Table of Contents
Clashing Views in Mass Media and Society, Eleventh Edition
Unit 1 Media and Social Issues
- Issue 1. Are American Values Shaped by the Mass Media?
YES: Herbert Schiller, from The Mind Managers (Beacon Press, 1973). Hanson and Maxcy (Eds). Sources: Notable Selections in Mass Media (Dushkin, 1996).
NO: James W. Carey, from Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (Unwin Hyman, 1989).
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. Professor Carey introduces the seminal ideas of ritual and transmission models of communication in this piece. Communication is not simply a process of sending messages as the transmission model would suggest. Communication is a symbolic process which is inherently linked to culture and our lives.
- Issue 2. Are the Harry Potter Books Harmful for Children?
YES: Rob Boston, Witch Hunt: Why the Religious Right is Crusading to Exorcise Harry Potter books from Public Schools and Libraries Church and State (2002)
NO: Lana A. Whited, with M. Katherine Grimes, What Would Harry Do?, from The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Persepctives on a Literary Phenomenon, Lana A. Whited, Ed., Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 182-208.
Though the popular Harry Potter series has received world-wide attention, the content remains questionable for some people. Writer Rob Boston examines the position of some members of the Christian Right, and identifies how and why some people think Harry Potter books endorse witchcraft and a belief in the occult. The controversy shows that childrens books are often the subject of book banning and censorship, for a variety of reasons. Lana A. Whited and M. Katherine Grimes are English teachers who report that despite religious-based objections to Harry Potter books and films which are part of the fantasy genre in literature, children can be exposed to a number of situations and dilemmas that enhance childrens moral reasoning abilities. Using a scheme developed by Professor Lawrence Kohlberg, they examine a number of situations in the Harry Potter series that they claim, can help guide childrens moral development.
- Issue 3. Does Media Represent Realistic Images of Arabs?
YES: Gal Beckerman, The New Arab Conversations, from Columbia Journalism Review, January, February, 2007.
NO: Jack G. Shaheen, from Guilty: Hollywoods Verdict on Arabs After 9/11, (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press).
In this issue, journalist Gal Beckerman discusses how Arab bloggers from the Middle East are challenging popular stereotypes of Arab and Middle Eastern culture. Because these bloggers are writing about their lives, the global public can read about their situations, and understand them as individuals, rather than racial or ethnic group members. Professor Emeritus Jack G. Shaheen, an expert on the image of the Arab in film and television, discusses how Arabs have been the most maligned stereotype in popular culture, and how the images, post 9/11 that conflate Arab and Muslim, have fueled misperceptions about the Other and have influenced peoples perceptions about victims and combatants while we are engaged in the War in Iraq. He discusses how Hollywoods images influence politicians and citizens, and contributes to public opinion.
- Issue 4. Does Media Cause Individuals to Develop Negative Body Images?
YES: Shari Dworkin and Faye Wachs, What Kind of Subjects and Objects, from Body Panic: Gender, Health and the Selling of Fitness (NYC: NYU Press).
NO: Michael P. Levine and Sarah K. Murnen, Everybody Knows That Mass Media are/are not [pick one] a Cause of Eating Disorders: A Critical Review of Evidence for a Causal Link Between Media, Negative Body Image, and Disordered Eating in Females, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, January 2009.
Professors Shari L. Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs discuss the results of their content analysis of health magazine ads, and finds that the ads tell men and women that a healthy body is attainable if one buys the products and pampers themselves. Fat becomes something to be feared, and grooming practices and fashion are sold as imperatives for both men and women. Professors Michael P. Levine and Sarah K. Murnen also investigate magazine ads, but find the assumption that media causes eating disorders to be too limited. Instead, they cite a wide range of social, behavioral, and cultural issues over time to understand the complex conditions under which girls begin to adopt negative body issues that result in eating disorders.
Unit 2 A Question of Content
- Issue 5. Do Video Games Encourage Violent Behavior?
