Because the Internet still has relatively few regulations, issues of law can be confusing and many lines are blurred between what is acceptable or not. Our textbook gives the example of Facebook and how privacy settings were changed without users knowing. Facebook might not have had a legal obligation to inform their users of these changes, but once users found out they made it clear that they were unhappy. Facebook realized that to keep the trust and support of their users they had to maintain a higher level of transparency in their actions. This resulted in efforts to make users aware of the privacy and security options on Facebook, so that everyone could better regulate their own profile. This kind of transparency is important in the online world because it is so easy do things like Facebook did and use people’s information without their knowing. The only way to have a workable site is to maintain some sense of trust through transparency.
It is also incredibly easy to spread false or questionable information on the Internet. For example if you go to the library and read a traditional encyclopedia, you can probably trust that information to be accurate because it has been through the process of being researched and published by respected sources. However if you go to Wikipedia you have to realize that while it is generally accurate, you can be getting any information since anyone can edit the page. It is important that Wikipedia has transparency, such as being able to track changes that were made to the page, and being able to follow the sources that contributors got their information from.
Similarly, online anyone can publish a story on a news blog, give advice on a forum, etc. Whereas in traditional media, people can trust news more easily because of the credibility of a known source, online it is much more up to users to discern where information comes from. In print news, photojournalists are held to strict standards that their work must not be manipulated, so that readers know they are seeing the “truth.” But online it would be easy for someone to manipulate a photo and for it to become widely circulated, spreading misinformation. It is more important to question the information found online, which is why transparency is more necessary online than in traditional media. We need to be able to track information and find out where and who it came from before we can trust it.
I thought the description in our textbook of quantitative vs. qualitative research methods was interesting. Personally it seems to me that it would be hard to study communication through quantitative methods, because when you are dealing with people I don’t think any specific laws really apply or can be determined. I guess I agree more with social constructionism than positivism, especially in terms of looking at communication and media. There are so many factors that are involved in how/why media is produced and how it affects society, that it seems silly to try to explain it just in terms of numbers and data. For my final paper I will definitely be using qualitative methods rather than quantitative: I am not trying to prove any certain theory, but I will be comparing stories in order to better understand their motives, their directed audience, and how the audience may have been affected by the stories.
An important media theory for this paper will of course be media framing. The difference in framing in the articles I am comparing is subtle, but still gives insight into the different media sources and their purposes in telling the story. The story I chose for my paper was interesting to me because it is actually about media effects, specifically how the internet can effect social change and political uprisings. This is a big concern for the Cuban government right now, especially in light of the uprisings in Egypt, which were largely brought about by social media communication. A video leaked on Vimeo expresses the Cuban governments fears of internet access and alternative blogging as a threat to the government. The way that the internet is changing communication and inciting social revolution is certainly an interesting media effects issue, one that the textbook didn’t really talk about, but that could certainly be studied more as these issues keep arising.
An interesting media effect mentioned in the book was the third-person effect. It is interesting to consider in relation to my story, because it is unclear who the leaked video was directed at or what its purpose was. If it was simply directed at government officials, it is definitely having a third-person effect on bloggers who might be intimidated or maybe angered by the video. However some have said that the video was leaked on purpose and actually was directed toward the Cuban people to make the government’s position clear and to discourage anti-government blogging. It could also be said that coverage of the Egypt uprisings has been having a sort of third-person effect on the other governments, such as Cuba, who fear the coverage will spark protests in their own countries, and have been taking extra measures lately to assert their power. I know that this doesn’t quite fit the definition of a third-person effect described in the textbook, but I thought it was an interesting theory which I could think through more in regards to my story.
