prof. e.

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

Race to the Bottom

Posted by prof e on February 24, 2016

campaign_newsIt’s an election year and my news feed is turning into a political brawl. Cable and network news shows are stoking the drama that seems to grow with every passing day. Presidential candidates are coming unhinged and saying things that would have never have been accepted just a decade or two ago. What used to be a fairly conventional, and even predictable, process has changed. And media may be part of the problem.

Even though the research has not yet been done, I suspect that the political climate that has evolved in recent years is, in part, related to the growth of social media and the increasing polarization of traditional media. Let’s take them one at a time.

Social media, for all of the wonderful ways that it connects us instantly to our social networks, is also divisive. By that I mean that social media creates walls while appearing to build bridges. While creating an illusion of transparency, our posts on social media are often carefully curated presentations of self that are anything but transparent. Honesty is compromised by our desire to maintain an image and build a personal brand. We speak out on all manner of issues, often failing to consider the “audience” on the other end of the conversation. And without the benefit of seeing their reaction, we often fail to see the consequences of our speech. When everyone is standing on a soapbox, the only way to get attention is to yell louder, or say something more shocking.

As I write this blog post this appeared in my Twitter feed.

NewsFlash

Meanwhile, traditional media outlets have found that ratings and advertising revenue increase when conflict and drama are served up. Worth mentioning is the fact that conflict is easy to produce on the cheap. Forget in-depth reporting that carefully dissects the issues and presents a balanced and objective review of the facts. Today’s leading “news” programs are more interested in generating heat than light. And it’s not just TV. Newspaper articles that don’t have the word commentary at the top are only slightly less opinionated than those that do. Everyone seems to want to take a position and defend it to the death.

Social media and increasingly fragmented TV news programs both do something else that contributes to the problem; they both promote the echo-chamber effect. What happens is that we increasingly limit our conversations to those who agree with us, and make little effort to search out opposing views. The Filter Bubble phenomenon is part of the problem.

Maybe I’m just frustrated and tired of watching civility and decency go by the wayside. What used to be valued and treasured human character traits are now seen as signs of weakness and an invitation to be characterized as a loser. Is media the cause or the result? Perhaps it’s too soon to tell. But if we don’t figure it out soon there may be little worth salvaging.

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7 Responses to “Race to the Bottom”

  1. summer reyes said

    “Forget in-depth reporting that carefully dissects the issues and presents a balanced and objective review of the facts. Today’s leading “news” programs are more interested in generating heat than light.” That sentence essentially sums up what today’s print, radio and television media is and has been gearing towards. As stated in chapter 3; The Rise and Decline of Modern Journalism from Campbell, Martin, and Fabos’ book Media Essentials; A brief introduction, The New York Sun and New York Morning created a new brand of newspapers in the 1800’s focused more on human interest than actual news. Yellow Journalism; which emphasizes human interest stories, crime stories and “fluff” articles has become increasingly more and more a part of today’s print news. Since the 1800’s America’s insatiable thirst for dramatics has remain unquenched. Most newspapers today are used as a vehicle for advertisements and human-interest stories filled with fluff not relevant to what’s actually going on in this country. Like the article title, we are in a race to the bottom. Mainstream media is presenting outrageous articles focused solely on dramatics. As stated above, “traditional media outlets have found that ratings and advertising revenue increase when conflict and drama are served up.” The news is governed by money, a very dangerous phenomenon in a democratic society.

    Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

  2. Lacy Gripp said

    When it comes to politics, news stations, newspapers, and journalists they all have one thing in common and that is opinions and fake generated stories. In the blog when you state “Today’s leading “news” programs are more interested in generating heat than light. And it’s not just TV. Newspaper articles that don’t have the word commentary at the top are only slightly less opinionated than those that do. Everyone seems to want to take a position and defend it to the death.” I believe that this is the truth behind all journalism. They don’t create a sense of light or truth in their answers. They will do anything to produce what the common people will love. They all have opinions and it seems as if they are all black and white, right and wrong. The issue is that they all believe they’re right. This is what causes political fights and arguments because we all have different views on what’s going on in the world. In the text book it talks about all of the types human interest topics that seem to cause this opinionated journalism. More and more newspapers and news stations focus on the negative and the set in stone answers as if anything is actually set in stone. They focus on crime, sad sob stories, rumors, and common interests. They just want attention and want the audience to know what they think is going on. Journalism is dangerous especially in the world today. Words get twisted and so do stories, and when this happens people become fragile and angry.

  3. Lindsey Moss said

    As I watched the Republican debates last Thursday, I could not help but shake my head at the candidates who were on stage. What once was viewed as a way for Americans to get answers to the questions they had about our country was now turned into a joke. Instead of answering the questions presented at each candidate, each candidate instead attacked each opponent. What has happened to the professionalism in our world today? As the night went on, I could relate the actions from the debate directly to Yellow Journalism. According to our text book, Yellow Journalism emphasizes exciting human-interest stories, and is the forerunner of today’s journalism. People love the drama, scandals, and corruption and they love to hear the breaking news.
    Social media, I believe, is the main reason these candidates act the way they do during the debates and the main reason yellow journalism is emerging drastically in our society today. In the post, Mr. Ebersole said, “Even though the research has not yet been done, I suspect that the political climate that has evolved in recent years is, in part, related to the growth of social media and the increasing polarization of traditional media.” Instead of focusing on the main concerns of our country, each politician is instead working on maintaining a certain image that may have been stained by the media and news outlets all over the world. Because of our instant access to the media, we are able to get breaking news in an instant. Although this could be a good thing, it could also be harmful to the minds of all Americans and take the focus of the political season away from what really matters.

