May 24, 2010

New Generation of Courageous Bloggers


I have presented you with my ideas and comments about media bias, deception, propaganda… Wanting to get your readership and attention I concentrated on what is in my point of you the most frustrating in today’s media. I was blind! Dear readers, there is lots and lots of problems in the media world I could have never dreamt about! Thus, for a little enlightenment I listed interesting blogs by my classmates fully available to educate you and inform in various media diseases. After you learn how to be immune to them, don’t forget to come back for your regular vaccine against media bias virus. They say it is an epidemic…

Have you ever wanted to become a reporter and make coverage of political events, crisis, natural disasters? Have you ever dreamed about writing a novel? Anh’s blog will show you how impossible becomes reality. See http://anhluong88.wordpress.com/ Anh Luong’s interesting blog discusses the issue of user-generated content. Anh has done a brilliant job in providing information about various channels that provide us with news by people like us. I think it is very relevant topic in times when youtube and Wikipedia are among our closest friends. Also it raises a lot of interesting questions about the future of the media, news coverage and journalism itself.



Is the media responsible for our „deindividuation“? Check Danijela Demarin’s blog to see more on this phenomenon that hypothesize about the influence of the media on our lives and on us as individuals. Can we ever be truly unique and individual or is it inevitable to be part of the mass? Learn more here: http://deindividuation.blogspot.com/




Is your boyfriend/girlfriend islamophobic? Have you ever seen/heard something positive about Muslims, Arabs and Islam (apart from the economic growth)? Well, Martina Složilová’s blog gives you videos, articles and life story examples of negative portrayals of Muslims in western media. This page is one of my favorite. MLS’s input should be more visible to as many people we can get there. We don’t need to give up our fear of terrorist attacks to tolerate Muslims as equals, if we just for a minute forget what the media coverage cries out loud and read couple or Martina’s posts here http://muslimedia-mls.blogspot.com/.




Can be advertising helpful? What is a PSA? No, definitely not an upgrage for PSP! Pro-Social Advertising is a main theme of Anička’s blog. Apart from the contribution of PSAs campaigns you will learn how they work, who is responsible for them and why. It is the most interactive blog with numerous examples from real campaigns world-wide. Since PSA is not one of the themes we discuss every day, I highly recommend to visit Anna Kvasničková’s blog, to get the whole picture of the importance of public service advertising and its benefits. It is colorful, to the point with many examples – visit here http://akvablog.wordpress.com/.


Tired of being yelled at because of being JUST a woman? Misha’s blog writes about gender roles in today’s society and their mediated versions. I have found her articles about stereotyping and media depictions of gender roles much applicable to our society. It is important to stop and realize how does the media depict females and males, what might be the consequences and how does it relate to reality. If you want to do that I highly recommend you Misha Baginová’s blog, here http://stereotypinginmedia.blogspot.com/.

May 15, 2010

Objectivity - A Faded Virtue?

Objectivity, once a virtue for journalists, is today difficult to find. For nearly a half of the 20th century objectivity became a measure of a good journalism and dominated America. (Mindich as cited in Cohen-Almagor, 2008) We naturally expect journalists and reporters to utilize and promote objectivity as essential elements in reporting. What we receive is by far not what we wish for, but not everyone is able to recognize a bias. I have provided you with examples of deception in covering real events and I have provided you with sources to help you recognize bias coverage in everyday life.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes objectivity as “relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence”. Thus, to attain objectivity journalists should avoid involving their opinion, any ideologies or personal visions. They should provide hard facts. As facts we assume statements deprived from emotions, subjectivity and judgment.

Four Principles of Objectivity

Cohen-Almagor (2008) developed four principles that are essential for maintaining objectivity; accuracy, truthfulness, fairness and balance, and moral neutrality. Though, what he does not state is that as far as these principles can facilitate objectivity, they can as well serve for creating bias.

Accuracy and fairness are traditionally promoted, while moral neutrality is balancing among ignorance and ethics. Accuracy often stumbles over editorials, exaggeration, and limitation of knowledge or inadequate research, and thus creates distorting news with main focus on the ratings than on the content of a story.

Truthfulness is threatened especially by compulsive deadlines set up by editors, who are eager to publish the sooner the better. (Cohen-Almagor, 2008) “Yes-man” politics became everyday routine. Major downsizing resulting from corporate ownership in the eighties reduced the number or journalists while the number of news increased. Thus, more pressure was imposed upon journalist to keep their jobs and satisfy the editors, who then had to satisfy the chiefs and corporate owners such as Rupert Murdoch.

