Postmodern News Consumption and the Digital Generation
by Brian Scott Roessler
A thesis submitted to the School of Communications of Webster University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Masters of Arts in Communications Management
December 2010 St. Louis, Missouri
ÂŠ 2010 by Brian Scott Roessler ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The author hereby grants to Webster University permission to reproduce and distribute publicly paper and electronic copies of this thesis document in whole or in part for educational purposes.
This thesis paper is dedicated to my wife, Shawna. She has been a rock of love and support throughout my entire journey through graduate school.
Abstract If this thesis paper became a news item today, there would be a television news teaser telling you that there was a dire crisis of information among the American young. At-the-ready pundits may squabble about who is to blame for the crisis incessantly in the 24-hour cable news cycle. Area newspapers and local news broadcasts may pick up on it and give it a neighborhood spin. A few thousand blogs and web reports may be written on the subject. All of it would be collected, linked-to, updated, and displayed online. It would be up to you, as the news consumer, to decide from which source(s), among the accumulated reports, you are willing to garner some kind of â€œtruthâ€? about this thesis. For years, American news had been defined by the parameters of traditional journalism. Objective stories from trusted journalists characterized what the American public expected and accepted as news. Traditional technologies are giving way to new media, and the young who have grown up immersed in new media receive their information and news in ways differing from the traditional forms of journalism consumed by their parents and grandparents. It can be difficult for the new media news consumer to differentiate real news from entertainment from misinformation from fear mongering from marketing. This thesis looks at the media consumption patterns of news consumers under the age of thirty in America who have grown up in a Brian Roessler
world of cable news, personal computers, and mobile phones. The premise of this thesis is that, because of these technologies and new business models associated with them, American news consumers under thirty are getting more news and information from subjective sources than from traditional, objective journalism. The research for this thesis shows that despite the promulgation of news and information, todayâ€™s young are actually seeking it out less. They seem to be getting much of their information by happenstance, and what information they do seek is self-selected. It is the job of todayâ€™s media citizens to become their own gatekeepers in an age where any story can be told in any point of view. The traditional flow of news and information has been replaced by a postmodern system that eschews tradition for convenience and selfrelevance. The new technologies and different business models that have helped to create this system put a priority on attention-grabbing headlines, advertising dollars, or entertainment value rather than news. For those under thirty, this is the only system they have known. In response to this onslaught of information, those in this age group (who have not withdrawn from the process) now primarily seek out news and information from sources that fit their interests and beliefs without regard to its objectivity.
Table of Contents Dedication
List of Tables
Purpose of the Study
Parameters and Terminology
Review of Selected Literature
Social Responsibility and Postmodernism
History of Communications Technologies
Media and Youth
Survey Data Analysis and Evaluation
Conclusions and Recommendations
List of Tables Table
News Sources: Present and Future
Respondent’s (perceived) Technical Literacy
Respondent’s (perceived) Media Literacy
Current Affairs Awareness
Daily Media Consumption
Percentage of Media Time Spent on News
Preferred Method of News Consumption
Preferred News Source Attributes
Frequency: Newspapers (physical)
Frequency: Newspapers (online)
Network News’ Websites
Cable News Websites
List of Tables Table
Online News Blogs
Chapter I Introduction The nature of news and information propagation is ever-changing along with the technological landscape. From word-of-mouth through 4G mobility, every generation relates to the world in the way that they receive their information about the world. Is the information relevant? Is it factual? Does it reflect the core values of the consumer? Is it entertaining? Communications technologies not only disseminate information, they disseminate culture. It is this relationship with people and their communication technology that demonstrates Marshall McLuhanâ€™s point that the medium is, indeed the message. At the very least, the medium impacts the message. The communications technologies that are used help to determine who and what methods are used for the transfer of information as well as the audience for the message. How information is received, both individually and as a culture, can directly impact personal views about that information, and subsequently the world. The amount of sources news consumption choices available has created. In 2010, CNN celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. In those thirty years, Americans have seen the impact (and consumption) of newspapers and the â€œevening newsâ€? lessened by the immediacy of the 24-hour news cycle, the rise of the internet and citizen journalism, direct feedback Brian Roessler
through social media, and the popularity of talk radio. It is a time where information and news are readily available through any chosen medium to fit anyone’s views. One important effect in the number of sources news consumption choices available has been limited gate keeping in a majority of the mediums. Opinions are available in many forms, often in the same formats as objective journalism. The ‘news-as-entertainment’ business model has, in many cases, replaced the more traditional models of information dissemination. A postmodern state of journalism has arisen where former disc jockeys, Sports Center hosts and entertainment magazine show hosts preside over some of the highest rated shows on the “cable news” channels. So popular are some of these shows, the hosts could be considered celebrities themselves. The state of journalism is such that a selfdescribed “fake” news show is seen as a trusted source of information and can get thousands of people to the National Mall for a rally. For those born after 1980 this type of coverage is all they have known.
