Living in a Media World 2E

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

Second Edition Available Now!

The second edition of Mass Communication: Living in a Media World is now available at the very student-friendly price of $45. (Yes, the new edition sells for less than used copies often do of the first edition.) It features a newly strengthened media literacy focus, greater depth on a number of topics, extensive coverage of "long-tail" media, and new chapters on media effects and global media. For more information, visit the CQ Press website.

Sorry for the lack of updates lately. I am getting ready to move to Kearney, Nebraska, and I'm afraid there will be very few posts until I get settled down there. So watch for Living in a Media World to resume regular publication in late July.

For those of you who are interested, I'm going to be chair of the Communication Department at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Go Lopers!

Sorry, but the RSS feed is currently down. Will get it fixed as soon as I can figure out what's wrong with it.

Monday - Sept. 29, 2008

Scotland Yard Stops Fire Bomb Attack on Publisher of Controversial Book About Bride of Muhammad
Britain's Scotland Yard stopped an attempt to fire bomb the publisher of a controversial new novel about the Prophet Muhammad and his child bride. This attack is similar to those sparked by the publication of the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet and those targeted at Salman Rushdie's and his publisher following the publication of his novel The Satanic Verses.

This time the novel is The Jewel of Medina, by American author Sherry Jones. The attack targeted Jones' Dutch publisher Martin Rynja. (The book is being published by Gibson Square, the same company scheduled to publish the paperback edition of the Sarah Palin biography. There's some question as to whether these events will postpone the publication of the Palin bio.)

The American publisher of Jewel, Random House, cancelled publication of the book because it feared it might incite violence. (Random House is the largest English-language publisher and is owned by German publishing giant Bertelsmann.) Random House has been accused of canceling publication of the book after having the manuscript criticized by an associate professor of Islamic history at University of Texas.

Jones has replaced Random House with Beaufort Books as her American publisher, and Beaufort is reportedly still trying to release the book on Oct. 15.

Here are several links with background on the controversial Danish cartoons:

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Thursday - Sept. 25, 2008

News About Music

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Wednesday - Sept. 24, 2008

No DTPs Dept. - David Brooks Irritates Left and Right
As I've mentioned on many occasions, I hate writers who rely on Dreaded Talking Points - DTPs. DTP writers do nothing but echo back the official and worn-out talking points of the left and right, and they contribute nothing to our political understanding. Which is why I love writers like the NYT's David Brooks who manage to break out that mold. Brooks is a conservative columnist, but he takes a distinctly non-party line on a lot of issues. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz takes a look at Brooks and how people react to him in his column on Monday.

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Tuesday - Sept. 23, 2008

Everyone's Gone To The Movies Dept.

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Monday - Sept. 22, 2008

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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Friday - Sept. 12, 2008

Political Ads
What are candidates trying to accomplish with the wealth of political ads that are appearing on television and the web these days. They may be trying to directly persuade voters with the content of the messages, but more likely they are trying to shape the campaign in more subtle ways than just a direct effect. These are interactional models that say that the interaction among voters, the media and the campaigns triggered by the ads are more important than any direct persuasion of voters. Here are a couple of examples:

The resonance model says that the candidate’s success depends in part on how well his or her basic message resonates with voters’ preexisting political feelings. Thus, the candidate who does the best job of sending out messages that connect with target voters is the one most likely to win. The communication goal for the campaign is not so much to get people to change their minds as it is to get voters to believe that they share viewpoints with the candidate.

The competitive model looks at the campaign not in isolation but as a competition between two or more candidates for the hearts and minds of voters. Hence, the success of a campaign message, such as an ad that criticizes the candidate’s opponent, depends as much on the opponent’s reaction as it does on the message itself. Voter response can also depend on how the media react to the ad. If the ad attracts media attention, it may be played repeatedly on news broadcasts, as well as on political talk shows.

Here are two ads - one from the Obama campaign, one from the McCain campaign. What do you think the campaigns are trying to accomplish with these ads?

Thanks to Channel '08, the Washington Post's campaign video blog for highlighting these commercials.

"Seven" -- Ad for the Obama Campaign



Celeb - Ad for the McCain Campaign


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Thursday - Sept. 11, 2008

9/11 Remembered
On the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States, it can be difficult for the rest of the country to remember that 9/11 was a local story to people in New York City, Washington, D.C. and rural Pennsylvania. There are still all of the global overtones there, but it is also intensely personal. Here are a few stories remembering 9/11 from the communities directly hit.

