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Media in Modern America

By CheSera in Op-Ed
Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:16:15 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

The progress of mass media in America has been a fascinating example of how a society speaks to itself. Recent events in modern American society have lead me to wonder about the next phase of evolution in our cultural exchange. While I have no doubt that we will continue to see the integration of new technologies and the always growing reach of the media, I worry more about the influences and forces that control the media as an entity.

To begin, in order to really evaluate today's media culture we have to look at the forms that the media has taken in the past. By forms, I refer mainly to the organizational structure that dominates the medium. The bedrock of American media is of course the newspaper. Born out of pamphlets and broadsides before, during, and after the Revolutionary war; the early American newspaper was essential to forming the cultural identity of what was up until a few years earlier a loose confederation of states.

These early papers were controlled lock, stock, and barrel by their editor. The editor took on the role of publisher, writer, and editor in what was in many cases a two or three man organization. The content was typically regional news, either written by the editor, or sent in by the readership. The closest analogy to this early formation is that of a town hall. The paper was the focal point for the group communication of the community. It is especially important to note that in this format, the readership was participating actively in the newspaper's content. Later, we will find that this fact is mostly unique to this era. After this stage, the readership slips into passivity and loses a considerable amount of control over the content in the paper.

After the dust had settled from the Revolution the social and economic structure of America began to change. Between 1815 and 1860 America began to shift away from its purely agricultural roots and move towards a city/marketplace driven culture. The impact on the media of America was considerable. Suddenly the paper was controlled not by the editor, but by the newly created role of the publisher. With the increase of business and the growing national marketplace's influence in society, the view of the voter shifted from citizen to consumer. Advertising took its place as master of the news paper. What was before a tool to educate a voter became a tool to reach a potential buyer. This signals the beginnings of corporate influence over the media. At this stage, the newspaper is still independent, if influenced by advertising.

After the Civil War the newspaper continued in its path towards true mass media. Regional papers still existed, but the more topic-centered papers began to die out. More and more papers began to focus on reaching greater numbers of readers. In order to do this they had to avoid taking controversial stances or showing a specific bias towards a point of view. This trend continued to grow, as cities grew and fragmented into diverse sub-cultures. What had been a distributed town hall became a blanket that tried to cover a wide variety of audiences.

(Here you'll allow me a little jump in time. If I reviewed every era I could, this article would turn into a dissertation.)

Now I'll get to my worries about the current Media landscape. What began as a growing influence of business in Media has become the wholesale ownership of media outlets by corporations. This is disturbing to say the least. Last night I saw an incredibly biased report on our local fox news broadcast. It was about Robert Downy Jr., and his current woes with the law. Now this is technically news I guess, but what struck me as particularly incredible was that they lead with this story on the 10:00 PM news. Not only that, but the story put Mr. Downy in a very favorable light. It almost made the prosecution case look absurd. Does his role in Ally McBeal automatically mean that the entire Fox network has to treat him with kid gloves?

We live in a time when virtually every mass media outlet (newspapers, television, radio, etc.) is controlled/owned by a massive company. The few independent outlets are rare, and usually confined to one area or topic. The typical response to this assertion is to acknowledge that most television networks are owned by corporations, but to vehemently deny that this has any effect over their content. Personally I find this incredibly naive. If, for example, Disney decided to fire someone on the basis of race, creed, or sexual preference (not that I'm saying they would, they're actually pretty open to alternative lifestyles), and ABC got a hold of the story first, do you really think they would run with it? Would it be as aggressive as if it was another company? (In case you didn't know already ABC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Disney corporation.) I can't believe that this would be the case.

A corporation is naturally self-interested, and in this case it seems only natural that they would use their influence over the news outlets they control to limit their exposure. And this is exactly my fear. When we have no major news outlets free from corporate influence America loses perspective on reality. We sink faster and faster into whatever illusion that Mass Media hoists upon us. In today's society, it seems to be the role of consumer. We've lost our identity as citizens. Would you like proof? Which do you consider more powerful? The vote or the dollar? Which controls society more? Of the two, which controls the other? In the last election we had a couple of very rich, very white, very well financed candidates who to most people were virtually interchangeable. If you did a survey where people had to be honest, do you think that the majority of Americans care more about who won the last election or who is going to be kicked off the island on Survivor next?

This is about when I start feeling like a conspiracy nut. If you had to take the most paranoid view possible, why would the corporations want to make sure that the American public didn't care about the election? Why would they emphasize your position as a consumer and a passive receiver of information rather than as a citizen and an active participant in society? I hope you can see where I'm going with this. I'm often reminded of the ancient Rome's habit of having circuses and games to keep people entertained while society went to hell. Instead of Christians and Lions, we've got a bunch of yuppies stuck in the Australian outback.

So I'm paranoid. Most of you might agree with me in part, but probably don't attribute the sinister motives I do to big business. I don't want to sound like I really think that they're all out to get us or anything. But we have to understand that they have their own best intrest at heart, and not our own. So if its better for them for us not to know something, well, lets just say that I doubt we'll be hearing about it on MSNBC or CNN.

"Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean everyone's not out to get me."
-Joeseph Heller
Catch 22


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
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Mass Media is ...
o Completely controlled by the busisnesses that own them. 52%
o Influenced by busisnesses. 9%
o In it for the money. 35%
o Mostly independent. 1%
o The only hope for American freedom. 0%
o God's Gift to the public. 1%

Votes: 87
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by CheSera

Display: Sort:
Media in Modern America | 72 comments (47 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden)
This Reads Like... (3.40 / 5) (#11)
by greyrat on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:04:30 PM EST

...the Cliffs Notes version of Habits of Highly Suggestive Media (or some such -- I don't remember the title and I'm a dozen miles from my bookshelves). It's interesting but very old hat. I'll give you a +1 to section since it looks like this is new to other people here.

Entropy requires no maintenance.

~ ~ ~
Did I actually read the article? No. No I didn't.
"Watch out for me nobbystyles, Gromit!"

+1 Front Page (3.75 / 4) (#13)
by communista on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:06:28 PM EST

Excellent writeup.

The media today has turned global events into a real life Truman Show. The influences of the media have turned every day tragedies and celebrations into epic mini-series, designed to make us laugh, cry, and hate the bad guys even more than we normally would. It's all about ratings, so much that it appears the reporters are going for Academy awards.

And the winner is, Dan Rather's story on the inner city crack babies!!! Sad.

Anyway, great interpretation.
/me fucks shit up!!!!
CNN and the Exit Polls (4.37 / 8) (#14)
by dneas on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:07:54 PM EST

This reminds me of a not-too-distant example of media bias occuring only last November. The fiasco over the exit polling during the presidential election was well reported outside of the US and in newspapers everywhere. Coverage in the american coporate media - from what I could tell via the snippits we get on Sky and CNNI - was minimal and certainly not critical of anybody in particular. When CNN was involved in self-criticism statements were to the point and over in a second. No dwelling, no depth. It smacked of usual corporate issue-skirting, admitting as little as you can (and blaming everyone else) to soften the blow to the company. I can't imagine how much shit they must have been recieving from Time Warner's management.

This is in direct contrast to the media in this country, at least the broadcast media. If the BBC fouls up, it will cover it adnauseum, to the point where to be honest it gets sickening. Five Live - the chat and news radio network - will do some talk show about the licence fee, the issue will be dealt with, everyone will learn from it and everyone goes home to tea. The same could be said of the commercial network's bar Murdock's Sky. Regulation also forces many into making the odd embarrasing text written statement on screen - blue background and grudging apology from the narrator. However awful sounding these forms of self-regulation and plainoldregulation are, they serve to give the broadcast media half a shread of honesty.

Still though there are problems - occasionaly interferance from those-above inhibits the jurnolists right-to-report, as was well demonstated in the Mandelson "Don't you dare mention that fact even though a close friend of his claimed he was a homosexual one of your programmes" edict put out several years ago. Disgruntled BBC jurnolists managed to skirt the edict by gutting the audio out of the interview, which many could obtain from pirated copies floating about the studios of ITN. Even with the edict the edict was reported. The BBC jurnos are a resorceful bunch.

Attempts at town hall reportage are obviously being made here and in other places on the net such as the leftist Independent Media Center. The IMC has had it's problems - outside of protest time it really only serves as a noticeboard for activists as well as a spam dump for any political movement irrespective of their leanings. Some good stuff is to be found if you dig. The IMC's lassiez faire system - go on, you know you want to publish - has it's problems but there is always something intresting to read. It may not be the future but it is a damn good start.
-- "The car is on fire, and there's no driver at the wheel." Cut out the spam block if you need to email about something.

Is this in fact a class paper? (3.87 / 8) (#17)
by lmnop on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:25:03 PM EST

Is it me or am I seeing more of these articles cropping up? Meaning, articles that read like term-papers.

Is k5 turning into a peer review system for homework assignments?

Half of me feels used, the other half thinks it's a not-so-bad idea. Maybe I'm just cranky today.

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
True (4.33 / 3) (#19)
by CheSera on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:31:13 PM EST

A lot of the motivation for this article came from a couple of my classes. This article was a kind of combination of a lot of things I had been thinking about as a result of my classes. BTW, take a look at this series of comments. It kind of touches on the same topic.



[ Parent ]
bad mousing (2.00 / 1) (#21)
by lmnop on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:46:35 PM EST

I had actually meant to post my comment to the ones you cited. Combination of little sleep and carpal tunnel syndrome (and, of course, crankiness).

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
[ Parent ]
Crankenstein (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by lmnop on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 01:38:46 PM EST

It is just me being cranky. Sorry.

To the topic at hand: It just comes off as yet another rant about mass media, even with the historical references.

You don't give enough evidence for your thesis, which I'm inferring is you think today's media is corporate-controlled crap.

As naive it is to think money doesn't influence decisions as to what does and doesn't get published, it's also naive to think this is a new issue.

rework and repost.


