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.
Liberal MSNBC host/commentator Keith Olbermann (who is a former Fox sportscaster) has offered to take Hannity up on the offer, saying he will give $1,000 to the families of U.S. troops for every second Hannity is waterboarded.
Far more interesting and useful is the experience of Vanity Fair journalist Christopher Hitchens, who volunteered to be waterboarded so that he could write about it. No macho "I double dog dare you" of the Olbermann/Hannity gladiator fights. Just a simple request of an editor to a reporter, and the reporter saying yes. That's journalism.
Don't get me wrong. I like a certain percentage of my news presented with commentary. But on-air posturing and name calling is not commentary. By either Hannity or Olbermann.
Supreme Court Rules on Fox Fleeting Expletives Case Back in November, the Supreme Court heard the case of Fox Television v. FCC. You can get the full scoop on the case here, from an entry I did back in 2008. Today, the court ruled very narrowly on the case, saying that the FCC behaved legally when it changed its rules in 2004 to subject broadcasters to fines of as much as $325,000 for a single use of expletives such as the "F word" or the "S word."
The key point here is that the ruling states that the FCC acted within its authority to change its rules. But the court specifically stated it was not ruling on whether the new rule was a violation of the First Amendment.
Watch the Lower Court Hearing
If you are interested in the arguments in this case, you can watch C-SPAN's broadcast of the original arguing of the case before the Second Circuit Court of New York. But be forewarned. They use naughty words....
Unlike most internet-based discussions, this one went from being snarky to a civil, even useful discussion on perceptions of bias. As you read this, just keep in mind that this is a discussion that evolved over the course of the day on Facebook. Only our final comments were written with the intent of including them in a blog entry. For the record, I told Danny he could have the last word. I also let him read this before posting.
When even the left-leaning mainstream media can see the hysteria of the left and is willing to report it, you know they're hysterical.
Democrats Hysterical Over Tea Parties
Isn't that what's going on here -- those who have a stake in a bigger government, higher taxes, and higher spending might feel threatened by what they saw last week? ... The bottom line is that the vast majority of protesters were not "hate-filled," but expressing a legitimate concern. They don't de...
I didn't say U.S. News is left-leaning. I said the mainstream media are, and U.S. News is mainstream.
If you're saying that my comment would be more compelling if, say, a blogger for Time or Newsweek had written it, I agree. But the fact that ANY mainstream publication was willing to scold the left for its hysteria is unusual.
Silence is the typical course in such cases, even if they don't overtly embrace the hysteria like CNN and MSNBC have. And choosing not to report something that reflects poorly on the left is as biased as choosing to report the news unfairly.
Ralph Hanson: Just gigging you.
I just have no idea what this "mainstream media" is that you talk about. Is it the media with the highest readership/viewership/listenership? Or is it the oldest media? Or just the media you don't like? MSNBC left? I'm buying! Mainstream media? Well....
Take a look at Herbert Gans' book "Deciding What's News" sometime. It's a great non-partisan analysis that shows why both the left and the right accuse the press of bias. (It was also written before the Great Debate of Media Bias got started.)
"Traditional media" is another term folks use, and it generally is used to refer to the largest, oldest and most prestigious organizations.
That the NYT helped bring down a scandal-plagued Democratic governor doesn't mean it isn't generally biased toward the left. It just means the Times saw an opportunity to win a Pulitzer.
I'll try to remember to get the book. I spent two decades working as an objective journalist despite my conservative beliefs, so I know it's possible. Some liberals have done it and continue to do it, too.
But the reality, confirmed by self-identifying study after study, is that most people in newsrooms think liberally and vote liberal. That inevitably affects their news judgment at times, just as it would if newsrooms were full of conservatives, and the coverage of the 2008 presidential election and the "tea parties" are excellent case studies.
If you wanted to argue that the press loved Obama, I wouldn't be gigging you. That was obvious. (Just ask Hillary!)(Side Note: Please notice if you follow the above link, many magazines put Obama on the cover because he sold magazines.)
And if you want to argue that the press has a classical liberal approach (i.e. - values the peasant as much as the aristocrat), I would agree with you there as well.