  • Photo Essay on Ground Zero Museum
    A hanger at Kennedy Airport contains the artifacts from Ground Zero that will go into a museum set to open in 2012. Remember that in New York City 9/11 was a local story, not just a national and global story. (New York Times)
  • NYC Before the Twin Towers
    Photos of New York tend to shout out to us whether they were pre or post Sept. 11, 2001. You can't help but notice whether the Twin Towers are there on the skyline. But as photographer Edward Ruscha reminds us with his image of New York from 1961, there was an New York skyline before the towers as well. (NY Times)
  • Washington DC Dedicates 9/11 Memorial Park
    Washington, D.C. will be dedicating the first official 9/11 memorial today on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon where 184 people lost their lives. This story from the Washington Post includes a beautiful photo essay on the development of the park.
  • Somerset County, PA, Works at Balancing Visitors and Memory
    In New York and DC, balancing respect for the victims of the 9/11 attacks and serving the tourists who want to visit the sites is business as usual. Tourism is a huge part of who these cities are. But it's a lot more complicated for the small town of Shanksville and the residents of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where United 93 crashed after passengers and crew of the flight fought back against the hijackers. This rural county is dealing with the reality of 250,000 visitors a year to an area that has not attracted large numbers of tourists in the past. A fascinating look at a community trying to both respect history and deal with the needs of the present. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
  • And Finally - A Motorcycle Ride to Somerset County on a Rainy Summer Day
    This has nothing to do with the media. It's a brief story about a ride I took on my motorcycle to the United 93 Memorial on a rainy June day back in 2004.

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Tuesday - Sept. 9, 2008

Truth #2: There are no MSM Dept. - Online Media News
We keep hearing about the Mainstream Media, but I'm not so sure that mainstream media are any more mainstream than the new media are. Here are a couple of stories that make my point:

  • Six-Year-Old Story Resurfaces Online; Sends UAL Stock Plummeting
    Looking for a pure example of media effects? On Monday, Bloomberg's online financial news service posted a six-year-old news story about United Airlines (UAL) filing for bankruptcy. The story was true - it was just six years of date.

    Just what happened isn't exactly clear. The undated story about UAL's 2002 bankruptcy filing showed up on a Google search on "bankruptcy 2008." The story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel dated back to Dec. 10, 2002, which UAL did file for bankruptcy. The Sun-Sentinel story was reprinted from the Chicago Tribune. Both papers are owned by the Tribune Co. The reporter for Income Securities Advisors who performed the search then posted the story to a section of Bloomberg News Service.

    In response, investors started dumping their shares in UAL, dropping the stock from $12.17 a share to approximately $3 a share. United Airlines was at first baffled by why their stock was tanking, and they quickly got a denial of the story posted online. By the time the market closed, their stock was back up to $10.92.

    What can we learn from this? Think about Truth #7 - There is no "they."
    The story that sent the stock price crashing was a single story from a single web site. Wouldn't you think that if a major corporation had filed for bankruptcy twice in six years that the story would be playing on every major news site, not just a single Florida paper that has no local connection to the story? But at the risk oversimplifying things, the story was posted because someone -- a "they" -- said it was so. It's frightening to me that such a huge destruction of wealth, albeit a temporary one, could happen because of story that had no truth value and apparently was posted completely by accident. (Washington Post)

    By the way, Bloomberg made a bit of splash recently when they accidentally posted a draft-obit for Apple head honcho Steve Jobs. (Jobs has been ill with cancer, but is emphatically not dead....)

  • Google Becoming Major Seller of Television Advertising
    You all know that Google is a major (if not the major presence) in online advertising, but the Internet giant is now becoming a major player in selling advertising for television networks, including those owned by NBC-Universal. (Media Post, yes, you need to register, get over it. Media Post is free and one of the best sources of industry news)
  • NBC - Universal Returns to iTunes
    Back in August of 2007, NBC decided it could live without selling its shows on iTunes. They've now changed their minds. (iPod Observer)

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Friday - Sept. 5, 2008

Review for my JMC 100 students
Every now and then I repost some materials to this blog for the benefit of my students. Today is one of those days. New content will resume next week.

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Thursday - Sept. 4, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles
John McCain's nomination of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been interesting as a media story. Here's a sampling:

  • Truth #6 Dept. - Activism And Analysis Are Not The Same Thing: McCain Campaign - Press Isn't Allowed To Critique Palin's Background
    Steve Schmidt of the McCain campaign blasted the press with both barrels on Tuesday, complaining that press was unfairly going into the background of Palin's personal life. Politico's Roger Simon gives a scathing satirical response to Schmidt's complaints about the news media asking questions about Palin:

    On behalf of the elite media, I would like to say we are very sorry.

    We have asked questions this week that we should never have asked.

    We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?

    We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice?

    Bad questions. Bad media. Bad.

    It is not our job to ask questions. Or it shouldn't be.

    BTW, MSNBC points out that the current attack on the press by the GOP is identical to one staged at the 1964 Republican National Convention, illustrating Truth #4 - Nothing's new. Everything that happens in the past will happen again.

  • Wonkette Made First Call For Palin To Run For National Office
    Tell me I'm wrong, but I think the snarky DC gossip web site Wonkette was the first to call for Palin to run for national office. Back on Dec. 4, 2006, when Palin was sworn in as governor of Alaska, Wonkette wrote:

    Palin is just 42 and came out of nowhere; she was mayor of a small town. Otherwise, we don’t know anything about her, but we do hope she seeks national office soon because the Capitol is filled with scary old men wandering around in their pajamas and she could really class up the joint.