In contrast with truthfulness and accuracy, balance is more problematic and prone to bias. Looking at the press in Great Britain the newspapers exhibit no bias undercover. It is traditionally set and recognized which paper favors whom. Take the liberal-left The Guardian and conservative Daily Mail, as an example. Their readers are conscious of its content, they know what to expect. Supposedly unbiased and balanced news networks such as the Fox News, which claims to provide “Fair and Balanced” cover of events, is creating a bias, rather than an objective image.

As for moral neutrality, the BBC still remains the world’s most trusted news organization. (Cohen-Almagor, 2008) After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, American mainstream media became so politicized that Americans looked for BBC coverage of the follow-up events, because they felt, their domestic media conveys bias.

Media like to be seen objective; however by using certain vocabulary they more likely became biased. The use of military language in Joanne Mariner’s article is one of the examples of how language can mislead and pose a silent approval.

Is using presumably neutral words appropriate? Maintaining moral neutrality at every cost deprive the reports from critical stance. And as a result common reader or viewer can assume that there is a difference between “torture” and “enhanced interrogation techniques. If the general idea of the media is to serve as a watch-dog of democracy, then adopting euphemistic labels government officials endorse leads to confusion if not to deception. (Greenblatt, 2004) This failure of media to provide fair information to the public might have catastrophic consequences for freedom of speech and core democratic principles as we know them today. How can we oppose our governments’ initiatives if we are unsuccessful in attaining the ‘right’ information?


"The Fox's Effect"
To outfox Fox? Is is possible? What are the consequences? Imitation! Are you still wondering about the future of freedom of speech and fair reporting? Watch this video and its testimonials.

Jeff Cohen: “The corporate ownership of the other channels did not allowed anyone to counterprogram against Fox…”
Diana Winthrop: “It is expensive to spend time exploring the issues… and everything now is a question of money.”
Larry Irving: “…in order to save money and in order to get economies of scale and scope, a lot of the broadcasters are shrinking the employee pool and they’re shrinking it in the news sectors of their stations…”
Bob McChesney: “When you let a small number of companies have this much concentrated power, they will always abuse it…”

video

Sources:

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael. "The Limits of Objective Reporting." Journal of Language and Politics 7:1 (2008): 138-57.

Greenblatt, Allan. "Media Bias." CQ Researcher 14.36 (2004): 853-76. Proquest.

Mariner, Joanne. "Tortured Language." Find Law. 06 Oct. 2009

"Objective." Def. 1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 10 May. 2010
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objectivity

Video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVa7gK8eFMk

Pictures:
http://www.delta.tudelft.nl/uploads/images/opinie.jpg
http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/assets/Image/Nieman%20Reports/Images%20by%20Issue/winter2004/29four313.jpg

May 14, 2010

Your Media Guide

No one is capable of monitoring all bias that the news media releases. Not because there is so many bias out there, but because it needs joint powers of several people to make 1 plus 1 equal two. Here I thought it would be handy, if you had some basis, some links, to help you start your own way on revealing the ugly truth of the media.

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2

The first is my favorite. FAIR is a ‘watch dog’ of the media since 1986 and is also associated with magazine EXTRA! and CounterSpin radio program. FAIR brings you reports on current events showing you what the mainstream media omitted. You can also follow FAIR’s blog with daily posts about the main media networks.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
http://www.rcfp.org/

This link leads you to a nonprofit organization monitoring the press since 1970s. Their main focus is on smaller newspapers and its mutations. The articles are mainly discussing violations of the law, legal actions and major changes. They also publish quarterly magazine - The News Media & The Law.

Reporters without Borders
http://en.rsf.org/

RWB are present at all five continents and bring report on the freedom of press on daily basis. They defend imprisoned journalists, journalists in war zones and they fight against censorship laws. At the bottom of the page you can see inter alia actual numbers of dead and imprisoned journalist or their assistants. You can also see the biggest traitor of the freedom of press, and much more. They also run many awareness campaigns promoted by The New York Times, USAToday, Global Voices Advocacy.

Media Channel
http://mediachannel.org/

Media Channel is another independent non-profit organization encouraging and providing space for overall debate and citizen engagement in politics, culture and society. It unites media professionals and scholars as well as students and citizens.

Media Awareness Network
http://media-awareness.ca/english/resources/educational/handouts/broadcast_news/bw_bias_in_the_news.cfm?RenderForPrint=1

The above link directs you to a section of Canadian organization web page, where you can browse the recipe how to identify media bias with concrete examples.

