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Mass Communication: Living in a Media World
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Living in a Media World 2E

Updated Three Times a Week

Looking for Student Blogs

I'm always looking for links to blogs being written by student journalists. If you have one, or know someone who does, drop me a note!

Dr. H

Sorry for the shortage of posts lately. I've been swamped with the end of the semester. I'll get a post or two per week up for the next month and will try to resume a normal schedule starting in late May.

Saturday - April 28, 2007

Media Obits
We lost several major figures in the media world this last week. Sorry I can't give them the attention they deserve.

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Monday - April 23, 2007

Dealing With Diversity - Is Disability The Last Great Barrier?
We see a lot of stories dealing with diversity these days - Who's a racist? Who's homophobic? Who's.... Well, you get the picture. But the one area that the press has really been reluctant to deal with is disability, and what disability really means to people.

Last year, for example, posted an audio interview with the president of Gallaudet College without a transcript. So, you may ask? Well, Gallaudet is a college for the deaf. Audio-only programming about a school for the deaf presents certain issues. To its credit, the Post dealt openly and honestly about what they missed.

Since then, it seems to me that the Post has started dealing more with the disabled world in everyday life. For example, in November the Post's Sunday magazine had an issue that looked at beauty from a range of points of view, including how a blind man perceives beauty.

The Post's magazine has been running a feature called Date Lab for some time now where they set up a couple for a blind date and see how things go. This week the Post crossed a new diversity barrier - not interracial dating, they've done that a time or two; not gay dating - no lesbians yet, but one male-male date. No, this time they had a man in a wheelchair and a woman who was not. The two shared a lot of interests and had a better date than most in the series. (They've gone out for a second date on their own dime.) What makes the story great, other than just the sheer fun of the regular feature, is that it has people talking about issues that many of us try to ignore or pretend doesn't exist.

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Tuesday - April 17, 2007

Responding to the Impossible
What do you do as a journalist when the story you have to deal with is impossible to deal with? How do you respond to a story like the Virginia Tech killings? Which photo do you run? How do you protect the feelings of the living? How do you protect the dignity of the dead? How do you tell a story that is too ugly to tell?

These are just a few of the issues my ethics students will be dealing with in class tomorrow.

In my Intro to Mass Comm class this morning, I did a quick survey about how students got the news about VT. (For those readers not from around here, Virginia Tech is not far away from WVU. Lots of students here have friends or family at VT.) The results were interesting.

  • Roughly a third of the students found out about the shootings through face-to-face conversations, one third found out via cell phone (either calls or text messages), and one third found out via television or the Internet. Of all the sources I asked about, the Internet was by far the smallest source of the initial news. My first knowledge of the shooting came from an E-mail news alert from the Washington Post.
  • Once they received the news, virtually all of my students turned to television for news, with again about one third watching for an hour or less, one third watching for one or two hours, and a third watching for three or more hours. I couldn't watch.
  • Finally, about one fourth of the students had received either a phone call, text message, or E-mail from someone at Virginia Tech over the course of the day.

Here is a brief roundup of several stories analyzing media coverage of the tragedy.

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Monday - April 16, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Remembered
Kurt Vonnegut is primarily known as one of the major American writers of the 20th century, but he was also a terrific speaker. I was fortunate enough to hear him speak twice - once in person and once on television

Back when I was either in high school or college, Vonnegut came to University of Northern Iowa as part of their controversial speakers series.

He was big on questioning the government's behavior in war, even 30 years ago. He had earned the right to do so, having been a POW in Germany during the firebombing of Dresden. In the speech he gave, Vonnegut pointed out that he was the only person to profit from the bombing. He said (and I'm quoting from an old memory here), "The bombing didn't end the war one day sooner. The bombing didn't save one American life. The only person who profited from the firebombing of Dresden was me, and I made $3.47 for every man, woman, and child killed with my book Slaughterhouse Five."