"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
[ Parent ]
writing classes (4.66 / 3) (#25)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 03:05:33 PM EST

Most schools (at least in the US) only teach you how to write term papers and nothing more. Heck, mine only taught people how to write using one specific format (5 paragraphs, an intro, a conclusion, 3 topical. First sentance in intro is an attention getter followed by a transition into your thesis. Use of pronouns refering to yourself or the reader are strictly forbidden, etc, etc. 90% of papers sounded exactally the same, it sucked.)

I'm not suprised that many people use that style with their submissions because it may be the only style of writing that they are comforable with or the only one that they were taught was "correct."

[ Parent ]

Re: Is this in fact a class paper? (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by eLuddite on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 01:07:18 AM EST

This term's paper will be "American Culture: Manufactured consent vs. T-Rex snacking on a lawyer taking a dump. Compare and contrast."

God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

You're sitting on the solution. (3.66 / 6) (#23)
by tailchaser on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 02:03:10 PM EST

Interesting that you submit an essay on the problem to the channel which itself is the solution. Sites like K5, That Other Site, &c. are the simplest answer to corporate-filtered media - open, public media channels that give a voice to the audience directly, with minimal interference from the administration.

By the same token, the biggest problem - IMO - is that any interesting weblogs would tend to attract more technically-inclined people, who would tend to promote more technical stories to the community, which would tend to narrow the community to the more technically-inclined, and so on.

It would be interesting to follow the evolution of a weblog-type service which presented information as accessable to the "average" user as any CNN story.

K5 isn't enough (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by ZanThrax on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 04:12:30 PM EST

As I've had to point out elsewhere, K5 isn't a news site, its a discussion site. Sometimes we wind up talking about current events, but only after someone links to CNN or ABC. We don't neccessarily need to report the news ourselves, we just need a source that we can trust. That may be easier with some sort of community-content type site, but would be a massive undertaking, and require a lot of people to learn proper journalistic methods.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Not limited to news (5.00 / 2) (#35)
by tailchaser on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:36:19 PM EST

This issue isn't strictly limited to breaking news, it's media in general. A morning talk show discussing the previous [night|week|month]'s news will probably influence the opinions of its audience just as much as the original news story did. In some cases, the discussion about an event can have much more impact than the event itself; look at something like the OJ Simpson trial, which lingered on in every conceivable media channel for months and months (US-centric, I know).


[ Parent ]

only the beginning (none / 0) (#63)
by kellan on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 12:25:15 PM EST

i love k5, i'm spending way too much time on it this week, however k5 is not going to change the media system, or the world.

the web has a number of serious problems as a platform for revolution.

  • its a white, middle-class, american, male medium. it doesn't have to be, but a significant percentage of the audience, and an overwhelming percentage of the producers of the web fit this category.
  • expensive - have you noticed the death of the non-commerical web over the last couple of years? it was sudden, brutual, and thorough. commerical media does not change the world.
  • consolidated - look at mediametrix's top 50 sites. they all have partnerships with the corporate media. right now that is how you drive traffic, you partner with the corporate media to create "marketting synergies". (ie selling shit and calling it journalism)
i want the web to change the world, i work on independent web based media, but we've had to admit to ourselves that the by itself, the web will never get our message out into the streets.

(please forgive lack of grammar, i'm running out the door)

[ Parent ]

Why the mass media is useless (3.75 / 4) (#36)
by rainwalker on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:44:25 PM EST

This is an excellent point, and one which is overlooked by many people. It is doubly amusing to me, because I just took a break from "The Longest Journey", in which the police forces (as well as everything else) are owned by massive corporate conglomerates, and an amusing comment is made concerning how the police first arrest you, then try to sell you stuff. Anyway.

CheSera has a good illustration of one of the reasons I have almost completely severed myself from the traditional mass media, due mainly to its increasing abandonment of any pretense of objectivity. There is almost certainly (IMHO) a fairly large amount of journalistic filtering in the news media, some blatent, some simply employees slightly and naturally reluctant to say anything TOO bad about the people that sign their paychecks. I have been told by some friends going into journalism that it is getting very difficult to find a decent job, especially in newspapers, television, and so on. I really don't blame people for being a little hesitiant to jeopardize their hard-won job, since they can be replaced in a heartbeat. Now, in an ideal world, they would be able to adhere to strict standards of journalistic integrity, and this would not be an issue, but this is currently not the situation.

What is of far more concern to me personally <rant> is the trememdous, blatent bias in the mass media, where the carefully spun opinions of the powerful or popular are presented as fact, without even a prefunctory nod towards the truth. If I want people's opinions, I will listen to talk radio, or go read Slashdot (if I am feeling anti-MSFT) or kuro5hin. When I feel like finding out what is going on outside of my little bubble, and I go listen to/read CNN, ABC, NBC, et alia I expect to find *news*, not carefully prepared soundbites providing my opinions in a convenient, prepackaged format. A current example is the deal with the US Gov't making noise about how encryption should be limited, because terrorists are using it. This is your classic prepackaged opinion, no thought required, which is accepted blindly by the masses. You have all the usual ingredients:
1. A catchy word in the title to ensure headlines, such as "terrorist", or "hacker", or whatever
2. A political agenda, "We really want to remove your ability to use encryption [so that you can be easily monitored]"
3. Some irrational yet highly sensitive subject designed to let you overlook the agenda in number 2, "Terrorists are using encryption to plan to kill people! We must remove this tool from them!"