    BTW, if you want some genuinely mean-spirited coverage of Palin, check out the Wonkette archives. They've been making fun of Palin for nearly two years.

  • WP's Tom Shale's Review of Palin's Convention Speech
    I missed Palin's convention speech, but I heard her speak on the radio the day that McCain announced her as his running mate, and I have to say I was impressed with how she presented herself and her ideology. Her qualifications are beyond the scope of this blog, but she certainly knew how to tell a compelling narrative. And while the McCain campaign has been complaining bitterly about coverage of Palin, they haven't said much about how willing commentators have been to praise her speeches. Good heaven's - Even Keith Olbermann, the Bill O'Reily of the left, had kind words for her speech!

  • And Finally - Peggy Noonan on the Perils of an Open Microphone
    You know how you sometimes think you are speaking in private about a touchy topic (like your party's vice presidential choice), and it turns out that you were speaking into a live microphone? That's what former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan ran into earlier this week. Video is of talk during a commercial break at MSNBC. (WSJ)


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Wednesday - Sept. 3, 2008

Media News Round Up

  • Fashion Photos Of Ordinary People Spark Controversy in India
    Vogue India has generated controversy by featuring ordinary people with expensive clothing and accessories. Why controversial? Because the photos feature poor people wearing fashion that can cost $10,000 or more. Vogue India's editor says critics should "Lighten up." So who should be featured in fashion stories? Anyone? Bueller?
    (NY Times)
  • People Go To Cable For Convention News
    People who are addicted to the political conventions are going to the cable networks, not the broadcast networks, for their fix. No surprise there. The cable networks are giving all-day coverage and the networks give an hour summary at the end of the evening. (LA Times)
  • Music Industry Has No Idea How To Find Success
    There is absolutely no consistent model for finding success in the music industry these days. Sometimes giving away music on the net leads to better sales. Sometimes selling on iTunes works. Sometimes just having an outsized personality works. But commentator Cory Treffiletti thinks he knows what really works -- turning out good music. What a concept! (Online Spin) You need to register to access Online Spin. It's worth it!

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Thursday - August 28, 2008

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • Who Says Women Don't Watch Sports?
    According to the NY Times, 49 percent of the audience for the NBC Olympic broadcasts were women age 18 and older. This was the largest single demographic group in the audience. Which explains why there were so many ads targeted at women during the games.
  • Did the Olympics Teach Us Anything About China?
    Not much, according to The Washington Post's Paul Farhi. In his blog, Farhi complains that NBC was nothing but a cheerleader for the games during the entire two weeks, spending little time on raising any questions about China or controversies surrounding the games (such as the ages of the Chinese gymnasts). NPR's On The Media did a great segment on Farhi's critique (that's the main link up above).
    USA Today also had a story on the subject. I think these stories highlight a big issue to me - that media bias isn't always what the critics say it is. NBC obviously had a bias towards making the Olympics look as attractive and interesting as possible. After they paid $800+ million for the rights to broadcast the games, they certainly weren't going to air anything to make people be turned off by the games.
  • Will Jon Stewart Be The News Guy of the Year for 2008?
    Could be. Back in 2004, I argued that Jon Stewart was the very nearly the most talked about news personality in the country, following behind only Larry King and the then-disgraced Dan Rather. Now the Times is asking if there is anyone else more universally respected in the news biz.

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Monday - August 15, 2008

Batman Won't Ever Be Top Movie

The Dark Knight is undoubtedly the most popular movie of the summer. And it will no doubt show up high on the list of all-time highest movie box office takes. But there's been a lot of nonsense in the press this summer about where the latest Batman movie stands in terms of the movie that's sold the most tickets.

The typical discussion goes something like this:

Dark Knight has brought in more than $450 million, making it the third highest grossing movie of all time, passing Shrek and bringing it closer to passing Star Wars. If, however, you take inflation into account, it still has a ways to go.

It has a lot more than a ways to go, folks. If you check out Box Office Mojo's all-time inflation adjusted list, Dark Knight is (as of today) only 45th on the list, right between 1956's Around the World in 80 Days and 1942's Bambi. But you don't ever hear Dark Knight being compared to those. We always read about how it compares to Titanic.

The all-time ticket-price adjusted box office champ is 1939's Gone With The Wind with a total of $1.43 billion, with 1977's Star Wars coming in second with $1.26 billion. Dark Knight is only about one third of the way that total. Titanic, brought in the most actual dollars of any movie, but it's only sixth on the list of most tickets sold. (And I might note that Utah's Deseret News did have an excellent article that does point all this out.)

None of this is to disparage The Dark Knight. It's been a huge commercial success, and Heath Ledger's final performance as the Joker is one of the great movie villains of all time. But the latest Batman has a long ways to go to match the box office glory of movies of the pre Internet/cable/DVD/(even) television eras.

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