Chapter 2 Purpose of the Study, Premise The purpose of this study is to look at the implications of and determine correlations between communications technologies, the number of news and information options, and media consumption. Specifically, this study aims to inspect the media consumption patterns of those under the age of thirty who have grown up in this age of multiple, varied, and targeted information (and opinion) dissemination technologies. With so many available options for information attainment and the technological ability to reach all of them, the young population has been bombarded with various forms of info-tainment, opinion and journalism their entire lives. Questions that will help focus the research include:
1. How have trends in information delivery been impacted by communications technologies? 2. What media theories correlate with or serve as predictors of media consumption patterns? 3. What percentage of time do young people spend in front of audio/video/print/electronic media? 4. What percentage of media time is used for consumption of news and current affairs information? Brian Roessler
5. What percentage of news consumption is from subjective sources?
The author believes that media consumers under the age of thirty media consumers who are adept at modern communications technologies and only know the current state of news and information delivery - tend to be more inclined to attain their news and information from sources that can grab and hold on to their attention. This study will prove that a majority of the news and current affairs information consumed by those under the age of thirty comes from subjective sources.
Chapter 3 Research Methodology For secondary research, the author will look through books, scholarly journals, magazines, and related websites to see what current media trends exist, and how they affect and are affected by those under thirty years of age. The secondary research for this project will establish that there are, indeed, many postmodern, subjective information sources that are seen by those under thirty as news, and they are in competition with the more traditional, objective media model. The secondary research will also look at the history of subjective and objective media and their links to the technological trends through time. Finally, the secondary research will look at studies that have previously researched the media consumption patterns of young adults to establish a baseline for comparison. Primary research has been conducted in the following ways: 1. A survey tool that analyzes news and media consumption patterns. 2. Ratings research to analyze overall media and news consumption. 3. Interviews with media consumers within the eighteen to thirty demographic range. Brian Roessler
The survey instrument was designed to gather information about media consumption patterns of the entire under-thirty age group. Further studies could be done to see how the results break down by race, gender, income, religion, political affiliation, and education levels. The designed interview questions and ancillary conversations were crafted to get deeper into what it is those under thirty are looking for in their news and information sources.
Chapter 4 Limitations Those being surveyed and interviewed come to the process with their own set of biases and truths which may skew their answers. Others may answer in ways they think the author wants to hear. The size of the sample group is also a limitation and could be increased in a longer research study. The survey was dispersed through social media and email, which means the respondents have a certain level of technological capabilities that may not represent an accurate crosssample of the entire target population.
Personal Limitations and Author Bias The author acknowledges his own media literacy background may be different than those participating in surveys and interviews. Because of this, the author has attempted to make all questions in the survey instrument objective, impartial and non-leading. The author also acknowledges that, as someone just outside of the age range that is subject of this thesis, similar technological capabilities as the subjects. Because of the author's knowledge of these media and communications technologies, the author has tried not to let biases of technological preferences play into the analysis process. The author also makes Brian Roessler
assumptions when creating the terminology used in the survey and interviews. Finally, the author comes with assumptions of what information should be considered objective, and what is subjective: drawing that line, possibly, in a different place than others may.