Someone mentioned above that sites like kuro5hin are the answer to this problem, and I do agree. At least on this site, for example, people are honest enough to differentiate between opinion and fact. It just irritates me that these comapnies are being allowed to completely control public opinion. I suppose that a large amount of the fault lies with the people, for allowing themselves to be controlled, but it is still sick. Thanks for reading to the end-


...I have noticed that many kuro5hin posters are from outside the US, so I feel it only fair to point out that my opinions are only directed at the US mass media, as I have no experience whatsoever with other nation's media.

Bashing the media (4.00 / 3) (#38)
by jasonab on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:55:03 PM EST

Someone mentioned above that sites like kuro5hin are the answer to this problem, and I do agree. At least on this site, for example, people are honest enough to differentiate between opinion and fact. It just irritates me that these comapnies are being allowed to completely control public opinion. I suppose that a large amount of the fault lies with the people, for allowing themselves to be controlled, but it is still sick.

Ah, the great whipping boy of our time, the media. It's too liberal! No, it's too conservative! No, it hates traditional values! No, it can't understand technology! It's against the Arabs! No, it's against Israel! I can't believe those sheep (of your favorite group to hate) believe that stuff!

Amazingly enough, the media seems to be against everyone, all the time. There was an interesting article (in a traditional media outlet, I believe the Boston Globe) about how people are more and more turning to specialized outlets for their news. The problem is, these outlets tend to blind them to the greater reality. If, for example, you only read Israeli news, you'll likely never get the Arab side. If you only read Slashdot, you'll rarely get the MS side. If you read k5, you'll think everyone in the world is an anarchist libertarian athiest. Don't kid yourself, K5 is as biased as talk radio. It's just that, like talk radio or Slashdot, "objective" means "I agree with it," anAd "controlled opinion" means "everyone else disagrees with me."

America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
[ Parent ]
as i see it (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by madslacker on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 09:21:40 PM EST

the issue is not whether they are 'conservative' or 'democratic' or whatever, it is that they have no objectivety at all, and no journalistic integrity. the fact that they will practically sell their souls (and slander every time it is convenient) to get some rating, regardless of truth value. one bias they do have though, i, at least, fervently believe, is in favor of business. it makes them money. like i said above, they could care less if they are reporting accurately, so long as they get 'a few extra bucks'. they are all owned by massive corporations, none free of their taint (they=cnn, abc, nbc, et al.). as long as the parent companies/corporate america does well, they get paid.

that is all. move along, move along.

[ Parent ]

It IS old hat, yes (3.00 / 2) (#37)
by Alhazred on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 06:52:00 PM EST

Its true, this is old, but older than you mentioned. I mean certainly Marcuse's "One Dimensional Man" essentially encorporates the same message, in a much broader and more general form. I'm not even going to rummage around on my meager bookshelf but I'm sure I can find precedents older than that. Even in the last century this was an issue. So why is it a crisis now?
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Media schmedia (4.50 / 10) (#39)
by onyxruby on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 07:14:54 PM EST

I had an experience with the media about a year ago or so involving one of my friends. He had decided to enter an online relationship with a 17 year old girl from another state. After months of talking, he decided to go pick her up and bring her back here. Small problem - he never got the Mom's permission. I almost drove him, but he could never produce an emancipation letter for her.

Turned out not going on that trip was one of the smartest things I ever did. He left and took the bus down there on a Friday, and was scheduled to arrive back via bus on Monday. So on Monday Signal11 walks up to me at work and says "I think one of your friends is on this news website". I punch up the site, and sure enough, my friend, and this girl are on the front page with the headline "Local pedophile kidnaps Florida girl met through Internet". Now, being as that I almost drove them up here, and talked to the girl ahead of time I knew she had not been kidnapped. Needless to say, this captured my attention and I spent my day watching the story develop in the media.

I checked a plethora of local, national, and Florida websites. My friend, and this girl were on the front page of everyone of them. They were also all over the tv according to friends not at work. I called and talked to his best friend, his wife, and several other people that knew about what was going on (his trip was hardly a secret). While this FBI-led nationwide manhunt was going on, he and the girl were blissfully riding the bus back, without a clue of what was going on.

The media never once checked with his roommates, his family, or his friends. They made no effort to check basic facts, or research a second side to the story. He was reported as working for Microsoft (he worked at Micron), he was reported as having a struggle with the girl evidenced by the fact that her hard drive was missing (the girl took it out herself as the computer was to big to bring with on the bus), he was listed as abandoning his wife and three kids (he seperated from her months before - and had 2 kids), he was said to have stopped by his wife's/xwifes house with his "mistress" to flaunt her (they took the bus from the greyhound terminal directly to their apartment), and so on. The damage done by the media was enough that it almost cost him his job. His workplace (which also knew he was going to pick up the girl), watched the story as intrigued as I was. He was told bluntly by his manager, that the only reason he still had his job was that the wrong employer was named.

