how did Habermas came up with this concept? Describe some public spheres you might be familiar with.

The public sphere, as defined by Habermas, is a virtual (or even physical) place where citizens can voice their opinions on and discuss problems in society, in the hopes of influencing action or change. Through discussing issues of societal importance, members of society can collaborate to form a public opinion.  This idea of the public sphere as it was explained by Habermas, was born as an intermediary between the “private sphere”, and the “sphere of public authority” (the nobility, the state, the church, the bourgeois class, etc.), which was once considered as representative of the ‘public’.

Habermas points to a polarization and separation of public and the public authority at the end of the eighteenth century as the catalyst for the creation of the public sphere.  Citizens no longer wanted to just be represented by those in authority, and they called for change.  “The general interest, which was the measure of such a rationality, was then guaranteed, according to the presuppositions of a society of free commodity exchange, when the activities of private individuals in the marketplace were freed from social compulsion and from political pressure n the public sphere,” (pg. 53). It was this move towards the representation of the ‘general interest’, coupled with a rise in literacy that led to the formation of critical journalism, outside of the bulletins and notices that comprised ‘journalism’ of the time. This led to the public sphere model as we know it today.

We see the public sphere as a model in our everyday lives: From town hall meetings to the PTA, the public sphere model is at the basis of a democratic society. In today’s world, the public sphere also still exists in the media, just as it did at its inception at the end of the eighteenth century.  However now, with the internet as a medium for public discourse, the public sphere is arguably more inclusive than ever.  Virtually any person with acces to the internet can join in the conversation, contributing their opinion, signing petitions, or just participating in the general conversation that comprises the public sphere.

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October 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm

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Analyze This Week 9

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The connection between Cooley’s The Process of Social Change and the phenomenon inspired by Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique as discussed in the review Books as Bombs as well as Stephanie Coontz review, is one that is obvious in terms of the concept of a dominant discourse.  In Cooley’s article, he discusses that even before the media existed, the idea of a dominant discourse, or ‘common sense’ way of life was prevalent amidst societies. In early societies, there existed communities of discorse, and if you did not understand your neighbor, Cooley explains, you had three options; separate, enslave, or go to war.  He states “A meagre environment limited the development of innate tendencies and capacities, and the comparative sameness of thought and action reflected the narrowness of the general life,” (pg. 76).

Centuries later we arrive at the 1950s, where the dominant discourse of a woman’s role being in the home was not only assumed as ‘common sense’ by society, but was constantly reinforced by the media.  It was Betty Friedan who challenged this dominant discourse with her ground breaking book The Feminine Mystique.  In his examination of the effects that this and other books like it of the time had on society, Louis Menand sums up why these books were so monumental in challenging the dominant discouse of the 1950s, saying, “These are books whose significance exceeds anything they actually said. For many people, it doesn’t even matter what they said or why they were written. What matters is that, when the world turned, they were there.”  Because they were there, and because they challenged a yet unchallenged notion in society,  the dominant discourse now says that I am able to pursue my education and career, while still desiring and having a husband and a family, if I so choose.

Menand and Coontz acknowledge that there are several issues with Friedan’s book, from ignoring the model of the African American home to the outdated notion that overbearing mothers were causing their sons to be homosexuals,  however both also acknowledge that The Feminine Mystique encouraged and established a new community of discourse among housewives in the 1960s, who realized they were not alone in their feelings of repression.  This spurred the women’s liberation movement in which Friedan played an integral role, and the community of discourse that viewed women as equals expanded and established itself as the dominant discourse in today’s society, an unthinkable achievement in the 1950s.

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October 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Analyze This

Week 9 Essay

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The Propaganda Model

David Cromwell’s review of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model was reminiscent to me of several of the readings which we have encountered throughout the semester, including Lippmann’s Nature of News and its discussion of public relations practices in relation to news media, as well as the examination of the economics of the media industry by Croteau, Hoynes, and Milan, that discusses the influence of advertisers and corporate ownership on the news media.  Herman and Chomsky’s Propaganda model identifies five societal filters that determine news coverage, including corporate ownership, advertisers, sourcing (choosing sources that are ‘trustworthy, usually public relations and government as opposed to ordinary citizens), flak or complaints about news coverage, and  ‘anti-communism’ or identifying the enemy.  The propaganda model examines these issues and the way they make impartial and balanced reporting of the news difficult, and turn mainstream media into “propaganda vehicles”.

