prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for March, 2012

Rushing to Judgement

Posted by prof e on March 28, 2012

This blog post is in no way intended to add to the current public debate about the guilt or innocence of either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman. The tragic shooting has become the center of a national dialogue about race (Martin is African-American and Zimmerman is Hispanic), violence, and media coverage of the same. While there has been little verifiable evidence about the tragic incident, there is no shortage of opinion about what happened on that night of February 26th.

What we do know is that the national media were slow to report the initial shooting. Only after African-American commentators, bloggers and radio talk show hosts took up the cause–and after social media amplified the discussion–did the mainstream media finally pay attention.

Photos of Martin and Zimmerman widely disseminated by the mainstream media have also led some to jump to conclusions. Newer photos of both are now being released. One can’t help but think that the images being presented are part of the process of making a case for either innocence or guilt of those portrayed. Either way it is easy to see how important first impressions can be when forming an opinion in the absence of hard facts.

Additional facts about Martin’s record of suspensions from school are also changing the nature of the debate. Some are claiming that these are irrelevant facts that are being intentionally leaked to the media with intent to destroy the reputation of the victim.

Even coverage of the media coverage has been controversial. The Daily Texan, a student newspaper from University of Texas at Austin, pulled a controversial editorial cartoon that was critical of the media’s coverage of the story.

One of the most important responsibilities of the media in a democratic society is to draw attention to misbehavior and to do so in an even-handed and unbiased way. Crime reporting is just one example. But so is investigative reporting of how police and other civil servants carry out their duty to administer justice. When public outcry about a possible miscarriage of justice by the local police reached a tipping point, the US Department of Justice was called in to investigate the Sanford police department.

Questions remain: Is justice being served by the attention being given to this story? Would justice have been served if a few African-American journalists had not gained the attention of the social media megaphone…which then led to the mainstream media paying attention? Can truth and justice prevail in what some are now calling a “media circus”?


UPDATE 3/30/12

PEW Research has released an interesting study comparing the way that Twitter, blogs, and cable TV and talk radio have covered the story.


Posted in journalism, media industry, social media | 33 Comments »

Would Narcissus have a Facebook page?

Posted by prof e on March 18, 2012

Narcissism, named after the Greek god Narcissus, is defined as, “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.” Narcissus, according to legend, saw his image in a reflecting pool and was so captivated by himself that he was unable to leave  the pool and eventually died.

While the story of Narcissus may be fiction, we all know people who suffer from the affliction of self-love and vanity. According to an article in The Guardian newspaper, a study recently published in the  journal Personality and Individual Differences suggests that there may be a link “between the number of friends you have on Facebook and the degree to which you are a ‘socially disruptive’ narcissist.”

People who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their newsfeeds more regularly.

Two constructs measured by the researchers–exhibitionism and entitlement–appear to be connected to the number of Facebook friends and may be related to educational trends that have emphasized self-esteem at the expense of other values.

Because social media is still in its infancy many more studies will likely be undertaken in an attempt to better understand what appears to be the dark side to this quickly expanding phenomenon.

Posted in interactive media, media effects, new media, research, social media | 35 Comments »

The Beginning of the End for Joseph Kony

Posted by prof e on March 7, 2012

If you’ve ever wanted to see an internet meme take off…here’s your chance. If you’ve ever wanted to get on the ground floor of a global movement that has great potential to do good…here’s your chance. If you’ve ever wanted to see what it takes to harness social media to motivate millions of people to get up off the couch and take action…here’s your chance.

A friend of mine posted a link to this video in facebook yesterday (March 6th) around noon MST. When I started to watch the video I had no idea that it was 30-minutes long…but I was quickly caught up in the story of a madman doing terrible things to children in the interior of Africa. Thirty minutes later I knew several things: 1) this filmmaker knew how to use video effectively to tell a story, and 2) the story was one that would compel anyone who watched to care about this terrible situation. If you read just a few of the many comments on the Vimeo page you’ll see people who have been genuinely moved to action.

I shared the link on fb and twitter and began to see others doing the same. When I watched the video yesterday, it had been viewed by several hundred thousand people. As I write this on the morning of March 7th it has been viewed 5.3 million times! I’ve never seen something take off this quickly. This is big folks, and is only going to get bigger. A couple of days ago the number of people who knew about Kony was a fraction of those who recognize the names Kobe or Kim Kardashian…but that will change. And that is a good thing.

March 8 Update: As promised, here are links to a critique of Koni2012 and Invisible Children’s rebuttal. Remember, as traditional mass media editors and gatekeepers become less important, individual media consumers must become adept at evaluating media messages using a full-range of critical thinking skills. The challenge is to become a critical thinker without becoming overly cynical.

Posted in interactive media, media effects, new media, social media | 33 Comments »

Rush v Fluke and Broadcast [In]Decency

Posted by prof e on March 5, 2012

In case you missed it, Rush Limbaugh said some pretty terrible things last week about Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown Law School. Fluke testified before a congressional committee in favor of legislation that would require that birth control be covered as part of all heath insurance programs. This is somewhat controversial amongst Catholic institutions who believe that they should be exempt from providing a service that runs counter to their official doctrine. Religious leaders from other faiths have joined the debate fearing that government intrusion into this arena could open the doors for further erosion of First Amendment rights to practice their beliefs without government interference.

Rush Limbaugh, an outspoken voice for the conservative movement has never been shy about speaking his mind. In fact, his media career is founded on a bombastic approach that often includes personal attacks. Last week he called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” and suggested that she post videos of her sexual encounters online for taxpayers in exchange for their funding her activities. Nearly everyone agrees that Limbaugh crossed the line with his remarks. After AOL and a half-dozen or so other advertisers withdrew their ad dollars, he issued this apology.

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress … Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

This is not without precedent and is not limited to conservative talk radio hosts. According to Kirsten Powers, liberal radio and TV commentators have similar track records of misogynistic missteps. This event also is a reminder of the Don Imus incident in 2007 when he referred to the Rutgers woman’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hos.” However, as Paul Farhi pointed out in the Washington Post, Imus is not in the same league as Limbaugh. Limbaugh is the most popular talk show host in the country. His 8-year, $400 million contract virtually guarantees that Premiere Radio Networks will continue to give Limbaugh a microphone. In fact, some believe that this might even help to fire up his base. According to the New York Times, Premiere issued this statement:

The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue,” the company said. “We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.

What do you think? When strong emotion meets opinion, where should broadcasters draw the line?

Posted in 1st amendment, radio | 22 Comments »