Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sensational News

Stephen Glass an ex writer for the popular magazine “The New Republic” was just an example, not the exception, of how the media can be utilized in the wrong direction. Mr. Glass during his employment for "The New Republic" fabricated articles, quotes, sources and events. 27 out of the 41 stories published by the magazine contained some or total false information. What was his main motivation for creating all these stories? I sum it up in one word “Sensationalism.” Mr. Glass was unable to secure stories that created popular interest so he chose to invent them instead. These stories were what people wanted to read. The kind of story that makes reporters famous and the media rich and it is still going on in different places.

“Sensational news, as it spreads through the media, can easily push other issues off the front pages and out of the public’s eye. Sensationalism can be a pleasurable diversion, but this diverting has political implications.” Ref. “Looking at the Sun” packet. 3rd page.

The New York Times recently published an article questioning the character of presidential candidate Senator McCain. This created large controversy among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. One of the issues taken by the public is that the “Times” has not provided proof of any sort, that there is valid, substantial information behind the story. They cite unnamed sources and they had access to this story for at least two months and were debating as to whether or not it should be printed, so why now? I think this is a clear example of how the Times give the press a bad name. They have no substantial proof of their writings and yet they are irresponsible enough to go the old ways of sensationalism to sell more papers.

An interesting example of media diversion has been cited by critics of ex President Bill Clinton. During his impeachment hearing in 1998, Operation Desert Fox, 4 day bombing campaign, occurred at the same time as the impeachment hearings. Was this a coincidence or diversion from one story to another?

Media and responsibility do not always go together.

Herschel's Hoax

These articles involved in the great hoax, were an attempt to increase circulation and profit within the New York Sun. Is this proof that people will always believe what they read? Can this happen again today? In the article by Sir John Herschel, New York Sun 1835, he uses words that are believable and to any normal everyday reader, seem plausible. If the intelligence, or proof, isn’t out their yet, then a little imagination can go a long way. The articles make a point using words that are easy to understand. Once the reader has an image of what the writer is talking about, the article begins to use sophisticated words that sound good, but mean nothing. The reader has been captured.
Herschel talk about all of these animals and foliage on the moon. He goes on to mention rivers, islands, and red mountains. Even without the technology of a high powered telescope, we know that there is no water on the moon. I think that if you can bring up a topic that most people are hopeful about, or curious about, then you can get them to believe anything. For example, if you were a well known author, and you had proof that the second coming of Christ was going to be sooner than later, you would catch a lot of attention. Life on other planets is something that we know nothing about other than what astronauts report, or sophisticated technology. To be able to see and hear for ourselves would be great.
Slave propaganda found in Philadelphia doesn’t seem that far fetched. This could lead to chaos as people begin to turn on African Americans, assuming that some sort of riot will develop. The article doesn’t mention the very well respected name of the man the box of propaganda was addressed to. A lot of detail is left out. As quickly as it was discovered, it was destroyed?
Most of these articles seem meant to spread panic across the city. Winged, human like creatures, that hold the ability to have conversation, seems like its worth further investigation. All of these articles stop short of something. What happens next? They just take off and we never see them again? It is all very entertaining. This newspaper has the makes of a modern day “Star“, or some other entertaining magazine.
On page seven, the papers integrity is challenged. “and in the meantime our readers may depend that the cry of hoax and humbug will be crammed down the throats of its too knowing exclaimers…” The last page explains the intent of the articles as entertainment, and something to keep our minds off of everyday life. However, they don’t exactly claim it to be false. They go on to mention that many Scientists find the matter to be true and it is up to the reader to determine whether it is false or fiction.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Following the lead

"In the second half of the nineteenth century, many European countries and Canada would begin to catch up with the American movement toward broader communications and education. The taxes and other restraints on the press would be reduced in Great Britain and elsewhere."
pg 111

American choices would soon become the standard toward media relations in most developed nations, even its former country would soon loosen the reigns it had on its media. Taxes were no longer being used as a form of constraining media but rather as a means of expanding media and making it a bigger umbrella. This would help in that it would help to ensure certain ideas of that were expressed in the constitutions. Ideas such as freedom of speech. Of course acts like the alien and sedition act would make it so that these early hopes would not be realized. Still the fact that the United States were creating some sense of uniformity with regard to media relations is remarkable. The United States would make freedom of thew press a commonality.