About 2 hours after he got home the FBI found him as he walked out the door. They quickly found the girl, discovered that she was making lunch, and not the least bit concerned about having been "kidnapped". The most amusing thing was that the only fact the media got right about the story on a consistent basis was the hard drive being removed. Everything else was innacurate, and could have been easily checked. Incidentally, the FBI never even bothered to grab the hard drive the media made such a fuss about.

In the end, my friend was never even arrested, and the girl was free to stay after the greatly concerned mother could not be bothered to come up here and bring her daughter back. However those facts, like the fact that she came willingly, were never reported by the media. They were only interested so long as they had a sensationalist story. Once things turned out to be "OK" the story was dead, the media saw no need for correction. All in all I can now sypmathize with Richard Jewell for his ordeal. It is unfortunate that people who have their lives needlessly ruined by the media do not sue, as Richard Jewell did, more often.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

Emphasizing a few things (4.33 / 3) (#45)
by jasonab on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 09:57:18 PM EST

Interesting article. I don't remember reading about it, but I don't doubt the general gist of the story.

I do think there are some interesting side notes here:

1. The FBI acted quite professional, from what you said. As much as we bash law enforcement, it seems that they did not overreact to the situation, even after they started a manhunt.

2. I presume the "media" mentioned here is local media. I've found them to be the most sensationalistic of any media, by far. Did any national media pick this up? There are a lot of generalizations going on in this (overall) discussion, which I think is very dangerous. Some outlets are biased, others less so. Painting them all with the same brush is dangerous.

America is a great country. One of the freest in the world. -- greenrd
[ Parent ]
Answers (4.25 / 4) (#47)
by onyxruby on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 10:24:36 PM EST

Yes from what I understand the FBI was quite professional about things. They never yelled, threatened, intimidated or anything else of the like. They talked to both my friend and the girl, seemed satisfied that she hadn't been kidnapped by some crazed lunatic, and dropped my friend off after about 3 hours of questioning. Ironically, by the time the media picked up that he had been picked up, he (and she) had already been let go and dropped off at his apartment.

As for the media, I know it caught on ABCnews.com, briefly CNN, and I think MSNBC. Beyond that it was all over Florida and Minnesota. As far as your bias comment goes, I have to give that to you. Now that mention it, there was one station that refused to run the story based on substantial unsubstationated facts. They did run it, but only after more details were available, like the fact that the girl was unharmed and no charges were pressed. In all fairness, I should have given them that credit.

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.
[ Parent ]

Actually... (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by Signal 11 on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 11:05:06 PM EST

Actually, I believe my exact words were "**** is on the front page of WCCO right now and the FBI is looking for him." To which you put your finger on the mute button and told me to wait a minute while you finished fixing some database error with a customer. It wasn't until after you got off the phone some five minutes later that you watched the realaudio feed and left a very memorable message on someone's answering machine...

You have an emergency on your hands but you don't know it yet... call me!

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Wow! (none / 0) (#66)
by jethro on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 05:13:37 PM EST

You mean the (in?)famous Signal11 is RIGHT HERE in Minneapolis??!?

And I was thinking of moving to a different state!

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky.
[ Parent ]
Wow? (none / 0) (#68)
by Signal 11 on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:51:58 PM EST

You mean the (in?)famous Signal11 is RIGHT HERE in Minneapolis??!?

No. didn't you hear, I come in six packs!

Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Good (none / 0) (#69)
by jethro on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 04:00:45 PM EST

Actually I'm surprised because the most common cause for Signal 11 for me has been overheating, and that really isn't that much of a concern in Minneapolis.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is kinky.
[ Parent ]
Bundling is evil (3.50 / 2) (#40)
by mami on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 07:22:48 PM EST

I think the worst is, that the consumer can only buy TV channels bundled. If I were the consumer and could buy single channels or even single programs from specific channels only, and if I were able to pay per channel and program chosen, then market forces would be such that crap on the long run had a tough time to survive.

Let's say if your budget allows you to see TV for $30.00 per month and you had to buy each program you want to see, you would clearly choose the programs which you consider the best. Ratings would have a real meaning,
and crap would loose.

Bundling is evil.

Crap would loose?? (1.00 / 1) (#43)
by DAldredge on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 09:01:33 PM EST

Then explain Jerry Springer, Survior, and Soap Operas.... They are "crap" but they get very high ratings!!!

The word is American, not USian.
American \A*mer"i*can\, n. A native of America; -- originally applied to the aboriginal inhabitants, but now applied to the descendants of Europeans born in America, and especially to the citizens of the US
[ Parent ]
Crap would loose?? (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by mami on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 11:24:28 PM EST

I can't explain it, nor do I have any proof. May be it's just wishful thinking, but I believe that many are just watching this stuff because it's available per default, doesn't cost extra, and they are too tired for watching anything less sensationalized and more demanding.

I have observe that people get addicted to soaps if they have no jobs, are isolated and have no money to do anything else but stay at home.