Picture:
http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:XBLBHL7R-0_ZkM:http://tljconsulting.com/images/nonprofit.jpg

May 13, 2010

It Takes A Pulitzer Prize To Reveal The Truth

Today, I remembered one article that completely changed my views about the media. And trust me, I have always wanted to work in the media industry and to be honest for a long time I tried to turn a blind eye to its deficiencies. While studying Mass Media at university, I realized that my approach was wrong. David Barstow’s article was one of my biggest breakthroughs in understanding.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/us/20generals.html?scp=1&sq=Barstow,%20David.%20"Behind%20TV%20Analysts,%20Pentagon's%20Hidden%20Hand."%20The%20New%20York%20Times.%2020%20Apr.%202008.%20Web.%2005%20Dec.%202009&st=cse

Barstow investigative piece sufficiently describes how easily the public opinion is swayed by people that should represent objective sources, mainly military officials, who were appointed as impartial analysts. However this rather innocent fairy-tale turned out to be a farce for deceiving the audience. The supposed impartial officers were taken on paid trips to Iraq where they were given lectures by Pentagon officials, who dictated them what should be reported and how. Or they were shown only representative sites and places or ‘detention camps’ which is another euphemism for prisons. What is alarming in this case is, that the news networks had no idea who are they dealing with. Moreover they did not care.

It fascinates me how easily it was for the Pentagon officials to get colored and honored military officials to echo implemented reports from their Iraq trips. Pentagon in my opinion serves as a corporate engine for fabricating news, experts and even the news anchors. And this article shows, how Pentagon applied very ingenious and elaborate actions, to diminish the possibility of diverse opinion among their own people.

Almost a compulsory reading for everyone, amazing work has been done by David Barstow – Pulitzer Prize winner of 2008.

Source:
Barstow, David. "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand." The New York Times. 20 Apr. 2008. Web. 12 Sep. 2009

Picture:
http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/04/19/washington/20generals_span.jpg

WikiLeaks Reveals What Mainstream Media Remain Silent About


In April we moved another step further in revealing media’s hidden secrets. I wouldn’t been much surprised if you barely heard about this turning point, because the mainstream media report on this was very insufficient and inaccurate. So, what happened? On 5th April 2010 server WikiLeaks brought up a military video showing American soldiers in a helicopter shooting civilians and two Reuters reporters in Baghdad in 2007. See the short version of the actual video below.

video

You might think that all the media would immediately report such slaughter of Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saed Chmagh whom the soldiers mistaken for insurgents and their cameras were mistaken for weapons AK47. If you are wondering how could this possibly not reach your sight already? Well, the problem is that the main news agencies did not report this succinctly. The New York Times released an article on the 5th however the description was rather dry and short.

CBS and CNN evening reports commented on this event as of a tragedy that happened “during a hectic day” (FAIR.org). Moreover CNN refused to broadcast the video at all "out of respect for the families” (FAIR.org). From the video, even the shortened version, you can clearly see, that the men or rather ‘targets’ were not doing anything suspicious, one was on the phone and the others were just walking. I could not even make out the weapons; however I am not a trained soldier but laic. It seems hard to believe that a camera could be mistaken for a rifle AK-47 on the picture below. If you can clearly make out somebody is speaking on the phone, you should also recognize camera from a rifle.

More importantly, what does it say about the media, if they refuse to report this and rather “cover up” for their allies in CIA? Of course, we might question the authenticity of the video, we might question the reliability of the source, but aren’t these just excuses to help us turn a blind eye? It would be easier not to care, indeed. The world-wide attention is dedicated to China as the main traitor of free speech, but what about the Western world? At least they know what they can expect in the news, but living in the Western world, we expect what we receive from the media to be truth and not propaganda, when in fact, what we get is nothing less than propaganda of the 21st century. And honestly, this poses a much bigger threat to the society than the ban of Google in China.


video

This video is conducted by the actual coverage of CNN and NBC with a commentary of its author. It is very interesting, you can actually see from the word choice who controls whom and what (Pentagon officials supposedly CNN). I recommend you to watch this video. It is only for illustration. You don’t need to take it as the only source. Again, I couldn’t find more about the author of the video except his interest in science and politics, so I don’t want to preach about his credibility. I just think it is worth watching.

Sources:
"Iraq Killings and Media Indifference." Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). Web. 13 May 2010.

