Comparing articles of major news stations

NBC news article

The Washington Post news article

Aljazeera news article

I found an international news article on three different websites listed above: NBC, The Washington Post, and Aljazeera. There is currently one of the worst droughts in decades occurring in Southeast Asia that is effecting many people in various regions. I’ve read each article and it’s interesting the similarities and differences that I’ve found.

For example, NBC focused very highly on showing pictures of the impact the drought was having on the people. There are many pictures showing the cracked ground and the desparity of the people. Besides the captions for the pictures, the article has very little writing and gives almost no information about the state of the countries or what measures are being taken. In contrast, both The Washington Post and Aljazeera had a lot of text in their articles and also focused very much on China’s efforts regarding the drought. Apparently, China is trying very hard to help, doing things such as releasing dam water. In addition, the Washington Post article gives a more detailed account of the measure being taken such as Vietnam’s efforts earlier in the drought and other steps China has taken to help.

The Washington Post is the most detailed article and gives the most information. Again, NBC is mostly pictures and Aljazeera is just a little blurb. The Washington Post also has quotations from an ambassador and highlights how six different countries are working together to solve the problem, which was something that was cool to know.

I do see evidence and value in the Agenda Setting Theory. It is obvious that this drought is important enough for these three major news stations to write about. However, it is interesting the various ways that these stations chose to do so. I see how an issue with enough coverage can gain enough traction to influence public opinion so people think it’s an issue. Honestly, after reading these articles, I think that the drought is a big issue, which is something that I didn’t necessarily think.

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Media’s got the power!

The media has significant power in influencing public opinion. This translates in pop culture, which is what the general public most often consumes, but this also translates into politics. The media has a lot of power as a consensus and conflict maker, and I believe that the government uses the media to propagate its own interests. We see that on Fox News as well as CNN and MSNBC. Each news station supports its own bias while still maintaining the position that it’s “fair and balanced.” However, I would say that the public knows that each news station isn’t 100% fair and balanced. This article gives a great overview of the public opinion of news stations. It seems that the respondents do not trust the news stations as much as you might think.

This website shows a research project on the role of the media in the construction of public belief and social change. The article asserts that the “findings across these areas show the way in which the media shape public debate in terms of setting agendas and focusing public interest on particular subjects.” In other words, it is proven that the media shapes public opinion on particular subjects, which encompasses political issues that the government deals with. Therefore, because the media has this type of power, it can be used to influence the public opinion of the masses on political issues.

 

The Biblical Worldview in Communication Theories

The biblical worldview is evident in multiple communication theories such as the Mean World Syndrome and the Agenda Setting Theory.

The Mean World Syndrome is the idea that when a person consumes large amounts of media, they uphold the belief that the world is a dangerous place. In previous posts, I have discussed this concept and asserted my opinion that I think this is a very true statement, especially knowing how my parents react to watching the news.

However, the question is: could the Mean World Syndrome utilize a biblical worldview? My answer to that question is: yes, but not in the way one might think.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. How could viewing the world as a dangerous place be biblical in any way? Christians are supposed to advocate peace and God’s love to the world, but the Mean World Syndrome asserts that the world is a dangerous place, fueled by the violence we see in the media. Where does the biblical worldview come into play.

I think that the Mean World Syndrome is a direct example of the fallen world that we live in. The media portrays the violence and cruelty of humanity. We are visually confronted with our sin every time we turn on the television. It broadcasts the evils of humanity and the acts that we are capable of committing – murder, theft, slander, gluttony (advertising).

I also see a biblical worldview represented in the Agenda Setting Theory. This theory is the idea that if a topic is covered frequently and prominently, then the public will regard this topic as more important. This is a perfect method for Christians to spread the gospel! If we are able to talk about our Savior more frequently and show how prominent God is in our lives, then we will be more effective evangelizing to others! Of course, you shouldn’t get annoying and hassle people by shouting the good news at them, but I do think there is something to be said about sharing God with others often and boldly.

 

Does media lead or follow?

What came first: the TV networks or the consumers? In other words, do TV networks and movie studios lead the consumers or do the consumers lead the networks and studios? I would argue that the TV networks and movie studios lead consumers by influencing what they think. This is done by the networks and studios by producing films and broadcasting reports that have particular angles and biases attached to them. The consumers, in turn, see that media and are influenced by it whether or not they even know it.

This website touches on the idea of whether entertainment media leads or follows society. Of course, we would love to say that the entertainment industry follows the demands of the public. That would make the most sense. However, I truly believe that it is the opposite. The networks and studios produce media and consumers form beliefs based off of that.