In addition they cater to adolescents in almost exclusively addressing relationship and sex issues putting all those "deepest little personal secrets" phonily into the limelight. It's something which always can attract an audience with youngsters. It's very emotionally abusive in a sense. But what can you do about it, without censoring or enforcing more real competition.

Bottomline is that the media have no counterbalancing force which could limit their power. They can get away with anything, basically. All under protection of the first amendment. Unbundling the broadcast is just one little thing, which I thought, might help to introduce more conscious choice. But that's just an assumption.

One other thing which could possibly change this, if everything became more interactive. Just imagine that the audience could respond to the broadcast by immediately have their email comments broadcasted on the bottom of the screen. If the audience could grill and hold talkshow hosts and guests accountable for what they ask and what they answer without being cut off.

Or, for example, there were an audience moderation mechanism in place like you have at K5, putting the story up and letting the audience comment immediately to decide, if the story is worthwhile, phony, boring etc. That might help.

[ Parent ]
The most important book concerning American media (3.40 / 5) (#41)
by marimba on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 07:54:44 PM EST

is Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman.

why do you say so? (2.33 / 6) (#42)
by Estanislao Martínez on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 08:13:01 PM EST

How many books on the U.S. media have you read? Why is that one better than the others?

Unless you haveread tons of such books (and if you have, stop reading here), why do you think you can make such claims?

[ Parent ]

mcchesney is good too (4.50 / 2) (#55)
by akb on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 08:44:50 AM EST

Manufacturing Consent is great, a documentary was also made. Rich Media, Poor Democracy has a different focus, McChesney does a more structural analysis of the media industry. I can't recommend either enough.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

mcch and imc (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by kellan on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 12:31:11 PM EST


great call on mcchesney, i've been thinking of doing a synopsis of "Will the Internet Save Us?" for distribution on weblogs. "Rich Media" is funny, convincing, approachable, and researched like hell.

also, i've noticed you reference imc several times. do i know you? are you working with a particular imc, a member of the network, or just showing solidarity?

either way, keep the great comments coming.


[ Parent ]

re: mcch and imc (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by akb on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 10:33:06 AM EST

Kellan, Yes, you do know me, I contribute (too) occasionally to the imc-tech group.

I look forward to reading your synopsis. It will be useful to be able to reference a short article when someone says "so what if the current media is corrupt, the internet will fix everything". You see that sentiment on this thread and even by people like Bruce Perens and ESR.

I think that K5 and the IMC communities are pretty compatible, this article and the discussion its spawned are good evidence of that. Given that, I try to mention Indymedia on here a bunch, god knows we need more geeks at Indymedia :) K5 is going beyond the geek community which is good and in some ways does a better job tha Indymedia of incorporating user contributions into the site. It doesn't have the IMC process or mission, which I think will limit what it can become.

I also like scoop's interface and features, I think Indy sites would do well to incorporate some into Active

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

Media is entertainment. (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by kingcnut on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 10:03:22 PM EST

The mass media are part of the entertainment industry. Since there is no absolute objectivity anyway all reports of events are biased implicitly. Even if you see an event with your own eyes you are only taking away one possible view of the situation, prejudiced as it is with your own experience and thought tendencies. (or lack-of-thought tendencies)
It's not just the mass media that are owned and controlled by massive corporations, everything is. If not owned then controlled.
The underlying implicit mesages contained in all mass media broadcasts since the Industrial Revolution urge us to consume. Without exponential consumption what would we do with all this exponential productivity? Give it away?

Workers of the world ... Relax!

at least... (3.00 / 2) (#49)
by maskatron on Thu Feb 08, 2001 at 11:34:09 PM EST

the web (or, to be more accurate kur5hin) provides us with a forum to discuss just how bad mass media is. wait, i might be on to something...nah. the media is interesting. i try to view it as a source of entertainment. i wake up in the morning and hear about some international event. then, there's a good chance i might hear about what hillary clinton's view on it is (or what she wore yesterday). it is really starting to freak me out. the parallels between ancient rome and the US are pretty scary too. it's all the same shit.

Destroy Corporate Media (4.60 / 5) (#51)
by bjord on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 03:15:57 AM EST

You aren't paranoid enough. The control of media by a limited number of exceedingly rich elite groups is a nightmare with devasting effects that you can see everyday. The most noticeable is the near verbatim re-reporting of corporate and government press releases. Almost no attention is given to protest movements or radical dissent, unless they are an extension of some normalized right-wing institution, like abortion clinic bombers or something.

Geeks in particular need to get moving on this. Living in San Francisco, it is very apparent to me that like-minded geeks are getting sucked into a superficial and destructive dot-com culture instead of staying in or joining the rapidly-growing counter-culture, something which has been brewing for decades now.

It was a shame to see union groups, anti-racist groups, anarchists, and pirate radio folks out protesting the National Association of Broadcasters and the FCC in September, but aside from a few 2600 kids, there were no geeks to be found. Many geeks who have so-called freedom of speech ideals even worked against LPFM, which has now been defeated by massive corporate lobbying and misinformation.

Still, there are a lot of anarchogeeks out there who are spending time developing radically open and alternative media resources on the net, on paper, and on the airwaves.

