Charity Hitt MMC 6660 Blog

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications

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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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Written by charityhitt

October 14, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Reading Essays

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

Reading Essays Week 5

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1. Why would the media industry support some forms of government regulation? Explain and give an example.

The media industry certainly supports forms of government regulation that positively effect their bottom line.  In the case of DVD technology, government regulation prohibits the copying of DVDs and digital content for any intent other than personal or fair use (ex: copying and selling copies of DVDs).  Following rampant problems with digital file sharing in the music industry, regulations and technological safeguards were put in to place to protect DVDs from being copied.  Like most technologies, ways  around these technological safeguards were discovered, however, the government rules and regulations against copying and selling digital content are still enforced and offenders are punishable by law.

 

2. In what situations do you think the government has the right to regulate media content?  Explain why you believe what you do.

I think the issue we read regarding child pornography and its government regulation is the perfect example of why the government should have the right to regulate certain media content.  I am fully amenable to the notion that “possessing” child pornography should be expanded to viewing child pornography, or an abundance of pornographic temporary files on ones’ computer; especially in the instance that those temporary files that are accompanied by the testimony of a witness. Particularly in the case of children, the government should be able to regulate media content that is derogatory or otherwise harmful to America’s youth, in both aspects of production and viewing of content.  Through safe harbor hours, the prohibition of broadcast indecency, or age restrictions on viewing salacious material, children have the right to protection, and should be protected from indecent material that can come with the media industry and its content.

 

3. Almost no one believes that the U.S. media should be able to print or broadcast information during wartime that could endanger U.S. troops.  However, the military also believes that the media should not publicize information that might adversely affect troop morale––and perhaps indirectly endanger U.S. troops.  What do you think?

I think this issue certainly falls under the category of “there’s an exception to every rule.”  As a student of Journalism, my first inclination is always towards freedom of the press and the protection provided by the First Amendment.  However, as an American and a person that values my freedoms that are being challenged in a time of war, I think that adjustments and exceptions can and must be made in order to protect our country. I will not pretend to know the first thing about war time strategies or the decisions that are made behind closed doors in regards to national security, however I have faith in the American government to make those decisions in a time of war that are best for the safety and success of the American troops and subsequently, the American public.  In this sense, I believe that restricting the media’s right to publish information that can directly or indirectly endanger U.S. troops is a necessary evil in a time of war.

Written by charityhitt

September 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Posted in Reading Essays

Week 4 Reading Essays

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PART ONE- BIG MEDIA: Pro and Con

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’?

 

 

PART TWO- ADVERTISING AND THE MEDIA

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 http://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9QQ6zMLqeJJenNad0RNWV9GNjg/edit?pli=1

McChesney, R. (1998) Making media democratic. Boston Review, 23, 4-10. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from http://www.uiowa.edu/~c036088/mcchesney.html

Written by charityhitt

September 12, 2012 at 4:07 am

Posted in Reading Essays

Transmission vs. Ritual Communication

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Carey argues that communication can be examined through two different views; the transmission view and the ritual view.  While both are historically rooted in religion, they each approach the concept of communication in different ways.

Transmission communication, the most common of the two views, is derived from the activity and necessity of transporting goods, which in this case included information.  In the earliest context, the “good” to be transported was the ‘good word’.  As the primary and ultimate goal of civilization at the time was to spread the gospel, communication was seen as the perfect tool for transmitting their message, taking control of the need to ensure salvation for mankind.  However, as technology gave way to an increasingly secular society, the religious roots of the transmission view of communication diminished substantially, giving way to the need to conquer not just the hearts of mankind in the name of God, but the land of mankind in the name of God as well.  The ultimate function of the transmission view as we know it today is to disseminate information to receivers through channels that allow the widest reach, in an ultimate effort to exert control.

Interestingly, Carey noted that no matter the technological advancements that are made in the field of communication, some scholars argue the religious roots of the transmission view still prevail, upholding the assumption that these technologies can, and should, always be used for good (1989).  In regards to technology such as the computer, he states, “The profound possibility for moral improvement is present whenever these machines are involved” (Pg. 18, 1989). I find this to be an interesting and idealistic view that may not necessarily be reflective of society.  It seems that with each technological advance, from the television to the internet, we’re offered more choices and more sources of valuable information, yet we instead turn to alternate options like reality Tv, YouTube, or social networking sites.

Carey’s second proposed view of communication is that of ritual communication.  Ritual communication, in opposition to transmission communication, is less focused on the message and more focused on the fostering of relationships.  Carey makes the logical comparison of the word communication to the words commune, community, and common. Also rooted in religion, though focused on the communion and fellowship aspects of communication as opposed to strictly disseminating information, the ritual view is one that “provides not information but confirmation,” (Pg. 19, 1989) under the bane of preserving social ritual and structure.

While the ritual view of communication is not the dominant one in our society, I would argue that it is becoming more valued than ever before.  Just as social media is changing the communication landscape in so many aspects of the media, it is also encouraging communicators to embrace the ritual view more so than in the past.  Entire online communities and social networking sites are devoted to nurturing past and present relationships, while the blogosphere seeks to foster relationships between content distributers and readers alike.  This online sense of community born from the technology of the internet exemplifies the ideal of the ritual view of communication, and is becoming increasingly pervasive in today’s society.

Written by charityhitt

September 9, 2012 at 9:48 am

Rashomon Effect

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The Rashomon effect can be surmised, in my opinion, by three simple words: Perception is reality.  We all have the predisposition to manipulate in our own minds the events surrounding a particular point in time; one that may have involved ten different people, and one that will surely be recounted in ten different ways.  It is the compilation of these different perceptions that construct the reality of a memory. Through Akira Kurosawa’s seminal film, Rashomon, he depicted four observers’ very different recollections of the events surrounding the rape of a woman and murder of her husband.  Each person described the event in detail, recalling similar yet varying accounts, allowing the viewer to arrange the fragmented pieces in order to shape their own perception of reality.  From this film, the Rashomon effect was coined.

The priest and the woodcutter describe it as something “horrible” that they “just don’t understand,” the woodcutter so distraught by the conflicting accounts of the tragic events that he laments the dishonesty of men, stating “Most of the time, we can’t even be honest with ourselves.”  In actuality, though he believes his recollection of events is truth, it is only one perception that fits into the puzzle of reality.

The Rashomon effect can clearly be paralleled with the synoptic method. My personal experience with the meaning of synoptic is derived from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), which offer similar, but varied biblical accounts of the life of Jesus Christ.  I can’t recall ever referring to a particular event in one of these three books (or in the book of John in some cases) as appearing in one book or the other.  When referencing a quoted scripture, yes, but if I were to discuss the story of Jesus healing the blind man at Bethsaida, I wouldn’t reference the book of Mark, I would make a blanket reference the New Testament.  For me, the combined witness and testaments of these books make up a reality that I know to be true as a whole, regardless of the variations in the authors’ historical accounts.

In a society that is consuming more media than ever before, I think it’s crucial for receivers of mass media messages to employ the synoptic method in order to achieve what Croteau, Hoynes and Milan refer to as active audience interpretation (2012).  With television, radio, newspapers and online sources providing thousands of views on any given topic, being able to consider varied opinions and accounts in order to shape one cohesive picture of truth, is imperative in creating informed and responsible opinions.

Charity Hitt

Written by charityhitt

September 9, 2012 at 5:45 am