America's Growing Literacy Rate Spawns New Technology

"Literature in America was, if not born in the marketplace, at least raised there from infancy."

With literacy growing fast due to population growth, and new technology aiding in the efforts for a now truly innovative way to produce text was well on it's way and rapidly as well. America was fast and had a greater demand to produce books, texts, etc. over its British counterpart. Starr credits the further development of schooling, and the reading public for the rapid growth of new press technology. I found it quite interesting, the whole time line of how this started. With the birth of literacy spawned engineering in the minds of inventors and money catchers. Literacy created jobs, and new technological advances in print press.
I found the technology side interesting because up until returning to school I worked for a printing company called Clintrak where we printed on labels for major pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squib, Novartis, etc who were developing drugs for clinical trials, and needed labels for their studies, and case report forms. We printed on major presses using interweaving paper to create the first booklet press worth two million dollars. We also worked on smaller machines for single ply jobs which would crank out 300,000 labels per day. One machine I even worked on for a while would make the company 10,000 dollars every hour and the machine itself was worth 30,000 dollars so it paid for it self, and my salary in about 7 hours. The history behind how all the advances in print technology interested me from how it was just strictly plates and ink to what I was using in 2007 known as cold fusion printing. We have come a long way.

Privacy.....what Privacy?

In chapter three America's First Information Revolution, Starr goes into depth about the Constitution and its meaning to society prior to the American Revolution. In Starr's "sub chapter" "Privacy and Public Knowledge", Starr begins to speak of the people's "right to privacy". He comments on how revolutionaries did not ask for this right, but would soon realize how important it would be.

"Although the revolutionaries did not speak of a "right to privacy", one of their complaints against British rule was intrusion of their dwellings and use of general warrants.....the general warrant had a long historical association in Britain with the attempt to control communication".
This quote describes the British government's way of controlling what they felt would be a theat to the aristocracy and parliment. This to me is also one of the first real examples of "censorship". If I were a printer at the time and was critical of the British rule and made that apparent in the papers, the govenment could run into my place (or place of business) and destroy my printer as well as any material that they felt was against the powers that be. Even years ago when "political revolutionary journalist"(who were writers for left leaning papers/mags) spoke against the injustices of the police in the African American community (police brutality), police without warrant would raid these individuals homes while destroying their property in the process. This is against the constitution that states an individual has right to his/her privacy and once one violates that space, they have broken the written law.

American & European Education.

"American education certainly left much to be desired. Nineteenth century observers often commented that although American education was more practical and more broadly disseminated than education in Europe, it lacked depth and richness. Throughout the nineteenth century, the United States did not have universities or library collections that were the equal of those in Europe, and American science and scholarship were less distinguished. America excelled in applying education to practical tasks......What distingushed American education in the half century after the Revolution was not the advance of the arts, sciences, and scholarship, but the diffusion of competence to ordinary people." -- Paul Starr, "America's First Information Revolution", The Creation Of The Media, Page 107.

Apparently education was very different in America and in Europe. Some had good qualitites and some had bad qualitites about them. This makes sense to me because they are two totally different countries where they have different environments, different ways of viewing the world, and they are all taught differently by their elders. American education had some good qualitities where it was being active all around the country. All the American people were learning so much information that helped them in everyday life. European education had a more intellectual greatness to it because they had superior schools and libraries than in America. This caused the European people to not just use this education for everyday life but to also learn more about other things, like literature with fictional characters. Even though Europe was a little ahead in the educational system, American education was still very noticed after the Revolution for a reason that Europe wasn't as noticed for and that was the spread of knowledge amongst the people so they could communicate better with one another. Education changed everything after the Revolution and in a real positive way.

Worth a Thousand Words

"...there was a cry for pictures. Locke's graphic descriptions did not satisfy all the readers."