The State of the Union address is always analyzed and picked apart by the media after it takes place. This year there was a lot of criticism as well as some praise of President Obama’s speech. The Colbert Report gave its view on the speech the next day. Stephen Colbert approached the subject in a positive light, saying that he had been won over by the speech and that the President “seemed very presidential.” Of course, as always, Colbert seemed sincere but had a tone of irony. He showed clips from the speech that were cut in amusing ways, such as the president talking about how great China is and how they’re ahead of us, but taking it out of context. He showed a quick montage of every time the President used his catchphrase, “winning the future,” in the speech. While this was done for humor, it did point out how many times Obama used these words in his speech without really giving specifics. Colbert went on to assess Obama’s call for entrepreneurship and inventiveness, which Colbert seemed to have taken very seriously and had already tried to become an inventor himself; he showed us his toaster on wheels and fork phone. While this again was obviously satire, it did make the audience think about what the President said in his speech, and his somewhat vague call for American inventiveness. Colbert concluded by saying that he was convinced by the speech but he wants to know how others responded. He proceeded to interview Clinton’s former speech-writer, Michael Waldman, on the subject. Waldman said that the President did a good job conveying optimism and drawing a line with republicans, but it didn’t rank with the best political speeches. Colbert questioned him about what goes into writing a State of the Union address, and Waldman said that it’s a long process, involving many people, in which every little word chosen can make a difference in future policy and budget. I thought this background information was interesting, and maybe not something you would see on another news program. Finally, the two talked about some of the things Obama didn’t mention in his speech, such as the still high rate of unemployment, or climate change.
Fox News did a piece on the speech right after Obama had finished it; they had a panel of analysts and reporters giving their views on his performance. One columnist said that the speech was weak and didn’t address the big issues, and New York Post correspondent said the speech was flat and lacking specifics. A representative of Fox News liked the speech, and especially Obama’s statement “We do big things.” He said he thought Obama spoke to the moment, giving hope to the unemployed and disheartened Americans. A last political analyst was very critical of the speech, and said Obama simply outlined a lot of projects that will take money, without addressing the deficit. This report by Fox News gave several perspectives, but was still an opinion piece rather than an objective news story. In covering an important speech such as this, it seems that the public look to the media for guidance and interpretation on what they should think about the speech. Here the media’s role is not so much that of objective reporting, but that of putting the event in context and helping the public decide what it means and what they should think about it.
Colbert plays the role of giving context to the speech as well, although he does this through humor. By replaying certain clips and giving over-the-top reactions he makes the audience think about things they may not have when they were simply watching the president’s speech. The Colbert Report is an entertainment program rather than a news program, but the line between news and entertainment is often crossed these days. News shows certainly draw in viewers by offering exciting opinions and debates, and they work to frame their stories in ways that will appeal most to viewers. In this sense I don’t think The Colbert Report is any less valid because it presents its information in biased ways; it just chooses humor as its framework. If anything, I think the Colbert Report makes a comment on the dramatization of news often seen on news channels, the highlighting of certain events and the push towards “entertaining” news to keep viewers interested.
In regard to the theories of international communication, Colbert’s show is no different from other American press in operating under the social responsibility theory. Of course, as a network television show the Colbert Report has to operate under certain guidelines and Colbert definitely does not have the freedom to say whatever he likes, as he would if operating under the libertarian theory. However he does have the freedom to criticize and make fun of whoever he likes, including and especially the government. This role is essential in American media, and is what makes us so different from countries like China that operate under the authoritarian theory. Being able to make fun of and laugh at our government is an important gift that comedians like Colbert give us. It is a form of free speech that does not really hold malice towards the government, but reminds viewers that we are free to question our government, and gives us a different take on current situations.
I was at my friend’s house this weekend and she mentioned how mad she was that Wikileaks had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. This friend is very against Wikileaks and often goes on rants about it on Facebook. Seeing as it is such a controversial issue, I wanted to see what opinions others had on the nomination and how it is being framed in the news.