News Corp? So liberal. General Electric? Communists! (Keep in mind, I'm just pointing out how liberals complain about the conservative media. They just don't get as much airtime because the media are biased in favor of conservatives.....)
But do read Gans. He provides a compelling explanation (again, written 25-30 years ago) of why the press loved the Iraq war right up to the "Mission Accomplished" moment. And why they turned against it afterwards. And it provides a much more compelling explanation that left v. right.
I liked the book "Media Monopoly " by Ben Bagdikian. Although he's obviously a lefty, his book made a compelling argument about how the media as a whole, not the national media, favor conservatives in some respects.
But that's more an issue of the heartland vs. the big city elites, which kind of supports my point about how conservative bias would be a problem if there were more conservatives in newsrooms. There are more of them in newsrooms and on editorial boards in the heartland, and that is sometimes apparent not just on the commentary pages but in the news coverage.
You worked in Morgantown, and if you read the Dominion Post (my former employer), I suspect you know firsthand what I'm saying.
(Note from Ralph to non-West Virginia readers - The Dominion Post is owned by a prominent Republican family. The brother of the newspaper's publisher made a run for the U.S. Senate two years ago as a Republican.)
My opinion is that "conservative bias" shows up a great deal in what is not published and tends to deal with business and economic issues. "Liberal bias" tends to show up more in what is printed and tends to deal with social issues. Adding to the difficulty is the case of the New York Times. I don't know that the paper is biased (whatever that means), but it does start by serving one of the most politically liberal markets in the country. No surprise that it would lean left. And the Wall Street Journal serves one of the most conservative markets in the country, and it's no surprise that it leans right.
Liberal bias permeates business and economic issues, too. The Business and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center, which is where I worked last year, has documented it thoroughly. Other than that, the biggest problem I see with business news, with the exception of financial publications, is that it's superficial, pro-business fluff. That's more a product of laziness than conservative bias, though.
As for liberal bias, it is evident in what gets printed AND what doesn't. A surface example is the way scandals are covered. When Republicans are the perpetrators, the party ID makes it into the lead and possibly the headline. The party ID is emphasized because doing so discredits the party and the philosophy behind it. When Democrats are the rogues, the stories bury the party references or don't include them at all. The bias is so blatant and persistent that conservatives have turned it into a game we call "name that party."
A substantive example of "unprinted" bias is the tea party coverage. Journalists eagerly cover anti-war and pro-immigration protests but ignored the nonpartisan tea parties until they could not be ignored any longer. Then their approach was to mock the protests and make vile jokes, repeatedly, about "teabagging," which is a slang term for oral sex that I was lucky enough not to know until MSNBC and CNN taught it to me with their double entendres.
I am ashamed to call myself a journalist when I see that kind of behavior. It's certainly not what I learned at West Virginia University's journalism school, and I'm confident that every journalism school in the country would condemn such unprofessional behavior if they would open their eyes long enough to see that it's real and far too common.
Pulitzer Prize Goes Local! Congratulations to Mark Mahoney, winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. What's the big news here? Mahoney is the editorial writer for the Glens Falls, N.Y. Post-Star. Not familiar with this one? It's a 34,000 circulation local newspaper that runs editorials about openness at school board meetings. They have a vibrant and exciting editorial page that does a great job of bringing together beautiful layout with wonderful argumentation.
The thing that really impressed me with Mahoney's work is that it just about perfectly matches the principles that I try to teach the students in my commentary and blogging class. I tell them to write clear, well argued editorials that speak to local issues. I also tell my students to write something that would speak compellingly to people who don't agree with their point of view. I found myself nodding in agreement as I read through one of the pieces in Mahoney's portfolio until I reached then end and realized I didn't agree at all with what he had just argued. Yet he had me hooked the whole way through.
I teach editorial writing using an anthology of Pulitzer Prize winning editorials, but I mostly cover editorials from the mid 1970s and earlier. Modern editorials tend to leave me cold. But Mark Mahoney (and the Pulitzer selection committee) deserve a big shout out for bringing back the strength of a great local editorial.
Catching Up Just got back from the Western Social Science Association meetings in Albuquerque. If this were a public transportation blog rather than a media blog, I would continue my discussion from Friday, and talk about the great new rail system connecting ABQ with Santa Fe. As this is not, here are several blog items from the last month that never got posted. Sorry if they're a bit old....