Until more geeks get involved with revolutionary geek activity, corporate control of media, the internet and information will continue to grow stronger.

A view from inside (4.50 / 4) (#52)
by thePositron on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 03:50:49 AM EST

A view from inside a corporate TV station's news broadcast.

good article (none / 0) (#54)
by fantastic-cat on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 05:40:05 AM EST

It tallies closely with my experiences. Although now I work for public service broadcaster constantly under threat of losing funding unless we become more "commercial" t.

[ Parent ]
become the media (5.00 / 4) (#56)
by akb on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 09:18:39 AM EST

Indymedia is a network of now 40 Independent Media Centers (IMCs) spread across the world that wants people to "become the media". The general idea is that the media is ours and thus we must all take part in making it, rather than let corporate controlled media do so. Anyone can contribute to Indymedia and participate in the editorial process.

The group was started during the Seattle protests to provide coverage that the mainstream media wouldn't, as the idea has spread and caught on the focus has broadened to providing permanent community media outlets, primarily locally based but also working together to form a network. Most IMCs publish primarily through the web, but groups have produced videos, newspapers, radio shows, CDs and some IMCs are doing so on a regular basis.

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net

I used to get US News and World Report (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by weirdling on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 01:01:41 PM EST

The magazine US News and World Report used to be one of the least-biased magazines in the country, steadily stearing a course that reported fairly on both liberal and conservative issues. Being a Libertarian, I was pleased and all was well.
One day, they did a report on gun violence in America, which was so riddled with easily checked disinformation and so full of bias against law-abiding gun owners that it caused me to do something I rarely do: write a letter to the editor.
Being as how that did nothing and the magazine continued to garner a rather forcible liberal bias until I got the issue a while ago that had the 'Global Warming' story, about which Chicken Little would have been proud, I no longer read the magazine. I still get it; I don't know why because I haven't paid for it since the gun article over a year ago and I had a year-to-year subscription, but I also get the Sunday paper and have never paid for that and never read it.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Media (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by Khedak on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 03:43:58 PM EST

Yup, this is important. Yup, big business has a lot to do with it, but at really high levels, it's hard to distinguish big business from big government from ultra-rich stockholders. They're all linked by mutual interest and in many cases personally. For example, George Bush comes from an 'oil family' and is also the President. He's pushing an energy bill that has a large amount of funds for, guess what, domestic oil production and research, as well as deregulation. The media never reports "Oh, and by the way, it's well known that the Bushs are oil czars and will profit personally from this." ...

Anyway, my basic sentiment is agreement, but that it's not just some vague entity known as "big business" at fault: There's an American elite in power in government as well as many industries that, though they have their own infighting, is largely in control of the mainstream media.

Grow Up -- You get what you pay for! (3.00 / 2) (#59)
by redelm on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 05:45:43 PM EST

I disagree with the thesis that corporate media is abusing the citizenry. The citizenry don't want to pay for the media, so they get exactly what they pay for.

Perhaps certain conditions could be imposed for use of the radio spectrum. But relatively few people really complain about the broadcast media, so conditions are unlikely. More likely, spectum would be auctioned for $$$/year.

Face it: this is a democracy and most people don't really mind corporate media. Or are you going to say they are all brainwashed and ignorant? Or do you deserve more votes because you are smart?

It's OK to try to persuade people. As you are doing, as others are doing, and as corporations are doing. Or are corporations, their shareholders and employees somehow less than human? It is not OK to coerce them. Are you advocating this?

I believe there are enough alterative sources of news [much more and easier now with the Internet] that all news is available if you trouble yourself to look for it. Nothing is obliterated, but alot may well be underreported and underpublicised. Tough. But don't blame the controlling corps -- blame the lazy masses who let them.

hmm... (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by akb on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 12:06:53 AM EST

I disagree with much of what you are saying fairly strongly, but I modded you up 'cause I think you raise the issues intelligently and discussion of this could be fruitful and important.

My main objection to the viewpoint that you've expressed is that you accept the link between money and access to the media. Media is a society's consciousness, as such it should be everyone's not just the wealthy's. If the media is essentially for sale how can the concerns of the poor and other disadvantaged groups ever be addressed?

For a democracy to function a variety of voices must be able to have access to the media and public fora, having the media controlled by a few with interests to be protected is crippling to the proper function of democracy.

> Or are you going to say they are all brainwashed and ignorant?

Don't underestimate the power of the media, especially as its being held in fewer and fewer hands. The former chairman of Time Warner Gerald Levin certainly doesn't underestimate that power, consider (CNN 1/2/00):

Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin (CNN 1/2/00) who said he forsees a world where media business is "more important than government... more important than educational institutions and non-profits" and that corporate dominance "is going to be forced anyhow because when you have a system that is instantly available everywhere in the world immediately, then the old-fashioned regulatory system has to give way."

> But don't blame the controlling corps -- blame the lazy masses who let > them.

I really don't like the way this is phrased. I think that civil society has been undermined to the point where "the masses" are at a large disadvantage. I do agree though that the solution will have to be that the people will have to take the media back. Won't you join us in trying with Indymedia?

