Archive for the ‘media literacy issues’ Category

press freedom in china

November 19, 2010

The dynamic of openness of press and speech in China can be best observed at the grassroots level as the public expresses itself via critical incidents.  The government may wish to suppress reporting but if something resonates with public grievances, it simply will not be completely successful given the technology of new media.  The case of a girl killed by a reckless driver, the son of a powerful official illustrates this phenomenon, as reported below in the Times this week:

In many ways, the Li Gang case, as it is known, exemplifies how China’s propaganda machine — able to slant or kill any news in the age of printing presses and television — is sometimes hamstrung in the age of the Internet, especially when it tries to manipulate a pithy narrative about the abuse of power.

The ability of the public to push for greater openness in spite of official efforts to the contrary (still not to be underestimated) is an often overlooked reason for optimism.  Doctoral candidate Jia Dai in the School of Journalism is in the process of analyzing a series of similar events for their reflection of deliberative quality.

the $200 million echo-chamber

November 17, 2010

Times columnist Thomas Friedman reports today on a classic example of the echo-chamber amplifying misinformation.  President Obama’s recent trip to India was claimed to cost taxpayers $200 million a day, an absurd claim on the face of it, but expoused by a Congresswoman on network television (Michelle Bachmann).  How did it happen?  It started with an anonymous source in an Indian newspaper, picked up by the Drudge Report, then…

Rush Limbaugh talking about Obama’s trip: “In two days from now, he’ll be in India at $200 million a day.” Then Glenn Beck, on his radio show, saying: “Have you ever seen the president, ever seen the president go over for a vacation where you needed 34 warships, $2 billion — $2 billion, 34 warships. We are sending — he’s traveling with 3,000 people.” In Beck’s rendition, the president’s official state visit to India became “a vacation” accompanied by one-tenth of the U.S. Navy. Ditto the conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage. He said, “$200 million? $200 million each day on security and other aspects of this incredible royalist visit; 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper tracked the flow above, because Bachmann had used his program to promote the false claim, and used the next program to correct the facts.  What a radical concept:  a journalist actually trying to get to the bottom of a story and find the truth (although it’s ironic that given the state of the current echo-chamber media his actions were regarded as noteworthy).

media decoder: gender issues

October 4, 2010

Here’s a recent study that supports the women and news themes to be discussed this week in class.

It is a perennial complaint about American television news: that the guests on the Sunday morning public affairs programs are not representative of the country’s diversity.

A new study says the guest bookings do not represent the population of Congress, either.

“In 2009 the talk shows told us (by their selection of Congressional guests) that the people who matter are disproportionately white, male, senior and Republican — disproportionate not just when compared to the American population overall, but also when compared to the population of Congress itself,” concluded a study published this month in The Green Bag, a quarterly journal supported by the George Mason University School of Law.

The Times decoder feature should be handy for other of your analysis.

crowd size and media bias

November 12, 2009

In analyzing media portrayals, one of the traditional measures of bias is estimates of crowd size.  Inflating the number of participants suggests a bias in favor of the social movement involved.  Visual inflation took place recently in a Fox program’s portrayal of the rally called at the Capitol by Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman, with images of two separate rallies combined in the story to suggest a far greater number of attendees. s-JON-STEWART-large These distortions are now much more difficult to get away with under the scrutiny of the blogosphere and programs like the Daily Show. Be your own judge whether the juxtaposition of crowd video was purposive manipulation or an “error” as host Sean Hannity has now acknowledged.

image control

November 21, 2008

In war and conflict, the military has control over a story in hot demand and can determine matters of access for the media.  Security concerns play a role of course in dictating who is provided what information, but often image sensitivity and putting a positive spin on operations take precedence. Hollywood works the same. 21angelina_600 Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have a story the public wants, and to the extent they control the access they, particularly Jolie, can dictate (with great strategic skill) the terms of coverage, with the goal of promoting their own causes and burnishing the celebrity image.

“liberal talk”? not on Sunday morning

November 17, 2008

A study by Media Matters shows that conservatives have predominated on the Sunday political newsmaker shows.

achieving “framing” parity with the right

October 30, 2008

The McCain case study will provide an example of the importance of framing the issues, a process that the Republicans have always been more adept at than the Democrats (“the death tax,” “war on terror,” “flip-flopper”).  According to today’s Times, new psychological research is being used to craft more effective political appeals, based on the book “The Political Brain,” whose author (Emory psychology professor Drew Westen) advocates more emotional appeals to move the center of the political spectrum.  The qualms over framing center around whether the candidates are being asked to become something they’re not, or simply package their core beliefs more effectively.

the changing newspaper habit

October 28, 2008

Daily newspaper circulation continues a decline that accelerated in 2007.  Only USA Today and Wall St. Journal bucked the trend and held steady, but the others are losing their readers at a quick rate (3 to 5 percent since same time last year).  Of course, many are moving to the online platform, but the newspapers have only aggravated the problem by making the daily paper smaller with fewer articles, not the way to attract and keep readers.  For readers of my generation, the newspaper is an appointment–something to read at meals, in the plane, or you know where, and the printed paper is an appointment product.  For younger people, news is a utility–download it and track it throughout the day.  Online fits that model.

media narratives vs. the facts

October 21, 2008

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting has reviewed the various narratives the mainstream press has used to characterize the candidates and the extent to which they conform to the evidence.  The media need frames to help organize understandings of candidates (as we’ll see in the McCain case study) but when they become self-fulfilling prophesies they work to distort the real picture.  FAIR is one of the many watchdog groups that monitor the press, and which I will discuss in class.

objectivity and an online bias tool

October 16, 2008

Here’s the latest attempt to apply the “wisdom of crowds” idea to measuring and identifying news bias.  Spinspotter.com thinks it can improve transparency by having readers flag problems in news texts.  Others aren’t so sure.

A proprietary algorithm locates words and phrases that violate six tenets culled from the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics code: personal voice, lack of balance, passive voice, biased source, disregarded content and selective disclosure. ( ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, AP)

The challenge of course is how can one truly know if a story is objective without having access to the underlying reality a report purports to represent?