Monday, August 31, 2009

Media used to control or those in power control the media

The readings for this week made me think about the similarities between how technologies that helped with information-sharing when they were invented were used then and are still being used today. The printing press, the telegraph, the phone, the radio, tv and film all aided in dispersing information and connecting people. For example, during the Civil War, the new technology had significant military implications. The US laid more cables and sent millions of telegrams during this time and this was the first conflict that was reported on greatly. During the Cold War the propaganda that was dissimenated all over was clearly for the benefit of those controlling the airwaves. After these technologies became international there was more of a need for a governing body and for oversight. There were commisions and other groups that were formed to try to have some understanding of the best methods to do this. Same kind of problems are being faced today here in the US.

So, what were the benefits to these innovations of the time? Sure there are and were plenty, but I'm a pessismist, so I will simply focus on the negatives aspects that evolved and are currently plaguing information technology and the media, these amazing inventions that make our lives easier every day and yet have also helped reaked havoc.

As I previously mentioned, the Civil War, Cold War and WWI, WWII, were all aided in some way by the either the telegraph, the phone, the printing press or all. What comes to mind is the things that make the world go round; power and money. For instance, the newspaper industry became one interested in making profits. Ideally, it was made for sharing information on current events, and news from around the world, but as is the case now, it is controlled by a company or corporation with it's own agenda. This is true of the media in general. In any case, during the Cold War, the US used the radio to influence others to abhor the Communists and the Soviets tried to convince Cuba, for example, to join their forces. So the cycle continues as the US tries to influence other countries to side with them, and other countries try to negatively portray the US. It is easy to use the media because it has such a wide reach. The technologies have compounded as they did in the early 20th century as well. With th printing press newspapers and books could be printed, then with the invention of trains, these books, newspapers, pamphlets could be widely dispersed. (Martin Luther used the printing press well.) Then, the telephone and radio had a wider reach. Not only could one person read a book, now they could talk about it on the radio and reach further and eventually call their relatives to tell them about it. (Now, the internet serves this purpose too.) My point being that those with power and money have control of the technologies or have and had more of them readily available and thus were able to achieve more influence and power using them. The British had the most cable lines, which they used strategically to control their colonies.

Rulers, leaders and dictators today realize the power of the media and of these information-sharing technologies. That is why there is a constant need for oversight and control, or at least that is what the people with power and influence think. They can't have a journalist running around reporting the corrupt ways of the senator or of the CIA. I just read an article about the need to subvert media in Latin America. Now, the media is the enemy to control as opposed to those in control using the media to control. It's still used for that purpose, but it was more obvious before.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Truth in Media

Hello everyone, welcome to the SIS 640 Group 1 blog! I'm sure this class will touch on many interesting topics this semester and hopefully we can provide some insightful comments into those. I'm looking forward to reading what everyone else thinks of the readings.
For my first post I wanted to focus on something I noticed in both Thussu's and Matteart's articles, which bothered me a great deal. The use of the media and journalism to promote specific agendas. First, full disclosure, I was a newspaper reporter for a while before coming to American, so I may have idealizations about the industry, but I do realize that many people do not necessarily think of news in such a way. For me, journalism and news reporting overall is about the facts. Letting people know what is going on either close to home or far away, the good, the bad, the ugly, everything, and then allowing them to make their own conclusions. In my mind it is not about trying to sway a reader (or viewer or listener) to your side or distort the facts to make one side look better and the other look worse. It is also most certainly not (to me) a vehicle for pure entertainment and the chance to make a profit publishing falsehoods because it sells papers.
However so much of both of those articles focused on government, corporation, or individual attempts to do just that. Governments held a disturbingly large stake in this business in order to promote their own propaganda. The USA used Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to wage propaganda war against the USSR and the article stated that similar radio and television stations are currently in use to prop up the Western case against opponents in the Middle East. This especially bothers me as it is propaganda disguised as news. The listeners are led to believe that what they hear is the whole truth. While it may be true it also most likely a highly biased version of that, which the listeners may never realize.
Governments also used the media to manipulate the public's view of their own actions. In the Mattelart article there is discussion of the Crimean War and how photographers were told to only take pictures of idyllic scenes of soldiers that made war look like a picnic, under the guise of not scaring families. After reports of horrific battles and massacres the military then required official accreditation in order to report on its activities. While some parts of the military activities should be confidential for the safety of soldiers, families and the public do deserve to know what their loved ones and country are actually doing. They need the facts in order to make their own judgements, not just blindly believe whatever their government tells them. It is a slippery slope to fascism and dictatorship after that.
I was equally, if not more disturbed by William Randolph Hearst's blatant disregard for journalistic integrity. When his photographer told him there was no war in Cuba, Hearst said he would provide it. Which he did in the form of the Spanish American War. While factual reporting on actual events is one thing, to manufacture a war, which kills people, can ruin countries, and otherwise destroy lives, just to sell papers is reprehensible. If you want to sell scandal and excitement when their is none, write a fictional novel or make a movie, don't toy with others' lives for your own personal gain.
These acts give journalism a bad name, leading people to (sometimes rightfully) mistrust the media. Even today it is hard to find sources of unbiased reporting. Recently there were reports that the US government was denying access to reporters who published unfavorable stories about the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every major news channel and paper seems to have their own "slant" on a story despite their frequent claims to the contrary.
I suppose journalism never was what I idealized it to be, a search for and desire to spread the truth and inform people about the goings on of the world. It has always been and always will be a business and a tool for profit and propaganda. I suppose the best we all can do is question our sources, look at multiple points of view, and figure out the truth for ourselves.