Monday, September 14, 2009

Synthesizing and Summing Up

“Reports, Inferences, Judgments” and “The Medium is the Metaphor” explain how different perspectives and mediums can alter a story and how to become more aware of when this happens. With such rapid changes underway in the media industry, diversities in readership and viewership, and popular criticisms of different media organizations being biased towards different ideologies, it is crucial we all become more attune to how our messages to the world are perceived and that we are providing sufficient information for the well-being of our democracy. 

“Reports, Inferences, Judgments” educates its readers about subjectivity versus objectivity in relation to how people perceive the world, and offers ways to avoid subjectivity in writing.

Professor Gade advised his students to divorce themselves not only in their final product, but in each step of the process as well. Meaning, to look at the situation as a fly on the wall instead of through our own eyes, shaped by our own experiences. Most students in class agreed that to be completely void of biases is ideal, but unfortunately unrealistic. The text offers helpful ways to detect these biases and avoid them in reporting practices.

While many of us have been told a thousand times to keep opinionated words out of all stories except columns and opinion editorials, a few tips in the article proved my ignorance about how subtly opinion can creep in.

For instance, many of us know to steer clear of adjectives with positive or negative connotations, but what about nouns we never considered as words that pass judgment, but may in fact do so to others? The example that struck me by surprise was the article’s suggestion to use “candidates” instead of “politicians.” I look at both as job descriptions, but that is only because I was unaware of the inferred judgment in the word politician, not because the difference didn’t exist before.  

“The Medium is the Metaphor” points out how the medium in which a message is delivered can alter the content and therefore, it’s culture. This is another way, besides people's own biases written into stories, that stories can change.

The author, Neil Postman, cites a lesson taught by his mentor that the clearest way to see through a culture is to attend to its tools for conversation.

I think this statement rings very true for our culture’s shift to infotainment. Many adults in older generations prefer to get their news from traditional newspapers. More students, however, prefer to get their news from TV and online.

This can be for many reasons. Students in class said cost and convenience are the two main ones. The news presented in these two mediums is much shorter, reflecting our culture’s shorter attention spans.

This shift in medium also gives way to a shift in content. Many information, fact-heavy stories that make the front page in newspapers are very difficult to make visually appealing on TV, especially if a station has limited resources. Much too often, important stories the public should know about are discarded because they are not very visually engaging. This should be a cause of concern if newspapers really do disappear or consolidate too much like many anticipate. 

Another phenomenon that we should all be weary of is the shift in the way we all think when learning from different mediums, like the article describes.

“Each medium, like language itself, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought, for expression, for sensibility...Whether we are experiencing the world through the lens of speech or the printed word or the television camera, our media-metaphors classify the world for us, sequence it, frame it, enlarge it, reduce it, color it, argue a case for what the world is like.” (“The Medium Is the Metaphor”, pg. 10)

The more our society shifts towards certain mediums, like the TV and Internet, and excludes others, like print, the more we change our culture’s way of thinking. For example, when reading an article you can stop and reread the sentence as many times as you want to understand it. You cannot do the same on a broadcast. Not only does that leave room for misunderstood statements and thoughts, but it also excludes some information all together because it is too complicated.

I think the best lesson to take from the advice offered is to remain aware of what you may be unaware of in such a diverse, changing world.

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful comments, Elise.

    One thought-people don't necessarily turn to the internet for news "in order to control the type of news they consume."

    Often, they get their news from the Internet out of sheer convenience. It's hard to discount the workforce masses, who are tied to their computers during the work day and use that medium to consume news. Some of these people would never pick up a newspaper or watch a news program on television.

    Unfortunately, many in the news industry, and even some of our professors at OU, see only the threat to traditional news outlets and not the fortuitous opportunity to reach a broader audience.

    I think it's "in this day and age", btw. Sorry for the edit, but you must blame Krug. I'm taking his newsediting class, and he's totally grilling us.