NPR - E-Book Anti-Piracy Technology
Apple's iTunes store has abandoned digital rights management (DRM), but that doesn't mean it's going away for electronic books. Good story from NPR.
Detroit Newspapers No Longer Daily
The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News haven't stopped publishing, but they have ended home delivery of the papers on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can still get the paper online on those days along with a limited print version at newsstands.
Because I Can Dept. - A Ph.D In Riding The Bus
Seventeen or eighteen years ago, I was a doctoral student at Arizona State University, taking a course in the sociology of everyday life taught by Dr. Bob Snow. The central subject of the class was how people behave in routine situations, how we know that situations are routine, and how do we adapt when "everyday life" changes.
I had to commute 155 miles each way from Flagstaff, Ariz., to take the class, and occasionally my wife would drive down with me. On this particular evening, she came with me in class. The discussion that evening focused on the everyday life barriers that middle-class, suburban residents faced in riding the bus. The buses followed schedules and routes that would meet the needs of commuters, but suburbanites still wouldn't ride the bus.
Dr. Snow suggested that one of the great barriers to success was that these suburban residents didn't have the everyday life skills necessary to ride the bus. They didn't know how to stand in line for the bus. They didn't know how to read a schedule. They didn't know how to sit across the aisle from a young man with a big purple mohawk who was glaring at them.
As we drove home late that evening, my wife turned to me and said, "You're getting a Ph.D in how to ride the bus!" And for years, my wife has teased me about this issue, but our trip to Germany last year convinced her that the everyday life knowledge poeple need to ride public transportation actually was a worthy topic of study.
Skip ahead to the present day. I arrived at the Albuquerque, N.M. airport yesterday to attend the Western Social Science Association meetings. I went to the transportation help desk to ask for the cheapest way to get to my hotel. I was expecting advice about some kind of shuttle service, but instead the nice man told me I could take Bus #50 for $1,` and it would take me within a block of my hotel.
That advice sent me on a fascinating journey. No big, dangerous adventure. I rode the bus for 20 minutes and was dropped off at my hotel, right on schedule. What was fascinating was the variety of people I met riding the bus.
The first was a man in his 50s or 60s with a small suitcase who showed me where to line up. He was catching the bus to take him to the light-rail station. The train there would take him from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.
He told me that he was trying to live without owning a car, taking the bus or train, riding his bike, or walking. I told him about my sociology of everyday life class, and much to my surprise, he responded by saying, "Oh, so you must have been reading Erving Goffman." Which, of course, I had. But who would have expected to be talking about sociological theory with a stranger on a bus in Albuquerque?
It turns out the man was a lawyer who has been working on justice issues in Afghanistan for the last several years, and that he had just returned to New Mexico.
Another gentleman gets on the bus as we talk; he is dressed in ragged clothes and has an untrimmed beard. The lawyer and I start talking about my research on community radio, and the man with the untrimmed beard chimes in with the comment, "I have one of the old radio-telephone licenses from from the FCC." (Back in the 70s and early 80s, everyone who was in broadcasting had to have a third-class license in order to be on the air. I had one back when I was in college.) This got the three of us talking about FCC policy on low-powered radio broadcasting.
All too soon, it was my stop for the hotel.
Who would have thought that my cheap bus ride from the airport to my hotel in Albuquerque, N.M., would turn into an in-depth discussion about the sociology of everyday life, Erving Goffman, and FCC rules on low-powered radio stations?
Yes, my dear wife, I do, in fact, have a Ph.D in riding the bus.
Taxes, Teabaggers, and .... Crap, I Can't Come Up With a Word Meaning Journalistic Ethics That Starts With The Letter T
As everyone in America knows, today is tax day. This is the day that income taxes are and tax returns are due. And while people may disagree about how much taxes are the right amount, no one really gets off on paying them. So the news today is full of stories about Tax Day protests and demonstrations.
But the problem comes when we have to decide who is a journalist. Some calls are easy. Reporter for your local newspaper, radio station, or television station? Simple. Clearly journalists. What about Rush? Entertainer? Certainly. News commentator? Seems like it to me. Journalist? Well...... But just sayin'.... How about Jon Stewart? Entertainer? You bet! Best media critic in America? Has my vote.