  4. Ghaleb Al-Saleh said

    In the United States everything Americans care about is connected to social media, and that can be said about the election race. Everything that comes out of a candidates mouth is dissected by social media and its millions of users, and that can be a major positive for getting out information, but at the same time it is very hard to be unbiased, or find information that is not biased towards a particular candidate on sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. This unbiased nature of reporting has begun to rub off on major media outlets, and instead of giving credible information on candidate it seems media is just trying to find the best story to get the most attention. I do not blame the politicians running for president because it is the consumers fault for making all these unconventional campaigns popular, the candidates are just giving the people what they want. This ties in with the text book when it talks about the decline of journalism because it is not really journalism anymore it is a 140 character tweet bashing Bernie Sanders, or someone sharing a negative post about Trump. A lot of good information is being poured out on all the candidates but I just feel like the American citizens get deprived of it because they are literally being exposed to propaganda and opinions 24/7 on social media.

  5. Gabriel Johnson said

    I am finding it hard to watch all of the presidential debates that are happening because it seems like all that the candidates want to do is throw stones at each other. If social media was not as big as it is today I believe that there would not be so much bashing each other. The candidates are saying some crazy things during the debates so they get people to vote for them or get news people to talk about them. I believe the news coverage of the debates as changed drastically from a decade ago, you don’t have to watch news channels to get what’s going on you can get it from all kinds of social media.

  6. Jenn de Groot said

    I believe that the quality of elegance that journalism used to hold is waning every day, with every tweet and Facebook post. We now live in a world where events are diminished to 140 character tweets, and Narrative Science, an artificially intelligent, algorithm-run news producer, is being trusted to commercially produce news articles. Facebook, especially around election time, is the new vast wasteland, with hundreds of slanted, video shorts acting almost as propaganda as they promote certain ideas and bash others, with very little serious, unbiased analysis of both sides. I do not believe these 140 character tweets or short videos have the ability to produce news with integrity. In Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction by Richard Campbell, Chapter 3 does speak about the decline of journalism since the introduction of Yellow Journalism, which focuses more on social entertainment and matters more trivial than political world events. And now today, even what we consider “serious” news material is declining. I believe this is a result of the consumer’s desires. We may say we want unbiased, fully informed news information, but if presented with that, many of us would not be able to sustain the attention necessary to read a fully fleshed news article or a 60 minute long news segment. Since the introduction and huge explosion in popularity of social media in our lives, our attention spans have been reduced significantly (I apologize for the lack of sources here, but I heard the following in another Mass Comm class… About every six minutes, a smart phone user feels the urge to check their phone. In addition, if a video is serious and longer than six seconds, the viewer will lose interest. Comical videos may hole attention longer, but not by much.)

    Social media companies make it their mission to give consumers what they want; this is how they make money. Therefore, we as consumers must rise above our short attention spans and demand more balanced, more informative news. We cannot idly sit by and accept watered down live tweet updates instead of an actual political debate.

    If we truly want change, it must start from within.

    Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media Essentials: A Brief Introduction. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. Print.

  7. Megaen Phillips said

    Just as in the podcast of “Faker– and Harder” that the things that need the most attention arent always the ones that get it. The ones that retain the most information are the ones that are engaged and laughing. (2:38 seconds) This political debate is blowing up from the absurd words that come from Donald Trumps mouth, and voice recordings, and the lies that are coming out of Hillary Clinton. But what are they actually going to do for our country? Everything that goes viral is the rubbish of word vomit that comes from Donald Trumps mouth, or the defense for him that Hillary Clinton ” has more lies spilling from her past than her mouth now”-(Common White Girl (Big Twitter Name)). But what about what each candidate is running for? Sure Trump wants to build a wall, but what about the other pressing issues? In “Media Essentials” page 386 under “What is News?” it quotes “Over time,journalists have developed a set of criteria for determining whether information is NEWSWORTHY”…(PG 386) Without CNN I would be unsure of what some newscasts determine about what is “fit” to publish. Without the facts of all of Hillary’s lies and corruptions, I would vote for her just out of spite of Donald Trumps ignorance. But CNN has given me an unbiased side to each candidate. Although CNN has tweeted and reported some stories that may seem “un-newsworthy” it gives a new opinion on what others may not see. In tonight’s debate Donald Trump talked about Mexicans, and referred to them as “hombres”. That was a notification by CNN and a tweet for those who may not pay attention to the news. As i got multiple notifications on his claim of “hombres” I was disappointed in the fact that that’s all I heard about without any research. Was this “newsworthy” ? Some may say yes in the fact that this is Donald Trump’s discrimination and hateful words emerging. Although some may find it important, I wish that more news would show up on my time-line of what they propose that will BENEFIT to our country, rather than this being a year that i dread for the future. Perhaps “Tweeters” should read “Media Essentials” to read up on what should be newsworthy. I wish someday that the events that take place during the debate can effectively be reflected on social media such as “Twitter” so that can can get a proper visual and intelligence on the matter of what should be on the table.

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