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Other titles in the Taking Sides: Mass Media & Society series:
Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Mass Media and Societyby Alison Alexander
Synopses & Reviews
This Tenth Edition of TAKING SIDES: CLASHING VIEWS IN MASS MEDIA presents current controversial issues in a debate-style format designed to stimulate student interest and develop critical thinking skills. Each issue is thoughtfully framed with an issue summary, an issue introduction, and a postscript. An instructors manual with testing material is available for each volume. USING TAKING SIDES IN THE CLASSROOM, ISBN 0073343900 is also an excellent instructor resource with practical suggestions on incorporating this effective approach in the classroom. Each TAKING SIDES reader features an annotated listing of selected World Wide Web sites and is supported by our student website, www.dushkin.com/online.
Taking Sides volumes present current controversial issues in a debate-style format designed to stimulate student interest and develop critical thinking skills. Each issue is thoughtfully framed with an issue summary, an issue introduction, and a postscript or challenge questions. Taking Sides readers feature an annotated listing of selected World Wide Web sites. An online Instructors Resource Guide with testing material is available for each volume. Using Taking Sides in the Classroom is also an excellent instructor resource.
Table of Contents
Media and Social Issues
Issue 1 Are American Values Shaped by the Mass Media?
YES: Herbert I. Schiller, from The Mind Managers (Beacon Press, 1973)
NO: Horace Newcomb and Paul M. Hirsch, from “Television as a Cultural Forum,” Quarterly Review of Film Studies (Summer 1983)
Critical scholar of modern mass media Professor Schiller argues that mass media institutions are key elements of the modern capitalistic world order. Media, he argues, produce economic profits and the ideology necessary to sustain a world system of exploitative divisions of social and financial resources. It is the job of the citizenry to understand the myths that act to sustain this existing state of power relationships. Professors of communication Horace Newcomb and Paul M. Hirsch in their classic article counter that television serves as a site of negotiation for cultural issues, images, and ideas. Viewer selections from among institutional choices is a negotiation process as viewers select from a wide set of approaches to issues and ideas.
Issue 2 Is Television Harmful for Children?
YES: W. James Potter, from On Media Violence (Sage Publications, 1999)
NO: Jib Fowles, from The Case for Television Violence (Sage Publications, 1999)
W. James Potter, a professor of communication, examines existing research in the area of children and television violence. Such research is extensive and covers a variety of theoretical and methodological areas. He examines the nature of the impact of television on children and concludes that strong evidence exists for harmful effects. Jib Fowles, a professor of communication, finds the research on children and television violence less convincing. Despite the number of studies, he believes that the overall conclusions are unwarranted. Fowles finds that the influence is small, lab results are artificial, and fieldwork is inconclusive. In short, he finds television violence research flawed and unable to prove a linkage between violent images and harm to children.
Issue 3 Are Representations of African-American Women in Media Accurate?
YES: Thomas A. Mascaro, from “Shades of Black on Homicide: Life on the Street,” Journal of Popular Film and Television (Summer 2005)
NO: Janis Sanchez-Hucles, Patrick S. Hudgins, and Kimberly Gamble, from “Reflection and Distortion: Women of Color in Magazine Advertisements,” in Ellen Cole and Jessica Henderson Daniel, eds., Featuring Females (American Psychological Association, 2005)
Thomas Mascaro comments on the long history of examining how people of color have been portrayed in various forms of media. He makes the point that African-American women have often been stereotyped in television sitcoms, but during the seven seasons of the hit TV show, Homicide: Life on the Streets, African-American women were given a venue for portrayals that were more socially significant and socially relevant. Janis Sanchez-Hucles, Patrick S. Hudgins, and Kimberly Gamble conduct an analysis of many images of women of color from magazine advertising in six female or family-oriented magazines, and found that women of color were portrayed differently; in this issue, we examine African-American women in particular, but we include comments on other women of color, for further consideration.
A Question of Content
Issue 4 Do Video Games Encourage Violent Behavior?
YES: Craig A. Anderson, from “Statement to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation,” United States Senate (March 21, 2000)
NO: Editorial, from “Chasing the DreamVideo Gaming,” The Economist (August 6, 2005)
On March 21, 2000, the U.S. Congress held a hearing (106–1096) on “The Impact of Interactive Violence on Children.” Among the several witnesses testifying before the committee, Dr. Craig A. Anderson provided one of the most persuasive arguments on the impact and effect of violent video games. An expert on the effect of violence in television and film, Dr. Anderson hold the position that video games prompt young people toward even more aggression and violence than do other media content. A special report in the British magazine The Economist discusses research that indicates that not only is there a generational divide among those who play video games, but the lack of long-term research limits what is actually known about the effects of playing video games. Citing a number of different studies about the moral impact of gaming and the skills necessary to play, this position argues that the issue of violence and aggression will pass as the critics age.
