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

Archive for April, 2016

Freedom of Expression Has Limits

Posted by prof e on April 21, 2016

FreedomOfExpressionESPN’s decision to fire baseball commentator Curt Schilling is not an infringement of Schilling’s rights under the First Amendment. Companies have parted ways with high profile employees for all sorts of public statements or deeds that were at odds with the company’s image. A few that come to mind are: Justine Sacco, Sergeant Gary Stein, Paula Deen, Adria Richards (this one is complicated), and don’t forget shock jocks Anthony Cumia and Don Imus. Even when your job is to be outrageous and over-the-line, apparently there is still a line that must not be crossed.

Schilling’s offense (reposting an anti-transgender meme on Facebook) comes at a difficult time in America as social norms are changing at a dramatic pace. Remember that just a few short years ago President Barack Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton were both opposed to same-sex marriage. And now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land, transgender rights have become the next big issue. While people evolve on where they stand on the issue, companies, political figures, celebrities and other entities are making statements about where they stand. In this case ESPN decided to take a stand that put Schilling on the wrong side of the issue.

In countries that do not have an equivalent of the First Amendment, public statements can quickly lead to government action. Just this week German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed a court to proceed with prosecution of  a German comedian for defaming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to a report in the Washington Post, similar laws exist in Sweden, Monaco, and Spain…countries not typically thought of as repressive regimes. In some Muslim countries, blasphemy laws allow for punishment up to and including death.

These events raise questions and concerns about just how much freedom of expression exists within certain corporate or political cultures.


Posted in 1st amendment, ethics, media industry, politics, social media | 3 Comments »

100 Years of Pulitzers

Posted by prof e on April 19, 2016

CentennialMarkwithMedalPulitzer Prizes, arguably the most prestigious awards in journalism, were awarded yesterday and we were reminded, yet again, of the importance and significance of a free press. A quick glance at the winners reveals reporting, commenting, and editing on a wide range of issues of grave importance. For example: slavery, public school performance (or lack thereof), police brutality, and abusive behavior in mental institutions and prisons were topics that were recognized and acknowledged.

The role of the press as guardians of all that is good and right is a long-standing tradition that has come under great attack in recent years. Sloppy and biased reporting, ideological campaigns masquerading as objective coverage, and economic pressure to turn a profit have eroded the trust and credibility that took so long to build. According to Poynter Institute, a Pulitzer Prize was once retracted. In 1981, The Washington Post‘s Janet Cooke was awarded a prize for feature writing. It was retracted two days later when the Post learned it was fabricated.

American consumers of news have long counted on objective reporters shining lights in dark corners to root out corruption and malfeasance. The fact that the Pulitzers are 100 years old this year is a reminder that the legacy of journalism endures despite the disruptive nature of digital media technology. It is not just a little ironic that the prize is named for Joseph Pulitzer, one of the newspaper publishers best known for the scandalous rise of Yellow Journalism at the end of the 19th century. Pulitzer’s New York World was a significant part of the problem back then. Perhaps that is why the name associated with the newspaper was in need of rehabilitation; which the prize provides.

Posted in ethics, journalism | Leave a Comment »

Porn: a Threat to Public Health

Posted by prof e on April 11, 2016

The research is in, and the facts overwhelmingly support concerns that pornography is unhealthy, dangerous, and taking a toll on public health. According to a report published in the Washington Post, which cites 40 years of peer-reviewed research, porn “shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality — for the worse.”

Another article, published in Time magazine, views porn through a different lens. According to this article many young men are finding that they are incapable of being sexually aroused by their partner because of years of exposure to extreme pornographic images. These are not moralistic crusades by puritanical killjoys.

These men, and the thousands of others who populate their websites with stories of sexual dysfunction, are all at pains to make it clear that they are not antisex. ‘The reason I quit watching porn is to have more sex,’ says Deem. ‘Quitting porn is one of the most sex-positive things people can do,’ says Rhodes. One online commenter, sirrifo, put it more simply: ‘I just want to enjoy sex again and feel the desire for another person.’

And if you’re a woman who thinks this is a guy problem, think again. The Time magazine article has a sidebar about the effects of porn on women. Women who use porn experience some of the same negative effects as do men. And for women, the often violent and abusive nature of pornographic sex makes women more likely to face similar behavior from their partners.

It’s time to take this matter seriously and recognize it for what it is…a multi-billion dollar industry that does great physical and psychological harm to its customers.

The Time magazine article ended with this poignant quote by a man who decided to cut back on porn: “When I think about it,” he writes, “I’ve wasted years of my life looking for a computer or mobile phone to provide something it is not capable of providing.”

Posted in ethics, media effects, media industry, research, websites | 1 Comment »