Archive for May, 2010

Contemporary Media Issues Final Exam – “The New Media Landscape: What Should We Be Most Concerned About?”

Opening Remarks of Authors

Robert McChesney
Robert McChesney would say that what we should most be concerned about is how market pressures and interests are encroaching upon professional journalism. As a result, journalism is not doing its job, which is to promote democracy by informing, engaging and inspiring the public. Journalism tailored to market interests is not objective and only seeks to further the aims of those sponsoring it. Also, few alternative viewpoints will be present in the marketplace. McChesney would say that a solution to this problem is to have the government subsidize good journalism; journalism is supposed to act as a kind of liaison between the government and the public.

Many people propose the idea of citizen journalism as another solution, but McChesney would heartily object. Not everyone is a journalist; journalists are trained professionals, and as such, have more authority than your average citizen who is bored and wants to get featured on the news. Professional journalists understand the rules and standards of the industry; they have trained to be objective and credible—these characteristics are not found in your average Joe citizen reporter.

Ken Auletta
Ken Auletta would say that the Internet needs to remain as free and open to everyone as possible. Yes, some people put garbage online, but the best things will rise to the top, just as with Google’s search engine results.

Google is a great company; their goal when they first started up was to just be incredibly useful to people and make things as easy as possible for them…and for free! They did it then, and they’re still doing it now. Their plan worked so well that they’ve launched several other endeavors and are a multibillion-dollar corporation. All because they listen to what their “customers” want, and because they have a motto which seems simple to us, but isn’t so easy to abide by in the corporate world: “Don’t be evil.”

While Auletta praises Google for what it’s done, he does warn that maybe we’re putting too much trust in the organization. They have so much of our information that we’ve voluntarily given them. What happens if a cyber-terrorist attack occurs on Google? How do we know that sometime in the future Google will decide it is in their best interests to now be evil?

Daniel Solove
Daniel Solove would say that the most important issue for the future is the changing view of privacy and determining what is off limits versus what is not. The invention of the omnipresent Internet brought with it issues regarding permanency and tarnished reputations that people can never live down. Nothing can be erased from the Internet.

Generations that grew up without the Internet have an “antiquated” view of privacy; things are either black or white for them with no grey area. These generations see privacy as a right and each person has control over his/her reputation. Generations that have grown up with the Internet have a different idea of what privacy entails. You don’t solely have control over your reputation and your own information. It is generally accepted that if you put something on the Internet, anyone can find it and use it against you. Also, you have to be careful what you do in public, as there are there are now ubiquitous, small recording devices. You never know who may be watching you and it could end up on the Web!

What all this means is that society’s norms will be changing very soon as the “old-school” and “new-school” generations continue to coexist.

Jonathan Zittrain
Jonathan Zittrain is most concerned with the future of generativity. Generative devices allow users to create applications and additional uses for them. Generativity allows a device’s users to collaborate and share information; it encourages creativity, exploration and innovation. The creators of the device can exchange information as well; with a generative device, the flow of information is bi-directional.

Non-generative (“locked”) devices are the opposite; they tend to only have a certain purpose, and do not allow for customization. If changes are to be made, they have to go through the company who created the device. Information only flows one way, from device producer to consumer, unless the producer decides otherwise.

Zittrain fears that the Internet is becoming more and more privatized, and will be controlled by a select few. This means that what can be done on and with the Internet can be controlled; the opposite of generativity. Just because a few individuals have taken advantage of the Internet’s generativity and created viruses and worms shouldn’t mean that the privileges of creation and innovation should be taken from everyone.



  1. Professional journalism is not the end all be all; the public has to take some responsibility for its apathetic attitude. Repeatedly in the first chapter of The Political Economy of Media, author Robert McChesney talks about the responsibility of journalism, which is to inform citizens and inspire political involvement, and how journalism isn’t meeting that responsibility. On page 34, McChesney even says, “It [journalism] is arguably better at generating ignorance and apathy than informed and passionately engaged citizens.” The way McChesney rants and raves, one would think that news media is the only way people have to educate themselves. Citizens have to be open to receiving the information journalists give out, and to some degree, they should have the drive to want to learn more.
  2. Citizen contributions can be beneficial; they may have inherent problems, but these can be addressed, and they can be considered a supplement to professional journalism from the people’s point of view. Citizens can be trained in workshops to learn best journalistic practices and techniques. They may not have credentials behind their name, but they can still offer good information and an alternate viewpoint.
  3. Even if the government were to take journalism out of the hands of private companies and subsidize it, journalism would then be forced to tailor itself to the government’s agenda. We’d end up in the same predicament as before!


