Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

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.


Written by charityhitt

October 21, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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