Therefore, when it comes to the religious and moral values of the people who run the TV networks and the major movie studios, I believe that they do not share the same religious and moral values of the most Americans. If the networks and studios were producing for the consumers then I would say they would share these same values. However, because the networks and studios are leading the pack, they have to have different values than the rest of the general public. They are forging the way and the only way to do that is to be different than the rest of society.

This other website discusses a little bit about how media shapes people’s perception of reality. This, again, supports my idea that media does not follow the general public’s beliefs or values because in order to shape something, you have to be set apart from it. Overall, I think there is no way for the media to uphold the same beliefs and religious values as the general public, especially because of how Christians are portrayed in mass media.

I want to be engaged.

My problem is that I really, really, really want to be engaged! I don’t think that is a weird or strange thing. That’s just how I am! Am I just another Grover seeking out my future spouse while here at college? No. No I’m not. I’m not talking about being engaged in anticipation for marriage. I’m talking about being engaged in this world. I want to be present and influential in my culture. The question is not whether or not a Christian can engage culture. The question is: how?

We are going to engage culture whether we want to or not. It’s nearly impossible to live such an isolated life that culture does not influence us in any way, unless maybe you are a tribe in the depths of Africa or in an Amish community in Lancaster. If you are reading this, I doubt that’s true for you. In general, culture will be an influential force in your life. So, how do you respond to it? How do you engage? Especially if you are a Christian… How does a Christian engage in the culture of this world successfully, being able to influence this culture while remaining set apart from it?

I think that the only way for a Christian to engage in culture successfully is by maintaining a biblical worldview and keeping their eyes focused on Christ.

This website talks about how it is both “necessary and dangerous to engage culture.” Of course it is! Our sinful nature makes it easy for Christians to wander into the temptation of the world when engaging in culture, especially because lines are sometimes blurred between being “in the world” and “of the world.” That’s why it is so important to do so biblically, while maintaining a clear gospel proclamation in the midst of so many other false proclamations of the world.

This other website gives 8 ways to for Christians to engage in culture. I like this because these are such simple things that we can do in everyday life that will successfully engage culture:

  1. Start conversations – talk to people about Christ!
  2. Hang out with people who enjoy the same things you do
  3. Volunteer somewhere – share God’s love by serving others
  4. Tell stories – talk about Bible stories as well as your own personal testimony story
  5. Get to know your community by asking questions – become an expert on your home in this world in order to influence it
  6. Invite others to join you – God has called us to fellowship
  7. Pray with others
  8. Address physical and spiritual needs around you – just do one thing a week!

 

Moral of the story: the best way Christians can engage culture is in small, simple ways that will share the gospel to the world by remaining biblically focused!

Consume, consume, consume.

We as Millennials have been fed the idea that advances in technology is a sign that society is progressing. Consequently, more technology means society consumes more media. This begs the question: does consuming more media help or hurt society as a whole? On one hand, society should certainly be educated on current events and understand what is going on in the world. On the other hand, we should refrain from being fed biased views or slanted opinions that influence the way we think.

With the rise of technology, I do believe that our society consumes too much media, except I don’t think it’s our fault. Technology makes media so available that it’s almost hard not to consume. Throwback to my post about my Media Fast. I found it extremely difficult to isolate myself from the influences of media that I passively feel in my everyday life. Imagine how much media I consume actively! CNN posted an article about this very topic saying how teens spend 9 hours a day using media. That’s crazy!

It lends the question: what kind of life are we living if our heads are being filled with the media for 9 hours a day? I wonder if, as Christians, this is something that God has intended for us. I don’t think so. I think God has called us to be in the world but not of the world, and media is very much of the world – it’s a direct product of the world. Therefore, we should engage it and interact with it, but also remain separate from it, understanding its fallen nature. It becomes quite a balancing act that doesn’t have extremely clear guidelines. How much media should we consume? How do we limit ourselves? What is ok for Christians to engage with? This website highlights some ways to consume media that may be helpful to you if you’re struggling with this concept like I am.

Blog 7

I’m not going to lie. I took this class as an elective. I’m a Biology major so Communications classes aren’t exactly at the forefront of my mind. I’m much more interested in Cellular Biology and Genetics. However, I had never taken a Comm class before and was open-minded. I had no expectations of actually learning anything valuable and I was very content with just learning about whatever communication concepts I had to.

I have come to realize the vast importance of learning some of these concepts. I had absolutely no idea how influential media was until my mind was opened to the idea. I also never even considered how I may be persuaded by large-scale corporations or how advertising companies may influence me without me even knowing it. I also never even thought about how media may influence my worldview.

Basically, the things that I’ve been learning in this class actually interest me and I’m extremely happy I decided to take this class.

Are we unknowingly persuaded by the Advertising/PR industry?