I feel like Solove has given up on the idea of people having morals an decency. His book is all about the negatives that come from people sharing information and videos on the Internet. He doesn’t really talk much about the fact that Internet can cause popularity, bring fame to people, and bring non-malicious entertainment. Think about “The Wedding Dance” or the little boy who performs Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi”. You know what I’m talking about! These hits have several million hits on YouTube and the video’s stars aren’t any worse for it. In fact it is quite the opposite, they have been invited to talk shows, and have had the chance to get their 15 minutes of fame. Yes, the Internet can be used for evil, but it can be used for good as well. You also have to think about it this way: there have always been those people out there who find joy at the expense of others. They did before the Internet through gossip, newspapers, etc. and they’ll do it after the Internet. The only thing that the Internet changes is that these people have a wider audience. But we have to remember like Zittrain, a few spoiled apples don’t ruin the whole bunch!


    May 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm Leave a comment

    Citizen Journalism + Broadcast News = The Future of News?


    Broadcast television is where most consumers get their news, trumping newspapers, magazines, the radio, and even the Internet. As a result, broadcast news organizations (such as CNN, ABC News, Fox News, etc.) hold a great deal of power; people see these organizations as credible, objective authorities of information. A negative result of this authority is that consumers have no way to participate in the news. This is a problem because nowadays everyone wants to feel as if they have some say in every medium.

    In terms of news, the Internet can be thought of as the opposite of a news organization because it provides choice of content, diversity of content and interactivity. These are all great features, but the vastness and openness of the Internet lead many to discredit it as a news medium because it does not have the checks and balances that a news organization possesses.

    So what would happen if the good qualities of both mediums were combined?

    Challenges Facing Broadcast News

    Though television is still considered the most exciting, influential, persuasive and authoritative medium, broadcast news is losing viewers.* To get news, consumers have more options than just the television; they have magazines, newspapers, the radio, and the Internet. So why are consumers choosing to look toward other mediums for their information?

    Broadcast news has a limited schedule and only airs three or four times a day. Viewers have to tune in at a certain a time or miss out on some of the information. The Internet is available everyday, all day. Consumers can choose when they want to get their information instead of being forced to adhere to a media company’s schedule.

    Another challenge broadcast news organizations are facing is the quality of their content. Because of media consolidation and corporate affiliations, news stations tend to cover the same stories, so there is not as much variety as one might find on the Internet. Also, broadcast news tends to favor more sensational stories, as they require less extensive investigating, are less expensive to produce, and attract passing viewers. Corporate cost cutting plays into this as well, because it costs companies more money to give the public objective, high-quality news.

    Finally, broadcast news leaves consumers without a choice. If a viewer wants to see a certain story that has been advertised, and it does not come on until the end of the broadcast, he/she will either have to sit through all the other stories to see it, or continually flip back to the channel while watching something else or doing some other activity.

    Challenges Facing Citizen News Reporting

    Citizen news reporters face more challenges than anything. Citizen news reporting is still in its early stages. It’s a whole new frontier waiting to be explored and waiting to be regulated.

    One problem that contributors help bring on themselves is calling themselves “citizen journalists”. Many people have a problem with the fact that citizen journalists are called such when they have not been trained in a journalism school nor have any professional journalism experience. With the term “journalist”, people make certain assumptions—that whatever they are being told is the objective, flat-out truth. This raises the hackles of professional journalists, and discredits the profession when presented news is not accurate or objective.