Collaborative Video Blog demandmedia.net
[ Parent ]

Premises (none / 0) (#62)
by redelm on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 07:44:49 AM EST

It's clear we disagree. But I respect you for it, and for expressing you views so clearly.

It seems to me that you consider the owners/operators of media have a duty to society to air poor voices. I'd agree that that would be a moral thing to do, and maybe even business-smart.

Where I disagree is that they should be compelled to do so. The coersion won't work, and the media will become even more biased! When you compel people, they will try to evade. So you have to watch constantly, and enforcement is never uniform. The complainers/enforcers usually wind up with large discretionary power. Look at the pathetic "War on Drugs". Do you want the White House to control the media rather than the moguls?

Perhaps you don't want to go that far. Just give one hour of prime-time per night to "community broadcasting". Mostly like, large numbers of people would tune-out, and complain their favorite shows have been cancelled. There would also be a big rush to get this airtime, and somebody would have to be the gatekeeper. They would get outsized power.

I like the media moguls even less than you do. They are self-aggrandizing self-important vain people. I don't know what it is, but show-biz goes to people's heads. But at least they have counterbalancing pressures. Ratings versus advertisers. On small stuff, they defer to advertisers. On big stuff, they go with ratings, for example Firestone/Ford. An FCC bureaucrat has only a political agenda.

As for the masses, I do not agree that they are at any involuntary disadvantage. They were in the 1950s & '60s. Media was _much_ tighter controlled then. Mostly, I don't think people care much beyond their own interests. An expose might rouse them a bit, or they might say sympathic things, but ultimately they fall back to their own interests. That is their right. And I'd argue that people will inform themselves pretty well about things that affect them.

[ Parent ]

hello (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by A5triX on Sat Feb 10, 2001 at 04:36:09 PM EST

I don't usually post but I'm going to go out on a limb. (Actually it's my second time). Frankly I don't think your comments are breaking news to anyone, however, I am glad that you posted it being that all of us need to constantly be reminded of the travesty that is corporate sponsered media. I am very pleased that you touched on the subject of the citizen vs. consumer role in society and also wish you would have elaborated more. It reminds me of a conversation I had recently with a friend debating the difference between a citizen and consumer in society. At the dawn of the industrial age and the assembly line, when big business started to take over and mass media gained wide acceptance, soon began their piledge of America's hard working, gradually placing the majority in the role of consumer. Now granted this seems simply the product of a capatalistic society, which when put into focus sure beats the alternatives, however, taking on the role of a consumer seems to cheapen our existance and worth. I think if anything should be pointed out it is that. When the corporations have their way, we cease to be active, concerned members in our society and become statistics. The simple solution ... burn your television. That simple. ;) well maybe not THAT simple.
Brendon M. Maragia
Project Censored (4.50 / 2) (#70)
by Jebediah on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 05:10:31 AM EST

Our college runs a program called Project Censored. It is designed to spotlight the stories that the corporate media has "overlooked", or more aptly, chosen to ignore. It is a great site to see what the news media could be covering but doesn't. Some of the stuff they have found is truly shocking and has given me many a nightmare. In addition some of the stories are great for doing a mass printing using school resources :)

get by with a lack of help from my friends (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by inert_mass on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 11:03:30 AM EST

I've never posted here, so, no one really knows anything about me. A little bit of background: I am a cultural studies major, and I got into an argument/discussion with one of my TA's about modern media
We have just finished analyzing an article. The focus there was on the lack of journalistic integrity rather than the potential cause for that lack of integrity.
Back to the point: the conclusion that we came to is that while the giant corporations that control our media do in some instances bias the news, they are not the only ones at fault.
We, as consumers of that media, are also to blame. How many of us watch the inane crap that they throw at us? How many saw, though maybe not enjoyed, "Who Wants to Marry A MultiMillionaire?"
Corporate media will give us what we want if we want something else. The idea for them is to make as much advertising money as they can. If they will get more viewers (and, hence, more money) by reporting strictly the news in as unbiased a way as possible, they'll do it. But, WE have to let them know that we want something else.

"This is the end..."
Re: get by with a lack... (none / 0) (#72)
by romcross on Tue Feb 27, 2001 at 07:16:22 PM EST

This is also my first post.

> Corporate media will give us what we want if we want something else.

I absolutely agree. It comes back, then, to why "we" do not ask for something else or more. Why? I would propose that it is ignorance that we can ask and also education. I am currently in college, and do not have a television. I don't really want one. even once I can afford one ;-)

Most people, if asked, would say that they are uneffected by most advertising. There have been many studies suggesting that this sentiment is nonsense. I mean by this that when, during a conversation, "Who Wants to Marry A MultiMillionaire?" comes up, those of us who saw it speak as if we are somehow above it, more educated than the level to which it seems to cater. (I did see it, by the way.)

Perhaps what we should do is simply refuse to watch lousy TV and act as citizens of our culture, rather than consumers of our culture.

I like the phrase 'citizens of our culture.' We should be active participants.

[ Parent ]
Media in Modern America | 72 comments (47 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden)
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