Should either of these guys be protected by a shield law?
And then there are bloggers, the poor stepchildren of journalism. Josh Wolf, a San Francisco blogger, spent nearly eight months in jail for refusing to testify about an anarchists' demonstration he had videotaped. This is the longest time a member of the U.S. media (journalist?) has spent in jail for contempt of court, according to the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.
Finally, what if the blogger/journalist is an over-the-top, borderline irresponsible thorn-in-the-side critic of the city's police department? Does he get protected? That's the question about blogger Jeff Pataky, who runs the blog BadPhoenixCops. In March, Phoenix police raided Pataky's home, and took computer equipment, including a cable modem and wireless router, according the the Arizona Republic. The article notes that Phoenix Assistant Chief Andy Anderson justified the raid by claiming that Pataky is connected to an "unaccredited grassroots Web site."
What I find most interesting about this case is that bloggers on the left and the right, Talking Points Memo and Free Republic are all outraged about this case. Must be something going on here. (Thanks to my friend Howard for the link that got this rant started.)
Fox Commentator Fired For Reviewing Pirate Release of Wolverine
One week ago, a fairly complete work print of the upcoming X-Men film Wolverine was posted to several peer-to-peer file sharing networks, lacking only several special effects shots and several late re-shoots. This was reportedly a near-DVD quality file that apparently would need someone on the inside involved. As the movie site Dark Horizons points out, "Fox legal is understandably scrambling to shut copies down, a practice that studios have become surprisingly adept at. Yet while the studio may be able to stem much of the flow, once something like this is out there it never entirely goes away."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Fox News entertainment blogger Roger Friedman wrote a review of the leaked movie. (You paying attention here? The movie is a Fox tent pole flick; Friedman is a Fox blogger. He works for Fox.) According to a story posted to Variety's web site on Sunday, there was a possibility that Friedman had been fired over the review. As of Monday, the exact status of Friedman was still uncertain, according to the LA Times, Though the gossip blog Gawker reported that Friedman's firing was official.
Why would there be any doubt? Apparently there was a power struggle going on between Fox News head Roger Ailes and Fox movie moguls Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopoulos. Being part of a media giant makes things complicated....
What Does It Mean? NPR Audience Growing Meanwhile, over on the radio dial, NPR is attracting its largest audiences ever. NPR suggests it may be that people are turning to public radio as a reliable source of in-depth news.
Guest Blogger - Are Video Games The Next Mass Medium?
Guest blogger Charley Reed argues that video games deserve more attention as a mass medium than the half-a-page I gave them in my textbook. Charley is the graduate assistant for my friend Chris Allen. Here's his take on the issue. Thanks, Charley!
I was in a class taught by a professor that I help with his undergraduate Introduction to Mass Communications class, and he asked us graduate students to list off what we considered to fall under the title “mass communication.”
I inevitably raised my hand and said “video games” which drew a few muffled laughs from some of my older classmates, but video games were put up on the board because, the instructor said, “yes, video games are a mass medium.”
Flash forward to today, almost the end of the semester, and I am teaching the intro class about video games, which I felt deserved to be expanded upon past the 4 paragraphs given in our book. Needless to say I felt rushed because there was not enough time to include everyone’s opinions about video games and whether they were, in fact, a mass medium.
The students, most of whom won’t go on to major in any field of communication, had these points to make:
Video games, like television or movies, have stars. They have mascots. The most prominent of these is Super Mario, who has been a force in the gaming world for Nintendo since 1981, but also includes characters like Sonic the Hedgehog for Sega and now Master Chief for Microsoft and their X-Box. While the paparazzi don’t follow Mario like they follow Brad Pitt, he, like Pitt, is almost guaranteed to help their industry turn a profit.
Video games are a new venue for advertising. Just like newspapers, magazines, and web sites are funded by ad revenue, many game publishers are turning to the advertising world to help manage costs. Companies like IGA Worldwide are devoted entirely to securing deals for companies to advertise in games, which has a near-perfect saturation in the 18-34 age market. Not only that, but Barack Obama also advertised in video games during his election campaign, the first presidential candidate to ever do so.