    Credibility is another huge challenge facing citizen reporting. Some citizen news reporters simply do not know or do not care to take the proper steps to investigate their sources. There is no incentive to get information from a source and then double and triple check that information. Also, since most citizen reporters have “day jobs”, many do not have the extra time to really delve into their sources. Another thing that can stand in the way of credibility is the very fact that citizen news reporters are just that—citizens, and not professional reporters. As a result, sometimes the people who could verify their facts won’t give them the time of day. It is important to keep in mind that not every citizen news reporter neglects source checking, but those that do not spoil everything for the rest of the bunch.

    Another problem that gives citizen news reporters a bad name is that they are thought to be subjective on certain issues, or activists for causes. There are those out there who have the belief that citizen journalists must have some kind of agenda. It is true that there are people out there, using so-called citizen journalism blogs and websites to push their agenda, but that does not mean that everyone claiming to be a citizen journalist is doing so. Everyone knows that it is hard to remain objective about an issue, but professional journalists are trained to put their opinion to the side to give an objective view of a story. Citizen journalists may not even think about this being an issue they need to address, or they might have thought they were presenting all sides to the story when actually they were not.

    Bringing Out the Best in One Another

    Clearly broadcast news and citizen news need to team up to bring out the best in each other in a system called central collection. “Central collection is the media workflow and technological infrastructure that gives citizen journalists access to contribute to their local television stations.”* This idea of central collection has been expanded to national broadcast news organizations as well due to the easy transmission of information afforded by the Internet.

    This process is a win-win for news organizations for the following reasons: they get a constantly replenished database of fresh stories, more people will tune in to their broadcasts because the stories interest them so the broadcasts gets higher ratings, and the broadcast news has a participatory element (which is incredibly important in this day and age). The process is a win-win for citizen news reporters for the following reasons: their content reaches a wide audience, they gain more credibility, and sometimes citizen reporters receive financial compensation for their contributions.


    Ontra, A. (n.d.). “Central Collection”: The People’s News Exchange. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from

    May 10, 2010 at 9:15 pm Leave a comment

    Will Living in a Hyperconnected Society Bring Families Closer Together?

    I attended the Social Media Futures Academy on April 30th, a part of the FutureWeb 2010 Conference geared toward highschoolers in Raleigh, N.C. I had the opportunity to sit in on a session about the hyperconnected family, given by one of my professors at Elon.

    Ken’s daughter and wife currently live in Boston, while he lives down here in North Carolina. They all stay in touch through visits every couple of weeks, but more so, virtually. They share meals over Skype, help with homework over Skype, and meet up in Second Life.

    Ken says that people always assume that because they are physically far away from one another, their relationship is difficult. But Ken would argue otherwise and go so far as to say that their relationship may even be better than those people living in the same house. I agree, but I think being hyperconnected is making all families closer, at least those who use the technology.

    When I was young in the nineties, cell phones were just getting big. I wouldn’t have dreamed of having a cell phone at age 10 or even age 12. If I was at school and wanted to get in touch with my parents, I would have to go to the office and ask to use the phone or ask a teacher. If my mom dropped me off at the mall with friends, I wouldn’t even have that!

    Today, children of all ages have cell phones and though they may not be allowed to use them during school, they have them in case they need to get in touch with family…or just talk with friends. And today’s phones are capable of more than we even imagined back then. If kids see something funny they want to share with someone, they’ll snap a picture and send, or send a short text message, and parents can reply back immediately. Instead of only communicating in the morning before school, and then in the evening, there’s the option for continuous communication.

    Also, parents can keep track of their kids at all times through GPS-enabled devices. What do you do when the school calls and tells you they haven’t seen Jimmy in the last two days, even though you know you dropped him off? You go online (if you have that service enabled) or monitor his phone through yours. You figure out exactly where he is, show up much to his surprise and chagrin, and drag him away by the ear.

    I think social media tools are also bringing families closer as well. When parents friend their children on Facebook, they might see another side of them and learn things about them that they had no idea of. Also, when parents friend their children, they are able to talk in a different way through the website, not so much as parent to child, but friend to friend.

    So yes, I say that living in a hyperconnected society will continue to bring families closer together? I can only assume as we spend more and more of our time connected to the Internet and virtual world, that these relationships will continue to deepen, because this allows for continuous communication and physical distance is not an obstacle to be overcome.

    What do you think?

    May 7, 2010 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment


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