The second time I heard Vonnegut speak it was when he gave a commencement address at Agnes Scott College in 1999. I wasn't there - I heard it on C-SPAN. (Every year, C-SPAN runs a day or two of commencement addresses. And, yes, I often listen to several of them.) In it, Vonnegut touched on a number of themes that spoke directly to me. Despite the fact that Vonnegut was a humanist, not a Christian, he noted that the antidote to a world driven mad by revenge was a line from the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

But even more touching to me was his discussion of the importance of multi-generational households:

OK, now let's have some fun. Let's talk about sex. Let's talk about women. Freud said he didn't know what women wanted. I know what women want. They want a whole lot of people to talk to. What do they want to talk about? They want to talk about everything.

What do men want? They want a lot of pals, and they wish people wouldn't get so mad at them.

Why are so many people getting divorced today? It's because most of us don't have extended families any more. It used to be that when a man and women got married, the bride got a lot more people to talk to about everything. The groom got a lot more pals to tell dumb jokes to.
A few Americans, but very few, still have extended families. The Navahos. The Kennedys.

But most of us, if we get married nowadays, are just one more person for the other person. The groom gets one more pal, but it's a woman. The woman gets one more person to talk to about everything, but it's a man.

When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it's about money or power or sex, not how to raise the kids, or whatever. What they're really saying to each other, though, without realizing it, is this:

''You are not enough people!''

I met a man in Nigeria one time, an Ibo who had six hundred relatives he knew quite well. His wife had just had a baby, the best possible news in any extended family.

They were going to take it to meet all its relatives, Ibos of all ages and sizes and shapes. It would even meet other babies, cousins not much older than it was. Everybody who was big enough and steady enough was going to get to hold it, cuddle it, gurgle to it, and say how pretty is was, or handsome.

Wouldn't you have loved to be that baby?

I sure wish I could wave a wand, and give every one of you an extended family - make you an Ibo or a Navaho - or a Kennedy.

I heard this speech the spring my wife and I bought a house and had my mother-in-law move in with us. Not a week goes by without me thinking about this speech.

Two speeches by one person over a thirty year period, and I think of both regularly. So it goes.

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Thursday - April 12, 2007

What Won't They Do Dept. - CBS and MSNBC Find Their Limits With Don Imus
A few months ago we found out what the limits of decency were for News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch when we saw he simply didn't have the stomach to publish and publicize a book about how O.J. Simpson would have killed his wife. This week, CBS Radio and NBC Universal, primary owner of MSNBC, found their limits when first MSNBC cable news channel dropped its simulcast of Don Imus' morning radio talk show and then CBS Radio canceled his show, after the shock jock referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team (who just took second place in the women's NCAA) as a group of "nappy-headed hos."

Many have come to Imus' defense, including the usually sensible Kathleen Parker, saying that anyone can make a stupid comment from time to time. Fair enough. But this was not an isolated comment. Imus has made a career out of racial insults.

Example: Back in 1993, Imus said on his show, "Isn't The Times wonderful. It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House." The "cleaning lady" he was referring to was Gwen Ifill, an African American woman who was the Times White House correspondent.

Example: He's made jokes about former secretary of defense William Cohen having an African American wife, he's compared the size of his genitals to those of Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan, and he's described Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz as a "boner-nosed... beanie-wearing Jewboy."

Now, if the government was trying to force Imus off the air with large fines, as they did to Howard Stern, I might come to his defense. I don't think the government ought to be in the business of censoring what we hear. But I'm certainly not surprised that advertisers such as Staples, Bigelow Tea, and Proctor & Gamble have pulled their messages from his show. That's the way these things should work - people stay on the air as long as there is a market for them. But when they go too far, as Imus apparently did this time, they shouldn't be surprised when they lose their big pay checks and easy access to large audiences.

BTW, a number of people have quite rightly pointed out how the media mistreated the Duke lacrosse players. But that has nothing to do with whether we should accept Imus' behavior.

Don Imus' Job-Ending Comment

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Wednesday - April 11, 2007

Why I Love The Washington Post Dept.
Here's a list of articles from the Post over the last few days that illustrates just why I love this paper so much.

Looking through this list, I see reader and citizen participation, commentary from a range of views, media news, and a real sense of fun.

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Thursday - April 5, 2007

For My JRL 101 Students Dept. - Links Mentioned During Internet Lecture
Here are links to a number of articles and web sites that I mentioned today during my lecture on the history of the Internet.

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Wednesday - April 4, 2007

New Media and the Law
Sorry for the lack of postings. It's been hectic.

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