The first news stories I read all pretty much said the same thing, apparently quoting the AP press release. American news sources such as CNN, CBS and ABC all give fairly factual accounts of how a Norwegian lawmaker nominated Wikileaks for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, and include his quotes on how he thinks Wikileaks has promoted freedom of speech and human rights. The articles also explain that the Nobel Committee receives about 200 nominations a year and do not frame the story in a way that make it seem at all likely that Wikileaks will win. Several articles quote a Nobel specialist and watcher as saying that he doesn’t think it is likely Wikileaks will win, especially because of all the controversy around the subject. CNN chose to give a quote explicating how US military officials have criticized Wikileaks. ABC’s article brings up Julian Assange’s sexual assault charges. The articles seem very factual with no opinion, but simply the information they choose to give frames the story in a certain way. Talking about the controversy behind Wikileaks and Assange might give readers the opinion that Wikileaks should not win, while also giving explicit statements saying winning is not probable. By quoting others, it seems these news stories are able to put a spin on the story without actually having a biased report.
Looking to national news sources I found some slightly more in depth analysis and reports. The Reuters article on the story mentions outright that “Washington is furious with Wikileaks.” It also talks about Assange’s sex scandal charges, but includes that Assange and his reporters say this is a smear campaign to attack the integrity of Wikileaks. This side of the story is not mentioned in ABC’s article. Reuters doesn’t make the notion of Wikileaks winning seem like such an unlikely possibility, although it does say that the Nobel Committee would be criticized if they did choose Wikileaks. It also says that Wikileaks’ win would highlight how important the internet has become in bringing about social change. This article seems to put the nomination in a somewhat more positive light. An article by the Huffington Post on the subject actually backs the nomination, explaining how Wikileaks was partly responsible for the important transformations currently taking place in the Middle East. The article also brings up Bradley Manning, saying he is responsible for bringing Wikileaks into the spotlight and he should be the one who is recognized, rather than being kept in prison. This article seems to be more of an opinion piece than a strict press release. An article in the International Business Times goes into more detail about Assange’s assault charges, saying that even though the case has not been decided the negative associations will prevent Wikileaks from winning the Prize.
I could also go on for a long time about the many prominent political blogs and opinion articles that have taken up the debate of whether Wikileaks deserves the nomination or not, but suffice it to say that I found lots of opinions on both sides of the issue. The nomination has received a lot more press than a nomination usually would, which is not surprising considering the amount of recent controversy around Wikileaks, added to by Assange’s recent trials. Still, I think people who simply saw the short story in American news would get a fairly unbiased version of the issue, but probably already have their own opinions that they are going to apply. The main news channels have done a fairly good job of presenting an unbiased story, but that story has spurned heated and renewed debate about Wikileaks in general, and nearly everyone seems to have an opinion.
In the Wikis I thought that the competition between Android, iPhone and Blackberry was especially interesting. Cell phones are increasingly more important and able to do more things, so whoever is the winner in this market will have a lot of influence. From the Blackberry page, I got the idea that the device that was once essential is kind of on the way out as new smartphones take over. However they did have some useful ideas for moving forward that would definitely help the company, like gearing it toward the younger demographic. The iPhone page gave lots of good information, regarding the phone’s strengths and weaknesses. It seems that one of the biggest things that has been holding the iPhone back is the deal with AT&T. It will be interesting to see what happens when the phone becomes available through Verizon next month, and if that takes a lot of business away from Android. The Apple technology tends to be very appealing and user friendly so I can see a lot of Verizon customers switching over to the iPhone. The Android page provided a lot of in depth information and background, incorporating lots of photos, charts, and even a video. I thought they made a strong presentation and showed why Android is the leader in the market right now. I think the fact that the Android software can be used on a variety of phones by different manufacturers is really a bonus, and gives customers a lot of options. Every iPhone looks exactly the same, but with Android you can choose what fits you best. For example, I just bought a Droid 2 and I chose the one with a slide out keyboard because I find typing on the touchscreen annoying. I also think Google has created a great software that seems more versatile than Apple. The ideas that the group had for going forward were interesting too, with the suggestion that Android create larger tablets with the same technology. This would no doubt help with competition against the iPad.
