Mass communications is one of the most popular college majors in the country,which perhaps reflects a belief in the importance of communications systems insociety. The communications system, consisting of radio, television, film,newspapers and magazines, effects how we think, how we feel, and how we live. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “Is media ‘mere entertainment,’ or arethere serious side effects of the national preoccupation with the media?”Long-term exposure to the media has a tendency to influence the way we thinkabout the world around us, but how? Since the printing of the first newspaper tothe introduction of the Information Superhighway, society has been able to viewitself objectively.Order now
The men and women who present media to us: radiopersonalities, news anchors, and actors included, are given the responsibilityof showing us society as it is. Sometimes, it is argued, this task is not doneadequately. And so, arises an issue: can objectivity and subjectivity in themedia affect how we approach issues? And, more importantly, can the informationpresented affect the value system of a society? The media is so pervasive it ishard to believe they do not have important effects on society. Yet, many peopledo not believe that the media have personally influenced them or have harmedthem. However, to attempt to understand how the media may shape the attitudes ofindividuals, and how they may shape culture itself, requires that we stand backfrom our personal experiences in order to analyze the arguments presented oneach side of the debate.
For example, some believe that it is very important toreport serious, society-threatening news with total objectivity. If it is notreported in such a manner, an indirect inciting of the more radical audience canoccur. In the September 1996 issue of the “American JournalismReview,” Sherry Ricchiardi responded to powerful reporting by ChristianAmanpour on Serb atrocities in Bosnia. Some observers questioned the decency ofthe reporter’s approach of support in coverage of these war-torn regions.
Ricchiardi explained that correspondents must walk a fine line betweensubjectivity and objectivity in the quest to depict situations as neutrally, yetas meaningfully, as possible. Another example of subjectivity in the media andits effect on society is easily viewed in a recent incident in Rochester, NewYork. When a controversial biographer visited the University of Rochester todiscuss his book on Mother Teresa and present his negative views on hercompassionate legacy, a local newspaper responded with counteracting religiousreactions and by “furnishing nothing of substance to an inevitably hostileaudience. ” This, in turn, created a community outrage that might not have,otherwise, occurred. In an article entitled Journalists or Defenders of Faith?John H.
Summers argued that the newspaper’s biased approach to the speaker’svisit was not representative of a healthy democracy which “demandsjournalistic integrity and intellegence. ” Some may argue that thenewspaper’s behavior was, in effect, a perpetration of libel. The Sullivan Rule,decided upon by the Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964), protectscommon man from libel and slander. The court held that the First Amendmentprotects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conductof public officials except when statements are made with actual malevolence.
Asmentioned above, the First Amendment is the support system of the media. Itsimply states that “congress shall pass no law . . .
abridging the freedomof speech. ” Equally important is its statement concerning freedom of thepress, stating that “the liberty of the press . . . consists in laying noprevious restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure forcriminal matter when published.
” However, these statements cannot preventthe media from allowing entertainment to take precedence over “vital”news information. Choices such as these are said to have an effect on society’sview of the world and its events. For instance, tabloids work hard to convincesociety that celebrity lifestyles, private information, and outrageous tales areimportant in today’s culture. Because headlines such as “Monica’s Own Story- Affair started after I flashed my sexy underwear,” have boosted sales,more traditional newspapers have turned their attention to similar events.
Manybelieve that it is ethically wrong to ignore real news in favor of celebritygossip. It can be detrimental to the intelligence of the public to “dumbdown” the news for the sake of ratings. And it seems, day by day, thatratings take total precedence in the media. Television programming is asignificant example of rating precedence.
Much of the population believes thatviolence is a reoccurring theme in television programs, and that this violencemay provoke violent tendencies in those who watch it. Because of this notion, adevice called the v-chip was invented which allowed parents to prevent theirchildren from watching “harmful” shows. Political figures such asSenator Ernest F. Hollings supports a v-chip on the grounds that this damagingview of society will only become what is considered a “public healthhazard.
” Those who oppose the v-chip do so on the grounds of the FirstAmendment. Is it fathomable that media can affect a society so much that we mustshield ourselves from exposure to it? We don’t know. But it is a fact that welive in a media-rich environment where almost everybody has access to some formof media. Over time, individuals have improved their ability to unravel thecomplex set of interactions that ties the media and society together, but theyneed to continue the delivery of information from the media in a fashion thatwill best serve their selves and their community.