I do believe that while some of Herman and Chomsky’s views are still relevant today, particularly in the case of their discussion on public relations and sourcing, I do think that some of their arguments have been antiquated due to emerging technology. For example, as summarized by Cromwell, the authors express that “Dissent from the mainstream is given little, or zero, coverage, while governments and big business gain easy access to the public in order to convey their state-corporate messages” (2002). I find a few issues with this statement.  First, with the explosion of blogs and the practices of citizen journalists in the last decade, dissent from the mainstream is given an abundance of coverage, just not from the outlets that are established by the media industry as “mainstream”.  While blogs and voices of opinion that differ from the dominant discourse are not the most commonly viewed in our society, they are still available to an increasingly autonomous audience that seeks out information for themselves, rather than passively accepting what the news media provides to them. Secondly, I take issue with Herman and Chomsky’s assumption that the mainstream media has “easy-access” to the audience.  With an increase in programming choices, the audience has become vastly more fragmented today than it was twenty years ago, and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for any news medium to attract an audience.  That being said, I do agree that it is much easier for big business or political interests to attract the news media’s attention, as opposed to the average American.

Sheldon Rampton of PR Watch expresses his belief that that the internet has outdated some of the issues in the original work by Herman and Chomsky.  “Today things are somewhat different. Across the political spectrum, there is a widespread belief that disinformation, deception and propaganda pervade the media,” (2007).  Audience members are becoming more aware of political and corporate agendas, and how they effect what is being shown on the news.  The audience now has the internet to turn to as a source of information and diversity of content.  Rampton also discusses the many ways in which the five filters do not apply to the internet.  He argues that low barriers of entry challenge the media ownership filter, the internet advertising model makes the advertising filter of less importance, and the inclusive nature of blogs and websites have made the filters of sourcing and flak more advantageous than disadvantageous on the internet. I agree with Rampton that in terms of the internet, and in the ways I identified above, the Propaganda Model needs an update to be relevant in today’s changing media landscape.

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October 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm

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Analyze This Week 8

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Symbolic annihilation is the removal or marginalization of an entire societal group by the media.

One example that Tuchman discusses is the symbolic annihilation of women in the media. The media, acting as a mirror of society, also perpetuates certain repressive ideals that are commonly assumed as societal norms. This depiction of women, happy in the home or in pink collar positions in the office, and overall as the subservient part of the equation in work and family life, serves to symbolically  annihilate the view of women as powerful and independent contributors to society.  This depiction of women in the media, regardless of whether it is  a true mirrored image of society, shapes young girls hopes, aspirations and expectations for their lives.  This contributes to a relatively unbroken cycle of socialization that defines women as the weaker sex.

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October 15, 2012 at 4:57 pm

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Week 8 Blog Essays

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Describe some  generalizations and stereotypical pictures of racial, gender, etc. phenomena that you have discerned – and then explain how the media might have helped create those pictures.

One of the most prevalent, and in my opinion detrimental, stereotypes that the media creates and perpetuates in regards to gender stereotypes is that related to the female body.  When I use the word create, I use it literally not figuratively, as the media (particularly in advertising) create images that are often distorted depictions of a female body.  Photoshopping and deceiving camera angles portray women’s bodies as perfect, slim figures lacking an ounce of body fat or cellulite. It’s on every other page of every magazine you flip through, smiling perfect women with perfect figures, confidently assuring the reader that they too, can be this confident and happy if only they use the same products.

This image of the perfect woman with the perfect body is not only seen in the advertising pages of magazines, but also on every channel and on every movie screen across the country.  Actresses with trim figures and near impossible to achieve bodies take the dominate roles in television and film, with actresses that are heavy set (by Hollywood standards) often playing a supporting role or no role at all.

It is a constantly discussed and possibly trite argument, but regardless, it is the messages that these images send to women that are concerning in our society.  The pressure for a perfect body as opposed to a healthy body, and the inaccurate portrayals of what that perfect body should look like, are compounding the pressures on women to achieve an industry standard of beauty.  The pressure is particularly disturbing when we think of the young girls in our society who  in a difficult time between girl and woman, have to filter through these images and messages sent by the mass media to decide what beautiful means to them.  The effects we have seen in these young girls are a rise in eating disorders, dissatisfaction with their bodies, and a lack self esteem or healthy body image.

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October 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Reading Essays

Week 7 Analyze This

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What is ideology?

Ideology is the way we apply meaning to the world around us, in order to make clear our definitions of values and world views
How does the media influence the creation and maintenance of ideology.

The media  creates and maintains ideologies in their representation of the family model on television shows.  Much has changed since the television era of the 1950’s and 1960’s where television was dominated by white, middle class, content American families (never an African American, Hispanic or Asian family, much less one of same sex parents and their children) that was neither reflective or inclusive of the American population.  While we have begun to see the inclusion of more characters and family models outside of the traditional ideology of the American family (take for example Glee, The New Normal, or Modern Family), the media still perpetuates the ideological white, middle class, content American family that has been the established ideological family model for many years.

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October 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm

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