YES: Craig A. Anderson, Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions, http://www.apa.org/science/psa/sb-anderson.html
NO: Henry Jenkins, Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked, http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html
On March 21, 2000, the U.S. Congress held a hearing (1061096) 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 6. Do Copyright Laws Protect Ownership of Intellectual Property?
YES: Siva Vaidhyanathan, Copyright Jungle, Columbia Journalism Review, September/October, 2006, 42-48.
NO: Stephanie C. Ardito, MySpace and YouTube Meet the Copyright Cops, Searcher, 10704795, May2007, Vol. 15, Issue 5.
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 7. Is Advertising Good for Society?
YES: John E. Calfee, from How Advertising Informs to Our Benefit, Consumers Research (April, 1998).
NO: Dinyar Godrej, 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 8. Can Media Regain Public Trust?
YES: Michael Schudson from Why Democracies Need and Unlovable Press (Polity Press, 2008).
NO: John Hockenberry, You Dont Understand our Audience: What I learned about network television at Dateline NBC, Technology Review, January/February 2008.
Schudson argues that although news is essential for democracy, the behavior of journalists makes them unpopular. Journalists conflict orientation, obsession with facts and events, and in-your-face interviewing are what makes journalism effective and essential. And it is those behaviors that should restore faith in journalism. Hockenberry is disillusioned about the ability of credible journalism to survive in the current corporate environment. Based on his experience at Dateline NBC, he explores the timidity of those in charge of newsrooms. Fear of corporate owners, of audience response, and of technology cripples authentic journalism.
- Issue 9. Does Fake News Mislead the Public?
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. Will Evolving Forms of Journalism be an Improvement?
YES: Mark Deuze, Axel Bruns, and Christoph Newberger, Preparing for an Age of Participatory News, Journalism Practice, 2007, 1(3).
NO: David Simon, Testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on the Future of Journalism, May 6, 2009 at http://commerce.senate.gov/public/files/DavidSimonTestimonyFutureofJournalism.pdf
Deuze, Bruns, and Neuberger conducted case studies of news organizations that developed extensive plans to incorporate participatory news practices. The case studies reveal the rewards and difficulties of these decisions. David Simon testified in May of 2009 to a Senate Committee examining the future of journalism. His conclusion was that high-end journalism was dying in America, and could not be saved by the Internet and/or citizen journalists.
Unit 4 Law and Policy
- Issue 11. 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: First Amendment Center, from State of the First Amendment: 2004 (Freedom Forum, 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 12. Is Hate Speech in the Media Directly Affecting our Culture?
YES: Henry A. Giroux, Living in a Culture of Cruelty: Democracy as Spectacle, Truthout, September 2, 2009, http://www.truthout.org/090209R?print
NO: Georgie Ann Weatherby and Brian Scoggins, A Content Analysis of Persuasion Techniques Used on White Supremacist Websites, from the Journal of Hate Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1, (2005-2006).
In this essay, scholar Henry A. Giroux questions how and why our culture has become so mean spirited. By addressing media content in news and popular fare, he analyzes how the politics of a pedagogy of hate has become an exercise in power that ultimately, has created a culture of cruelty. As part of this imposed philosophy, citizens have begun to question and undermine our governments responsibility to protect their interests. Professors Georgie Ann Weatherby and Brian Scoggins examine the content of the web pages of four extremist groups on the Internet, and discuss the persuasive techniques each uses. They find that the sites draw from traditional tactics that soft-peddle positions that emphasize recruiting, while down-playing the messages of hate.
- Issue 13. Has Industry Regulation Controlled Indecent Media Content?
YES: Rhoda Rabkin, Children, Entertainment, and Marketing, Consumers Research, (June 2002).
NO: Karen E. Dill and Lisa Fager Bediako, Testimony to the Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection, From Imus To Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images, September 25, 2007.