Issue 5 Do Copyright Laws Protect Ownership of Intellectual Property?
YES: Siva Vaidhyanathan, from “Copyright Jungle,” Columbia Journalism Review (September/October 2006)
NO: Stephanie C. Ardito, from “MySpace and YouTube Meet the Copyright Cops,” Searcher (May 2007)
The authors of these selections take different approaches to the problem of copyright legislation in the days of digital technology. Vaidhyanathan discusses how complicated copyright law has become, but says it is still effective, because the law gives the owner of intellectual property the right to say “no.” Ardito discusses the problem caused of web-based content like that published on MySpace and YouTube that often manipulates content originally created by someone else, and distributed for free. She claims that the responsibility for policing copyrighted works is cumbersome, expensive, time consuming, and ultimately unworkable; therefore, she suggests that copyright is no longer a viable law, in its present state. Issue 6 Is Advertising Good for Society?
YES: John E. Calfee, from “How Advertising Informs to Our Benefit,” Consumers' Research (April 1998)
NO: Dinyar Godrej, from “How the Ad Industry Pins Us Down,” New Internationalist (September 2006)
John E. Calfee, a former U.S. Trade Commission economist, takes the position that advertising is very useful to people and that the information that advertising imparts helps consumers make better decisions. He maintains that the benefits of advertising far outweigh the negative criticisms. Author Dinyar Godrej makes the claim that advertising doesnt really tell us anything new about products, but instead, it acts upon our emotions to create anxiety if we dont buy products. The result then, is a culture in which we consume more than we need to, and still feel badly about ourselves. This type of consumer culture then permeates our lifestyles. UNIT 3
News and Politics
Issue 7 Are Political/Military Leaders to Blame for Misinformation in Time of War?
YES: Daniel Schulman, from “Mind Games,” Columbia Journalism Review (May/June 2006)
NO: Michael Ryan, from “Mainstream News Media, an Objective Approach, and the March to War in Iraq,” Journal of Mass Media Ethics (Vol. 21, No. 1, 2006)
Information has always been a weapon in the battle to frame reality. Schulman traces the efforts of military information operations (IO) to wage psychological warfare against the enemy, and outlines some ways in which this has blurred the line between providing truthful information to the public and press and conducting propaganda campaigns. Mainstream media failed in their responsibility to provide sound news and commentary for Americans to base their critical decisions about invading Iraq, according to Ryan. One reason is that journalists did not use an objective approach to executive and military information and assertions. This abdication of responsibility allowed the government and media to frame reality unchallenged.
Issue 8 Is Negative Campaigning Bad for the American Political Process?
YES: Bruce E. Pinkleton, Nam-Hyun Um, and Erica Weintraub Austin, from “An Exploration of the Effects of Negative Political Advertising on Political Decision Making,” Journal of Advertising (Spring 2002)
NO: Ruth Ann Weaver Lariscy and Spencer F. Tinkham, from “Accentuating the Negative,” USA Today Magazine (May 2004)
Mass communication scholars examine the truth behind the assumption that negative campaigning has a negative impact on voters. Their experimental research study found that participants deemed negative ads fairly worthless and that such ads increased negativity about campaigns. Other potential consequences such as cynicism, efficacy, and apathy were not found. Political advertising scholars report on the lessons of their studies of negative campaign advertising. Negative ads, they argue, are more memorable. They help voters make distinctions between candidates; they influence voters. But not all negative ads are useful, and the authors help us make the distinction. Despite the revulsion that pervades public opinion toward negative ads, these authors argue that they are helpful to voters.
Issue 9 Is Fake News Journalism?
YES: Julia R. Fox, Glory Koloen, and Volkan Sahin, from “No Joke: A Comparison of Substance in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Broadcast Network Television Coverage of the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign,” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (June 2007)
NO: Barry A. Hollander, from “Late-Night Learning: Do Entertainment Programs Increase Political Campaign Knowledge for Young Viewers?” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media (December 2005)
This study examined political coverage of the first presidential debate and the political convention on The Daily Show and on network nightly newscasts. The study found the network coverage to be more hype than substance, and The Daily Show to be more humor than substance. The amount of substantive information between the two newscasts was about the same for both the story and for the entire half-hour program. Hollander examined learning from comedy and late-night programs. National survey data were used to examine whether exposure to comedy and late-night programs actually inform viewers, focusing on recall and recognition. Some support is found for the prediction that the consumption of such programs is more associated with recognition of information than with actual recall.
