Sunday, September 13, 2009

Understanding the Media

News is something that has been a part of peoples’ lives for quite some time now. Before multi media and television, people exchanged information orally by word of mouth. As years passed news was exchanged visually through words, photographs and newspapers. Later on radio was invented and people began to hear their news.

Now, today millions of people all around the world have the opportunity to read, hear and watch news of all different types, topics and subjects in whatever form they want, thanks to television and multimedia.

As our world continues to change and our news enters the age of multimedia, so does our outlook on the world. In the text, “The Medium Is A Metaphor,” the writer, Neil Postman says, “we do not see our nature or intelligence or human motivation or ideology as ‘it’ is but only as our languages are. And our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture.”

Postman explains that a metaphor “suggests what a thing is like by comparing it to something else. This suggestion fixes a conception in our minds that we cannot imagine the one thing without the other.”

To understand how our media functions metaphorically we must understand the media’s information and how it is gathered, put together and presented. We must understand how the media works. Where did the information come from? Who did it come from? Is it typed in the newspaper? Is it captured in a picture? Is it posted on a blog? Is it broadcasted on television?

As journalists we have the power through our words and mediums to influence and even shape the way people think about issues, views and events in the world.

Postman says “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.”

We must be conscious of this and make sure we consistently practice good journalism.

As Professor Gade said in class “We must divorce ourselves from our biases and values, not the facts and the information. We must be a fly on the wall and step back from who we are to try to see our sources for who they are. We must identify their points as they mean them and be empathetic.”

In order for journalists to practice good journalism, we must understand the media and how it works. We must be aware of what we are reporting and how we are doing it. How do we do this?

On top of divorcing ourselves from ourselves, we have to learn to stay away from inferences, judgments and the use of loaded words, according to S.I. Hayakawa.

We need to be constantly checking ourselves to make sure what we are writing and reporting is unbiased and neutral. We need to present the facts to people and allow them the opportunity to make their own inferences and judgments.

Although I agree with Hayakawa in that we need to stay away from inferences, judgments, and loaded words, I can’t help, but ask myself one thing. How do I truly know I am reporting objective, neutral, and unbiased information? I personally think it is impossible right now for me to write objectively about an issue I feel strongly about. How do we overcome this and learn to step away from ourselves?

Professor Gade told us in class, “objectivity is a process and a professional skill”. I hope all of us will possess and mater the art of objectivity one day. Until then, we have a lot of learning to do.

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