Author Rhoda Rabkin strongly defends the industry system of self-censorship, and feels that any government intervention 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 audience and age groups. She advocates for voluntary codes of conduct over federal censorship of entertainment. Shortly after radio shock-jock Don Imus lost his job for comments considered to be inappropriate for the air, the House of Representatives held a Hearing at which different individuals from industry, academe, and social interest groups commented on inappropriate content. Professor Karen E. Dill commented on the psychological processes of media images and the way they influence girls and women, and Lisa Fager Bediako, President of Industry Ears, a group dedicated to examining the images of persons of color, both testified that degrading images of violence, sexism, racism, and hate, are rampant in contemporary media.
Unit 5 Media Businesse
- Issue 14. Can the Independent Musical Artist Thrive in Todays Music Business?
YES: Chuck Salter, Way Behind the Music, Fast Company, February 2007.
NO: Eric Boehlert, "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. Should Newspapers Shut Down Their Presses?
YES: Clay Shirkey, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, accessed from http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/
NO: Paul Farhi, A Bright Future for Newspapers, American Journalism Review, June/July 2005
Shirkey argues that the old economies of newspapers are destroyed in the digital age. This is revolution similar to that which occurred with the invention of the printing press. No one knows what the future will hold, but we can only hope that journalism is not lost with the demise of newspapers. All news media are facing challenges in these difficult economic times. Paul Farhi, a Washington Post staff writer, argues that newspapers have unique competitive advantages that should assure that the worst case wont happen.
- Issue 16. Do New Business Models Result in Greater Consumer Choice of Products and Ideas?
YES: Chris Anderson, from The Long Tail (NY: Hyperion Books, 2006)
NO: Kathryn C. Montgomery, Social Marketing in the New Millennium from Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet (MIT Press, 2007)
Chris Anderson, an editor of Wired Magazine writes of the decline of the mass market and the rise of niche markets. He claims that the future of business, particularly in book, music, and DVD sales, will shift toward selling a wider range of media to audiences that have much broader interests. Professor Kathryn C. Montgomery looks at the cooperative relationships between social interest groups and media content providers, to better understand how themes with social objectives permeate media content.
Unit 6 Life in the Digital Age
- Issue 17. Are Online Services Responsible for an Increase in Bullying and Harassment?
YES: Penny A. Leisring, Stalking Made Ease: How Information and Communication Technologies Are Influencing the Way People Monitor and Harass Each Other, in Sharon Kleinman (Ed). The Culture of Efficiency, (Peter Lang, 2009).
NO: Amanda Lenhart, Cyberbullying and Online Teens, Pew Internet and American Life Project June 27, 2007. http://www.education.com/reference/article/cyberbullying-facts/
Penny Leisring discusses negative effects of using online technology to cyberstalk or harass someone. Use of social networking, e-mail, GPS systems, cell phone spamming, and caller ID all can be used to create a threatening or hostile environment for those people who use them for anti-social purposes. The author also addresses the situations that lend themselves most often to these undesirable uses of communication technology, such as in the break-up of romantic relationships, abusive relationships, or just plain hostile behaviors and interactions. Amanda Lenhart reports the findings of a Pew Internet & American Life Project that investigated the likelihood of teen harassment and cyberbullying, and finds that the most likely candidates to experience online abuse are girls between the ages of 15-17, though the reported statistics for all teens of both genders are disturbing. However, Lenhart reports that still, more teens report being bullied offline than online.
- Issue 18. Are People Better Informed in the Information Society?
YES: Linda Jackson et al. "Does Home Internet Use Influence the Academic Performance of Low-Income Children, Developmental Psychology, 2006, 42(3)
NO: Mark Bauerlein, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future. (TARCHER/Penguin, 2008).
Jackson et al. conducted a 16-month survey of Internet use by youth age 10 to 18 in low-income homes. They found that youth who used the Internet more also had higher scores on standardized tests of reading achievement and higher GPAs. This work supports the optimism surrounding the Internet as a tool to help level the educational playing field. Bauerlein finds the hopes for better educated youth in the digital age to be an empty promise. Youth spend much of their leisure time in front of computer and television screens, but the information age has failed to produce a well-informed, thoughtful public. Instead we have a nation of know-nothings, who dont read, follow politics, or voteand who cant compete internationally.