Issue 10 Should the Public Support Freedom of the Press?
YES: Jeffrey J. Maciejewski and David T. Ozar, from “Natural Law and the Right to Know in a Democracy,” Journal of Mass Media Ethics (vol. 21, no. 1, 2006)
NO: The Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut, from “State of the First Amendment 2004” (2004)
Maciejewski and Ozar argue that the basis of first amendment rights is in the concept of the publics right to know. Rarely will you read an article that is so explicit in outlining its underlying premises. Outline what these authors are putting forward, in order to understand the important distinctions they make. But, ask your own questions. Do you agree with their fundamental presuppositions? Is the right to know both clear and valid? Can you derive other possible dimensions of analysis than those given? And, would you select the same possibilities to define the concept? This article outlines the importance of the right to know, locates it in natural law, and establishes, for the authors, the important parameters of the law. So why do we find so many, in the following article, willing to give up these rights when we move from the abstract concept to its operationalization in contemporary society. In contrast, the State of the First Amendment: 2004 report reveals lackluster support for the First Amendment in general and its application to controversial cases in particular. Few know the freedoms guaranteed or care passionately about themalmost one-third feel the freedom granted under the First Amendment “goes too far.” Moreover, Americans seem less supportive of freedom of the press than of any other freedoms guaranteed in our Bill of Rights.
Issue 11 Should Freedom of Speech Ever Be Restricted?
YES: Eugene Volokh, from “Freedom of Speech, Cyberspace, Harassment Law, and the Clinton,” Law and Contemporary Problems (2000)
NO: Edison and Jacobs Media Research, from “Indecency Survey,”
Law professor Eugene Volokh examines several situations in which absolute freedom of speech would very likely conflict with the precedents that have been set in the realm of creating “hostile environment law.” For example, if any offensive speech or images were transmitted in a public arena, the law would side with the more conservative approach toward restricting speech or images that would offend certain people, or that would create an uncomfortable atmosphere. Two media consulting firms collaborated on a survey of rock radio listeners to discover what might be offensive to them. The results, taken from the perspective of the audience who listens to rock, create an argument for restricting government involvement in censoring content, and a clear preference for allowing individuals to choose what they hear, or requiring parental involvement in the cases of radio content and audiences of children.
Issue 12 Has Industry Regulation Controlled Indecent Media Content?
YES: Rhoda Rabkin, from “Children, Entertainment, and Marketing,” Consumer Research (June 2002)
NO: James Poniewozik, from “The Decency Police,” Time (March 28, 2005)
Author Rhoda Rabkin strongly defends the industry system of self-censorship, and feels that any government intervention toward monitoring media content is doomed to failure. She examines a number of media forms and claims that any time there has been a question about content, the industry generally re-packages the products for different audiences and age groups. She advocates for voluntary codes of conduct over federal censorship of entertainment. James Poniewozik profiles the Parents Television Councils Entertainment Tracking System and discusses parents complaints about contemporary television content. He discusses the FCCs present position, and some of the steps the television industry has taken to encourage parents to exercise more control over what their children watch (like the V-chip), but finds that the issues of morality and indecency have been addressed inconsistently, resulting in a wider array of viewpoints concerning indecent material.
Issue 13 Is the Use of Video News Releases Bad Journalism?
YES: Trudy Lieberman, from “Epidemic: Phony Medical News is on the Rise,” Columbia Journalism Review (March/April 2007)
NO: Public Relations Society of America, from “Video News Releases: Comment of Public Relations Society of America to FCC,” Response to Request for Comment, Federal Communications Commission (June 24, 2005)
Trudy Lieberman investigates the use of video news releases (VNRs) in newscasts that are really marketing endeavors by hospitals and health companies. Who is in control of health news? Lieberman worries that newsrooms substitute “feel good” VNRs for in-depth reporting. Can reliance on the slickly produced packages and profitable relationships formed threaten journalistic independence? In their Comment to the Federal Communications Commission, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defends the production of VNRs and argues against imposing additional restrictions on their use. PRSA argues that their current code of ethics is sufficient, and that PR professionals strongly object to the use of VNRs when sponsors or financial interests are not fully disclosed.
Issue 14 Can the Independent Musical Artist Thrive in Todays Music Business?