WikiLeaks’ Page:
http://www.collateralmurder.com/

Full and not edited version of WikiLeaks video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is9sxRfU-ik&feature=player_embedded

Short Version with description:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfOBV6rxIzw&feature=related

CNN covers after Pentagon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGHH-t_2wsY&annotation_id=annotation_424892&feature=iv

Picture:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/Rifle_AK-47.jpg


When Torture Is Not Torture And Terrorists Are Not Terrorists



When looking at the problem of cleansed language, which means words lacking political charge or emotional characteristics or easier they are euphemisms, in her article Tortured Language,

http://writ.news.findlaw.com/mariner/20091006.html

Joanne Mariner gives the perfect examples that the media tend to use when reporting on military actions. More importantly, whenever we choose to use language that provides us political neutrality, the meaning of the action shifts. Consequently, the reporters pose bias on these topics. This is how torture is not longer called torture, but ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. (Mariner, 2009) Can you feel the shift in its meaning? And there are more and more examples Mariner refers to.

What is egregious and concerns me the most is far not the concrete choice of the words, but the decision of media agencies and broadcasting companies. After all they are the ones that swore to provide fair and balanced news or that is what the majority of people believe in and take the media’s words as unquestionable basis of information. The utilization of deceptive words only brings the wrong picture to the society. No wonder that the majority of Americans supported George W. Bush in his second term, if they didn’t have the slightest clue about Iraq and the practices of the soldiers.
One of the best examples Mariner (2009) states is
The New York Times referral to ‘harsh interrogation methods’ used under former President Bush in Iraq. Nevertheless, among these harsh interrogation techniques was a clearly states the practice of ‘water boarding’. Even if water boarding was used against terrorists it does not justify calling it other than torture. For instance a Japanese officer was sentenced to 15 years after practicing this technique on American citizen in 1947 and it was widely recognized by US and the rest of the world as a torture. (Mariner, 2009) If it was clear then, why did The New York Times refuse to call it the same?


Source:
Mariner J., Tortured Language, Find Law, Oct 6, 2009

Recommended readings:
Cohen-Almagor R., The Limits of Objective Reporting, Journal of Language and Politics (2008) p. 147-149

Picture:
http://sheikyermami.com/wp-content/uploads/bush_waterboarding.jpg

May 12, 2010

Is It The Quality Or The Quantity That Matters?


Recently, more and more people tend to shift from the traditional media of the past century – the TV and the newspaper – to more modern and instant news sources - the internet. Nevertheless, with every media it is important to be constantly aware. Broadcasting’s main interest is by far not to play an educative role as John Reith, the managing director of BBC in 1920s, once promoted. It is a social cement, but its main purpose is profit. What is unprofitable must be disposed of immediately. Ever since the 1980s, when big corporations bought the ownership of broadcasting companies, we – the readers – should be aware that objectivity became only an occasional mistress of the profit-motive. And the audience reacted to this change. According to the Pew Research Center in 1985, 35% of Americans felt that news stories were often inaccurate. In 2009 the number increased to 63%. In terms of fairness, more than half (60%) of respondents said that news organizations tend to favor one side when dealing with political and social issues.

For the full report see http://people-press.org/report/543/.

Is there even a chance that news reports are unbiased and objective? The next time you read or watch the news, try asking: Can newspapers provide objective reporters? How are the reports conducted? Who asks the questions? Does he or she have a hidden agenda? Who chooses the articles that go to print? How are the choices made? Who makes these decisions? What corporation owns the media channel and what might the owner’s agenda be? What sort of advertising is included in this media channel and what connections does this imply?

I understand that by the time we answer all these questions there will be hardly any time for the actual news. Thus, as people tend to rely less on TV as their main source of information (due to issues mentioned above), they turn to the internet in the hope of finding greater reliability in the abundant sources that internet provides us with.

It is true that the variety of sources the internet offers seem to look credible and better than regular news casting. However, “the more the merrier” does not really apply in this case. Most people follow their favorite sites, bloggers and sources. In time they develop their own network of information sources that they follow regularly, without even knowing that they ‘cherry pick’ affirmation of their own beliefs. Indeed, it is human nature to seek out confirmation. Nevertheless, with the high proliferation of internet sources it is easy to fall into this stereotype. This phenomenon, which Elizabeth Kolbert (2009) called cyber-polarization, might result in the radicalization of the society, simply because searching for only the ‘right’ way of reporting certain problems naturally leads to accepting these views. Furthermore, favorite web pages can easily link to more radical views and thus result in higher polarization.

To avoid cyber-polarization, one should check more sources, especially those representing opposing views. And after seeing what both sides have to say, one can make up one’s mind and not adopt mimic somebody’s views or affirmations.

Sources:
Kolbert E., The Things People Say, The New Yorker, Nov 2, 2009

Press Accuracy Rating Hits Two Decade Low. Rep. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 13 Sept. 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2010

Video:
The Real News featured on PBS Foreign Exchange
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVeNiVdli48&feature=related



video