Overall I would pick Android as the winner, as they are clearly ahead right now and have such a versatile and well programmed software. Like I said I just got a Droid this weekend after having the most old school flip phone possible for years. I found the transition very easy and I was able to learn how to work it quickly. I love all the apps and features. However we’ll see what happens when Verizon introduces the iPhone, and if Droid will be able to keep up with the new competition.
I believe that the government should have very limited power to exercise prior restraint, and that this should not change in light of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01. The Supreme Court has ruled in various cases against prior restraint, even in matters that where top-secret government information was being published. It has historically been part of a journalist’s job to expose government secrets to the public, and this is not something the government should interfere with. One example is the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which outlined the actions of the U.S. government in the Vietnam War and showed ways in which the administration had been covering up information and lying to the public. The government tried to prevent this information from being published on the grounds that it threatened national security, but the Supreme Court ruled against the government. While I understand that there is concern in times of war that publishing certain information would put troops in danger, I think more often than not the government will try to use prior restraint to cover up certain acts they don’t wish the public to know about. Of course, I tend to be pretty cynical and distrustful of the government in general so this influences my opinion, and there are those who would prefer to give the government greater power when national security is involved. Personally, I worry more about the motives of the government to be involved in war, and about what is really going on overseas in areas of combat versus what the government would like to have us believe. Therefore I think journalists are indispensable, especially in times of war, because they give the public access to information about what is happening and keep the government more accountable for their actions.
I believe conclusively that there should be no policy that allows the government to exercise prior restraint, and that the rules should not be changed in times of war. In cases where the safety of Americans is truly at risk, the government should have to prove that the publication is dangerous rather than assuming any powers. While some will argue that taking this approach jeopardizes our safety, I would point out that it is not the wish of American journalists or publications to put Americans at risk. Journalism is more concerned with uncovering truths and keeping the public informed, even when the government might not wish for certain information to be released. In doing so they play an important role in our society which should not be compromised by giving the government greater power to exercise prior restraint.
I am a huge fan of TV shows, and it is hard to pick a favorite one to look at. However an excellent show I have been watching recently is Mad Men, which portrays an interesting vision of our culture. I sometimes find myself wondering why I even enjoy this show; most of the characters are scumbags and the sexism in the show is overwhelming. The show is set in the 1950s and portrays some pretty harsh realities about that time period. It is interesting to think that the show would never have aired in the actual time it was set. In the 1950s people were watching shows like I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver, which portrayed a pretty peachy picture of family life. Watching Mad Men suggests that underneath these perfect seeming exteriors, life in the 50s was far from easy. I don’t think there is one married man on the show who does not cheat on his wife; most of them do it regularly. Women are treated as objects that can be talked about or touched in any way men see fit. Some of the women on the show are strong characters, but lots of them are weak and submissive to this behavior. It is interesting to think that if this behavior were in a show that was set in present times we would find it very distasteful, and if the show was aired on TV in the 1950s it would have been totally scandalous. And yet is okay to have a show on TV now with such blatant sexism because it portrays a time in the past. Even so, I have several friends that have stopped watching the show because they found it hard to watch the way women are treated in it.
So why do I like this show? For one thing, it does an excellent job as a period piece that makes you completely believe it is the 50s. The costumes, set, script and music all create a world from the past that is different from that of any other shows on television, and is visually very interesting. Even though most of the characters are unlikeable at first, as I watch more of the show I have come to sympathize with them, and the main character, Don Draper, who was once totally despicable has actually become close to my heart. As we learn more about his past, we see him more as the product of his upbringing and his surroundings. We can understand this for all the characters, and gain insight into the difficulties of living in the 50s. The show is completely in your face about bringing the issues to light, and though the obvious reaction is to think about how much things have changed since that time, another possible reaction is to think about in what ways things are still the same. Mad Men is not always an easy show to watch, but it is excellently produced, and shows an important part of our past culture.