It seems to me that the producer’s perspective on the Advertising/PR industries seems to be negative. I think his belief is that they are manipulating the masses into purchasing their products through psychological influences. They have products placed within an entertainment context so people essentially are watching advertisements without even being aware of it. Due to how the producer has portrayed this documentary, I think he believes that this isn’t okay and people should be aware of it so they aren’t unknowingly influenced into purchasing these products.

The professionals that are doing this kind of manipulating honestly believe that they are essentially finding the best way to give people what they want. An example of this was shown by the psychiatrist named Rapaille. He believes there is a subconscious code that lies behind consumers’s decision making. He is apparently able to tap into this code and sell it to marketers who then make a profit by centering their advertisements around such a code. Rapaille is extremely successful, cashing in on this philosophy, as well as most of the corporations he helps. The whole point of his philosophy is that he believes he is helping to give the people what they want even though they aren’t even aware that they want it. It’s almost as if people are like sheep aimlessly bopping around, totally ignorant to their needs.

That scares me personally because it means people that I’ve never even met are making decisions about me, thinking that they know what is best for me (similar to Bernay’s concept of “invisible managers”). That is terrifying. I’d like to think that I know what’s best for myself and can gauge what to buy to satisfy my needs. This whole concept calls into question how in control of my own likes/dislikes I am and how influenced I am by these people in power. Do I even have any control? If corporations really have this much control over consumers, they need to have some sort of check/balance system for their actions or at least need to be responsible for acting ethically. But who oversees the people who oversee the masses? Will we even know if they’ve gone too far? If not, that’s scary.

Is the world actually a dangerous place?

The Mean World Syndrome is the idea that viewers who consume a lot of violent content from mass media believe that the world is a much more dangerous place than it actually is. This term was coined by George Gerbner, who studied this phenomenon in our culture. Specifically, he believes that people who watch more television tend to think the world as a violent and dangerous place.

I agree that people who consume more media, especially news on television, believe the world is a much more dangerous place. I think most specifically about my mom and step-dad. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but they both are constantly watching news on TV. I think it’s good that they want to be informed about what is happening locally, nationally, or internationally, but a lot of that information is predominantly negative. We as a society are bombarded with news about bombings, natural disasters, or criminals on the loose, in addition to a litany of other societal ills. I definitely believe that because my mom and step-dad watch a lot of news and essentially consume the highlights of humanity’s worst deeds they, in turn, hold the pessimistic view that the world is an extremely dangerous place. Honestly, how can you think the world is a nice, pleasant place when you’re being told about acts of terrorism in the Middle East, a hurricane that destroyed a foreign country or the levels of poverty in our own country? It makes sense to me that my mom and step-dad along with millions of other people hold this kind of viewpoint.

Unlike my mom and step-dad, as a college student, I use media mostly for communication and entertainment. More often than not, I use my phone to communicate with friends or family or as a distraction from my studies. If I’m using the internet, it’s either to go to Netflix or to google a concept for Cell Bio that I didn’t fully understand by reading the textbook. I rarely read newspapers or read about current events on the internet. I also never watch television, especially the news. My stance on the world, as a result, is much different than my mom’s and step-dad’s.

 

Demonization and its influences on widely-held stereotypes

“Demonization” is one key idea from Schultze’s Communicating for Life that has resonated with me. “Demonization” is basically when media exaggerates any negative stereotypes about a people that masses either fear or dislike, usually minorities. This includes anyone who is different such as different races like African Americans or Mexicans, different religions such as Buddhists or Muslims, or handicapped people, either mentally or physically. All of these types of people are minorities and are thus ostracized to the outskirts of society. Schultze argues that this happens because the media has a need for victimization due to the lack of heterogeneity and fallen human nature.  This propagates these negative stereotypes because the masses are consuming the exaggerated stereotypes and then, in turn, applying them to people in everyday life.

This made me think about Grey’s Anatomy, specifically the character known as April Kepner. In this show, April Kepner is portrayed as a Christian, but also as being extremely eccentric and arguably irrational. It always bothered me that Kepner identified as a Christian but was so utterly annoying. It made me angry because people would watch that show, see the annoying Christian, and then stereotype all Christians as being crazy. Now, after learning about demonization, I see how the media can manipulate entertainment like this to further a certain agenda.

I also think a lot about the show Modern Family simply because it casts such a diverse group of characters and pulls in a lot of stereotypes. You’ve got the stereotypical gay couple with a little girl, the average white family, then an older man married to a younger foreign woman with a child. While I don’t necessarily think that the stereotypes  shown in this comedy are overwhelmingly negative, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are upset that these characters are portrayed in certain lights. I mean not all gay men are flamboyant and act femininely.

I just think that demonization is an important consideration to make while consuming mass media, especially anything in the entertainment industry, and I am now certainly more aware of these influences.