Robert Locke's Moon Hoax had many people convinced that there was a variety of lifeforms on the moon. He offered no real proof, but gave very detailed descriptions of the creatures. But, even in the time before photographs, people still needed to see an illustration of some kind.

The same thing still occurs. Judgment is often withheld from subjects until there is a proof that words alone never seem to fill. When it was announced that Heath Ledger would be the Joker in The Dark Knight, many were unsure. When the first picture was finally unveiled, the response was enormously in favor of the actor. If the producers had held images back, there would likely have been discontent among fans until the movie actually came out. Similar things have occured with movies such as Cloverfield, the upcoming The Incredible Hulk, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A New Trend

It is amazing to see what an impact the United States Postal Service has had over communication. With the example set in the U.S., Europe became inspired to create such an intricate network as well. From the chapter three reading, you get a glimpse on what kind of power the news has over many important issues. Today, the news is such an incredible tool/weapon, especially in elections. Words are exchanged, and politaical digs are taking harmlessly, except when reputations are at stake, through news articles. "Take up your pen, select the most striking heresies, and cut him to pieces in the faces of the public." Starr, pg 84
This was Jefferson's quote to James Madison in regards to Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton was later killed in a duel with Aaron Burr for comments he made about him in the paper.

Police Office - (Yesterday)

Senator Larry Craig arrested for soliciting sex in a public bathroom.

"The press here, thank God is free. The people also, are free; and we the people are the creators and the sovereigns of all courts, all migistrates, and all laws. We have made, and can unmake them at pleasure. And wo betide the man who dares to intefere with rights so sacred as those which we now do, and ever will enjoy."

Police Yesterday focuses on the issue of allowing the press to print derrogative information on people of high political status because it will tarnish their reputation or unmask personal information about them in a damaging way. These articles of police record were printed in the 19th century in the newspaper called the Sun which depicted people in all uncomfortable situations which they have been "committed". Published police reports have served and proved to be beneficial in keeping the crime rate down and most helpful in managing public peace. The writers of these articles feel that the public deserves the right to know what is happening around their communities and with whom they are happening with, whether or not it involves a high statured individual or not.

In addition, these writers argue the importance of freedom of the press and how it has been able to help "diminish the amount of crime and the number of criminals". They feel the public has a right to know and should support the press and what they are trying to convey to their people t "it is our consitutional right."

"But if it is determined to prevent the publication of such report, the authors of that prevention will feel the vengeance of pens that will scorch like the lightnings, and blast like the thunderbolts of heaven." July 29, 1834 The Sun. This is a tough debate to side with. I do believe that writers have a right to their opinion, but again at what cost should they be allowed to ruin peoples lives, especially since everyone is entitled to make mistakes!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Enlargement of the Communicative Competence

"The beliefs of the Founders about education paralleled their ideas about the postal system and the press; all three means would promote "the diffusion of knowlegde"and the principals of liberty on which the survival of the republic depended."Starr, The Creation of the Media, pg.99

Early attempts at a stable education system was rare. The task of creating the educational systems were given to the states. This meant that there wouldn't be an even distribution of schools across the country. Only in the north east did the roots the modern educational system really begin to take hold.

Due to it's legacy of education, the New England states fared better with support for public schooling. Most communities had a primary level school to help educate the children of the district. The framers of the costitution belived that a well educated populus would help in the longevity of the republic. However the vauge guidelines set forth by the framers left much of blueprint for speculation.

The Birth of Political Spin

With the establishment of free trade for papers and the expansion of the postal service, the rate of information circulation greatly increased. With this increase in circulation also came an increase from the people for more information. The right for the governing bodies to remain secret could no longer exist. The publicity of the government was required in order to quell any suspicions people had that the government was becoming too powerful. "Secret sessions also meant that senators' brilliant performances in the chamber did not receive coverage in their home-state papers, a disadvantage in building support for a second term" (Starr, p99).

With politicians' messages being transmitted throughout the states also came the need to refine those messages. The early political mass media cultures of Europe has no need to refine their messages because the public at large had no say in the runnings of the government. However, in America, the people were responsible for electing the officials within government. The idea that politicians had to please their constituents in order to get re-elected, I think, gave rise to the spin culture we see today.