Class 7: Objectivity and Truth in Media

This is just a copy of of the Professor Jones powerpoint text to use as a reference/guideline, add any notes or links you may have that elaborates on his points for each heading.

Media and trust

• In global society, we depend on media sources to relay information about events and locations well outside our immediate experience
• Implicit trust that the information we get is valuable

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Survey

• From what sources do you get information about important national/international events?
• In a given week, approximate how much time to you spend consulting each source?
• How much do you trust these sources? (1-5 scale, 1

trust hardly at all; 5

completely trust)

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Objectivity in Mass Media

• Early history of news - localized press, often blatantly biased and controlled by power
• Objectivity as journalistic imperative - “just the facts” reporting

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Why objectivity?

• Response corporate or government censorship
• Democratization of access - “fair access” efforts
• Economic incentive - just the facts reporting offends less people, broadening market base
• Increases perceived truth

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A difficult balancing act

• Neutral vs. investigative
• Fair vs. pointed
• Too much “just the facts” - can lead to laundry lists of facts, no investigation of truth value, no synthesis of information

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Problems with Objectivity

• An excuse for lazy reporting - one side, other side, no fact-checking or attempt at synthesis
• If one side is considerably more powerful (e.g., government, corporation) - esp. if they hide or obfuscate facts
• Big problems have multiple opinions - reduction to false dichotomy does not help

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Media Bias

• Fox News slogans: “fair and balanced” is objectively anything but - but repeated as mantra all the same
• “We report, you decide” - reportage is often very one-sided, with other side ineffectually represented or slanted

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Gatekeeping bias

• Mass media - limited space for investigation, editing is required
• What is and is not included?
• How much space is given?
• What is the order of items?
• All these influence audience interpretation of importance

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Bias and reporting

• Reporters are human beings - they conform to social norms
• Realize that certain stories “sell” better, which increase fame, fortune
• Conflict and common stories easier
• Events vs. process stories - process is harder to relate, less done
Ex: Investigative Reporting
• Transparent subjectivity - biases and framing known and part of dialogue
• Encourage not just factual regurgitation but analysis, argument and expertise
• Can be popular - but also can be expensive

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Ex: Al-Jazeera
• Satellite television based in Qatar
• Broke through traditional Arab language TV, much of which was centrally controlled
• Managed to alienate both Middle Eastern and American power bases - but very popular on the ground
• Caused considerable change and innovation in Arab-language TV because of its strident commitment to objectivity

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Enter the Internet

• New media - flattens hierarchy of producer/consumer, opens avenues for publication
• Already has had strong impact on delivery of news and information -examples?

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Example: Blogs

• Blogs - focused, often quite partisan analysis of current events
• Dives into particular events of interest in great depth - amateur investigative reporting
• Communities built - not just passive reception but active participation

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Example: YouTube

• Amateur videos of events can be shared
• Cheaper delivery of formal ads
• Video mashing and informal political advertisement examples
• Leverages word of mouth sharing for distribution

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Limitations of New Media

• Ghettoization of opinion - people hang out in like-minded communities and never hear alternative sides
• Veracity of information can be dubious and spread rapidly - hoaxes
• Amateur production - amateur results

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Mass/New Media Relations

• Blogs/YouTube filled with sources from traditional media
• Mass news media increasingly scooped by Internet sources and use Internet sources to verify or support stories
• Major news services move on Internet, create their own information sources

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