Mass Comms & Media Studies

Both liberal and conservative groups have underscored the principle of “the marketplace of ideas” for the free discussion of important issues. The notion implies that the “best” ideas if discussed in an open group with all relevant parties engaged and involved, will rise to the top. More important, an open marketplace of ideas will help people who do not understand an issue to get positions from all sides. Finally, through open discussion, a democracy (government by the people) can build a “consensus” of opinion toward the best solution to a social problem or a public policy issue.

These ideas are at the heart the media democracy and free expression principles in the U.S. Constitution, and are reflected in Semiotics and the subfield of social semiotics, which study how humans construct meaning for themselves and others. They are central concerns for communication scholars and key to understanding how democracies work.

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We have for a long time trusted in and depended upon an objective professional news media to act as gatekeeper and provide us with the kinds of information we need to integrate in and to sustain our democratic form of government. Indeed, media systems dependency theory says we have become increasingly dependent on the media to understand and act meaningfully and effectively in our social world.

All mass media are, at their core, telling the stories of their culture. By their sheer reach, their mass-transmitted messages have the power to define and bind a culture. Review pages 205-209 in Chapter 15 of the International Communication Association’s Handbook of Journalism Studies, which explain the storytelling role that news plays in a culture. It says news is analogous to that of myth because it uses familiar, recurring narrative patterns that help explain why it seems simultaneously novel, yet soothingly predictable.

Activity:

Before you tackle this exercise, please make sure you have read the materials at all of the links in this discussion question. When you are have finished your readings, please identify a recent major news story and examine how it is being/was covered by the following web sites:

Huffington Post

Townhall

Politico

Think about how the framing, and agenda-setting, phenomenistic filtering, and other relative bias of news media outlets – broadcast, print and online – are driving the story and influencing public attitudes culturally and politically.

Your objective here is to ponder how information sources such as these may be turning the Internet into an alternative “public square” to the mainstream mass media.

Then, please post a response by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday that addresses the following questions in a cogent response:

1. What is the issue/story you analyzed for framing, filtering and relative bias? Please briefly summarize the story and provide the url for us.

2. How are the “legacy” and “new” news media influencing public attitudes culturally and/or politically on this topic?

Before you write, you may find thinking about some of the following questions helpful to your analysis:

What is similar in presentation style in all three websites? What is different? How does their coverage compare to the traditional mass media you reviewed?

What is the political stance of each website? How do you know? Does the stance seem “reasonable” even if it is from a position you might or might not agree with.

Where does each website gets its “news” information? Do you trust those news sources? If so or not, why?

What do you think of the bloggers? Would you want to blog on this website?

Would you go to this website for more detailed information and discussion of an issue in which you were interested?

How well do you think these websites function as “spaces” for free discussion? Do you think these kinds of discussions are, in general, helpful to the democratic process? Why or why not?

Do you think that V.O. Key’s notion of elite pluralism still applies to how the media influences politics and the social world?

What standards should apply to journalistic practices?

Should there be government regulation of media practitioners (bloggers, journalists, videographers, etc.), media outlets, and / or media content? What does history suggest?

Do you see a link between media literacy and John Fiske’s semiotic democracy (freedom to make personally relevant meaning)?
Preferred language style Simple (Easy vocabulary, simple grammar constructions)

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