Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Per Chris' request :)

I think requiring the discussant(s) to post some after-seminar thoughts is a good idea. This will allow the rest of us to reflect on the discussion a bit more, as well as allow the discussant(s) to send some thoughts to the group that may not have fit well into the flow of the day's discussion.

I left discussion today with a reminder to always be skeptical of what I read. I finished the Fry piece accepting the idea that local news organizations provided little more than sensationalistic coverage during the floods. I really had no basis to doubt her -- I had a difficult time trying to recall how bad the situation was. Fortunately, however, we had Linda and Amanda who experienced the flooding first-hand and were able to refute some of Fry's contentions. This helped restore my faith in news organizations operating under these circumstances.

One thing that did strike me as odd, however, and this was brought up in discussion, is the lack of attention given to cable news coverage of the floods. Even if the local networks weren't providing the kind of historical perspective Fry was looking for, it is very possible that the cable news networks were. To me, the most important news in these types of crises is a straightforward description of what's happening at the moment. The larger picture perspective, at least initially, is just filler. Cable news networks would have more of an opportunity, in terms of time, to touch on broader areas.

Some other thoughts ...

We didn't discuss much of the May article, so I would like to address one aspect here. May contends that journalists are constrained by their "news net," which refers to the amount of sources journalists have for information. The news net is determined, as May states, by time constraints, but he doesn't mention the possibility that this is largely due to competition in the news industry, which is further driven by advancements in communication technology. News organizations are now able to get stories out to the public almost instantaneously, so it seems like there's more of a tendency for journalists to keep going to the same well, so to speak, for their information, so they can be the first to break a story.

Also, another issue I had with the May piece is his contention that news media try to paint a uniform picture of the world for their audiences. For example, he cites a Hall et al. (1978) article which states that newspaper coverage often attempts "to secure a consensual picture of the world where no such consensus exists" (p. 25). I think, however, that this is merely a product of the "news values" that May talks about, which are largely determined by the desires of the public. For instance, May writes that the homeless are often characterized in a way that will "reassure readers of their own normalcy" (p. 32). More specifically, urban homeless are classified as "animals" (p. 32) who live on the fringes of the city, and rural homeless are romanticized as friendly and harmless so as not to ruin the pristine image of the English countryside. This really made me think about the "us versus them" mentality that was brought up in discussion last week. Homeless people are often depicted in the way Fry contends they are because that's the way the audience wants to perceive the homeless situation. Therefore, I'm not so sure the media can take most of the blame for these inaccurate depictions. A great deal of the problem may lie in what the public is willing to accept as "accurate."

On to Aaron's comments . . .

Great ideas. I don't think meaningful discussion can be achieved if we are all scrambling to get our questions/comments to the blog by a certain time. Also, I think some of us, namely me, are still getting used to the whole blogging thing. I've never done this sort of thing before, so I'm still trying to get comfortable with the whole concept.

Oh, by the way, I tried posting this Wednesday after class, but the page kept quitting on me. Is this common with Blogger?

That's it -- have a great weekend.

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