Video games, now more than ever, are the site of entire communities. One need only to look to online-specific games like Second Life, World of Warcraft, or even online versions of console games like Halo or Left 4 Dead. The concept of “online” communities has become commonplace today. Now instead of gathering around the water cooler to discuss the latest news or entertainment item, people are using Bluetooth headsets to talk to friends and family while playing capture the flag or fighting bosses to help their character raise to the next level.
The video game industry is not only more profitable than the movie industry but video games have become attached at the hip to movies, books, and television. It is almost expected now when the latest Batman or Harry Potter movie comes out, not only will there be a surge in comic and regular book sales, but you will have video games on shelves sometimes weeks before the movie is actually released. Even TV shows like Survivor have games and game characters, like Sonic and Mario, have each had their own Saturday morning cartoon show.
Given all this, it’s hard to not see video games as a mass medium or a form of mass communication. If people can immediately recognize and identify with movie stars, why not video game characters? If the Internet with chat rooms and instant messaging are communication media, why not online games? And if there is such synergy that not only are there games based on movies but movies based on games, why are TV and movies so easily accepted but games are not?
Video games, as we know them, have only been around for 35 years; paling in comparison to newspapers, radio, or television. However, other than the Internet, there is no medium that has as much impact or potential for changing the way we communicate. I think it’s about time that video games be accepted as worthy of academic discussion. The risk of not doing so is ignoring a topic that is impacting today’s students and many new teachers as well.
Chasing the Long Tail Part II - Katrina Leskanich If you lived through the 80s, you have to remember the Katrina and the Waves summer anthem Walking on Sunshine. You've heard it in a million movies and TV shows, and unless you have really serious issues you can't help but smiling every time it comes on. KATW had several other modest hits in the US and the UK.
But now Katrina Leskanich, lead singer of the band (bet you couldn't figure that out), is 50-years-old. And fresh-faced stars of the 80s really aren't going to get a lot of attention from the music industry 25 years later. Yesterday afternoon I was working in my office and listening to a recent episode of Coverville, my favorite podcast. An absolutely wonderful cover of the old Tracy Ullman cover They Don't Know came on. Turns out it was on a new solo album by Katrina Leskanich. I took a look at the album using a link to Amazon, where I discovered the album was available either as a download or a burn-to-order CD. I then went over to iTunes where, with a little trouble, I found and bought the album. I highly recommend it!
As I was listening to it for the second time this evening, it occurred to me that this was a perfect example of long tail media in the 21st Century. We start with an artist who had a pretty good short head career, recording hit records for major labels. But now Katrina is much more a long-tail niche artist, distributing her music through digital downloads. And I discovered the album not through radio airplay or advertising, but rather through another long-tail medium - a podcast.
Along with They Don't Know, the album has a number of standout cuts, including a new version of Walking on Sunshine and a cover of the Martha and the Muffins hit Echo Beach. Just for fun, here are videos of Walking on Sunshine from KATW,They Don't Know by Tracy Ullman, and Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins.
Another Love Letter to the Kindle Slate's Jacob Weisberg tells why he is in love with Amazon's eBook reader and why he can't stop boring people by telling folks how great it is. He's using it as an overall reading device, getting books, magazines and newspapers on it.
As of late, I've rediscovered the public library as a great source of current, and not-so-current books. They don't cost me money and they don't take up space on my packed book shelves. I wonder if getting a system up and running that will let libraries circulate books in Kindle format will ever come about. Weisberg has a number of interesting long-tail points to make about lowering the cost of distribution of print media.
Making a Long-Tail Living at the Apple App Store If you want to make a living writing code for Nintendo, Microsoft, Apple or Sony, you probably will have a job at a software company that can market and sell your product. But the Apple App Store, that sells programs for the iPhone and iPod Touch, will sell and distribute your program for a 40 percent cut of the price. And some software developers are finding they can make a better income selling these little programs through Apple than they could at a mundane job. In short, long-tail tools are letting folks reach consumers directly with all sorts of products, from movies to music to books to little computer programs.
Reporters, photojournalists, camerapersons, translators, and aides are risking their health, liberty, and even their lives to bring us the news we need from Iraq and other hot spots around the world. Show your support for these hard-working and courageous journalists by displaying the Support Our Reporters yellow ribbon on your blog or web site.