YES: Chuck Salter, from “Way Behind the Music,” Fast Company (February 2007)
NO: Eric Boehlert, from “Pay for Play,” Salon.com (March 14, 2001)
Chuck Salter looks at the way musical artists have had to become business people to control the branding of their “products.” He examines the business model established by John Legend, and describes how todays musical artists must retain control of their brand to survive in the music industry today. Eric Boehlert describes why radio has become so bad, with regard to diversity of music, and how little opportunity there is for new artists to get their music on the air. He describes what has happened to the traditional music industry/radio alliance, and how independent record promoters have influenced both businesses. Issue 15 Can Present Technology Support Internet Growth?
YES: Spencer E. Ante, from “Back from the Dead,” Business Week (June 25, 2007)
NO: David Talbot, from “The Internet Is Broken,” Technology Review (December 2005/January 2006)
Computer expert Spencer E. Ante claims that recent growth in new start-up firms that have learned how to compress information for the Internet, and increase options for message delivery, have created business opportunities for firms to compete in video and data delivery, resulting in a new telecom boom. Technology Review correspondent David Talbot claims that the problems that were originally in the Internets architecture have only worsened, and that we need to reconceptualize a whole new structure for online communication before users get frustrated with the fragile Internet we now have. Issue 16 Does Big Media Control the FCC?
YES: Ted Turner, from “My Beef with Big Media: How Government Protects Big Mediaand Shuts Out Upstarts Like Me,” Washington Monthly (July/August 2004)
NO: Michael K. Powell, from “Yes, The FCC Should Relax Its Ownership Rules,” Congressional Digest (October 2003)
Ted Turner, founder of CNN, argues that government protects big media, and shuts out upstarts like him. Throughout his career he has seen regulations emerge that transfer power to larger corporations, making it impossible to survive as an independent. Important people, ideas, and innovations are lost with this model. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ex-Chairman Michael Powell, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commercial, Science and Transportation, outlined the FCC proposal to relax ownership rules. He cites changes in the marketplace and argues that these changes will benefit the public interest through protecting viewpoint diversity, enhancing competition, and fostering localism.
Issue 17 Will Print Newspapers Survive in the Current Business Environment?
YES: Robert Kuttner, from “The Race,” Columbia Journalism Review (March/April 2007)
NO: Eric Klinenberg, from “Breaking the News,” Mother Jones (March/April 2007)
Robert Kuttner discusses the future of traditional newspapers in the age of the Internet. Newspapers can make it, he argues, but only if they partner with the Internet to provide the quality journalism that is the hallmark of print, and the immediacy, comprehensiveness, and innovativeness of the best of the Internet. This requires a commitment to the process of developing a dual product that is expensive, but cannot be achieved at the expense of quality journalism. One study found that local news diminished under corporate ownership. Increasingly cross-ownerships are proposed to allow local television and newspaper outlets in a single market to be owned by a single company. As concentration increases, news departments are slashed, ultimately threatening the ability to produce quality reporting.
Life in the Digital Age
Issue 18 Can Privacy Be Protected in the Information Age?
YES: Simson Garfinkel, from “Privacy and the New Technology,” The Nation (February 28, 2000)
NO: Adam L. Penenberg, from “The End of Privacy,” Forbes (November 29, 1999)
Journalist Simson Garfinkel discusses how todays technology has the potential to destroy our privacy. He makes the case that the government and individuals could take steps to protect themselves against privacy abuse, particularly by returning to the groundwork set by the government in the1970s and by educating people on how to avoid privacy traps. Forbes reporter Adam L. Penenberg discusses his own experiences with an Internet detective agency, and he explains how easy it is for companies to get unauthorized access to personal information. He specifically describes how much, and where, personal information is kept and the lack of safeguards in our current system.
Issue 19 Are People Better Informed in the Information Society?
YES: Wade Roush, from “The Internet Reborn,” Technology Review (October 2003)
NO: Matthew Robinson, from “Party On, Dudes! Ignorance Is the Curse of the Information Age,” The American Spectator (March/April 2002)
Technology Review senior editor Wade Roush reflects on the way we currently use the architecture of the web. He outlines the likely scenario for the future of the Internet, with global networks connected to “smart nodes” that will be able to store all of our files, and allow us to access them from remote sites with only small, handheld devices. The improvements in technology will then lead to a more dynamic use of the web, and will make the Internet more user-friendly, as well as more secure. Author Matthew Robinson warns that no matter what technologies we have available, human beings seem interested in fewer subjects and know even less about politics and current events. He warns that even though we may call it an “information” society, there is evidence to suggest that we actually know less than in earlier years. His examples are humorous as well as sobering.
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