Chapter 5 Parameters and Terminology For this study, the author has set parameters to determine whether or not a news and information source is subjective or objective. Without such parameters, there can be no basis for the premise of the paper. First the nature of objective versus subjective must be distinguished. Merriam-Websterâ€™s online dictionary defines objective as: 3 a: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations. Subjectivity is defined by Merriam-Webster online as: 4 a (1): peculiar to a particular individual: personal (2): modified or affected by personal views, experience or background
The author would note that with the proliferation and advances in communications technology, the traditional definition of journalism as presenting the facts in an impartial manner cannot apply to the current constructs of journalism today. Journalism was once a role once left exclusively in the domain of traditional news sources. Technological advances mean that today anyone with an internet connection can present (objective or subjective) information to large masses of people. Objective Sources Brian Roessler
The author is going to assume that traditional news sources are, for the most part, objective and practice a traditional style of journalism. For the sake of this study, traditional sources will be newspapers, local television news, national network news, and outside sources such as the BBC. The author realizes that the very nature of selecting what stories even make a news broadcast or newspaper is somewhat subjective, and based on assignment editor bias, media owner political and local predisposition and viewer and advertiser considerations. After the story has been selected however, traditional sources tend to employ traditional journalistic models to present a story. Other sources that will be seen as objective are online versions of newspapers, local, national and public (such as PBS, BBC, etc.) broadcast news websites, as their content and style is, generally, a reflection of the over the air broadcast news. For this study, in order for a news source to be considered objective, it must clearly delineate the news from anything that can be construed as opinion, bias or propaganda.
Neither Objective nor Subjective Sources Internet news gathering sites, such as Yahoo! and Google News, will neither be considered objective nor subjective, because they do not create their own content, but pull from multiple sources that can fall into either category. Without being able to track the specific clicks made by the respondents, while they visit those sites, it is impossible to tell exactly from what kind of sites they are getting their content. Interview-based shows such as Larry King Live and Charlie Rose fall into the neither objective nor subjective category. This is because the host will ask unbiased questions, but it is impossible to tell from guest to guest into which category the responses will fall. News magazine programs such as 60 minutes, Nightline, and Dateline will also fall into this category because of the mix of emotional and informational stories. The author believes that the reporting is usually objective, but is unsure about the selection process. Because of their (lack of) timeliness, magazines will also fall into the category of neither objective nor subjective. By the time a magazine goes to press, a media topic has been told, retold and over analyzed. The author realizes that magazines often deal in super-specialized content or viewpoints which can seem subjective, but since there are also completely objective magazines, specific judgments must be made on these particular magazines. Brian Roessler
Subjective Sources There are many methods to make a news source subjective. However, all of these methods come down to one of two basic ideas. The first is to only provide information which gives one point of view. Leaving out a crucial part of a story, for any reason, goes against core (traditional) journalistic values and turns a news piece into a viewpoint piece. The other, simpler, and more prevalent way to make a news/information item subjective is the straightforward addition of opinion. Opinion, however, is far more complex than it may seem on the surface. Opinion can take on (and disguise itself in) many forms â€“ some obvious, and others not so much. Analysis, commentary, debate, pundits, viewer/reader response, and the addition of social media as a way for direct dissemination are all common ways which opinion is introduced into the dissemination of news. It is this introduction of opinion that has allowed the 24-hour cable news cycle to have 24 hours of material, but it is also primarily what keeps them, for the parameters of this thesis paper, from being objective sources of information. In traditional news sources, opinion (such as editorials and columnists) is specifically segregated from the rest of the news and expressly denoted as such. Cable news and other sources that employ opinion in this manner make very little, if any, effort to separate or denote the division of journalism and opinion. Brian Roessler
Other methods of introducing opinion into news and information are satire, parody, argument and mongering (fear, hate, war, sympathy, etc). All are ways of adding emotional triggers or connections to information in an attempt to sway opinion. Shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live, and South Park use satire and parody to trigger a humor response while making social or political commentary. Argument and mongering are usually within the domains of cable news, and do not always reflect the views of the media producer, but rather the host or pundit placed on the show for the sake of stirring up interest, controversy, or debate. Ratings are the goal in this style of programming, and objective journalism is often the casualty of it. In the end, it is the intent of emotional response, rather than the intent to inform with this kind of information that keeps it from being objective. Additionally, the Sunday morning network and cable analysis shows such as Face the Nation and Meet the Press will be considered subjective, due to the discussion and pundit factor. The websites of the cable news outlets will also be considered subjective. Although the written pieces tend to air on the side of objectivity, the additional video on those sites tends to add elements of opinion. Web logs (blogs), citizen journalism, and social media, for purposes of this study will also be considered subjective sources. The reasoning Brian Roessler
for this is because the creators of these informational sources, for the most part, have not been trained in traditional journalistic methodology. This will make it more likely for the information provided by these sources not to fall into traditional, objective models of journalism.
Other Parameters and Terminology: Sensationalism is something that will be considered neither subjective nor objective. In a day where even teasers for local weather reports are sensationalized, sensationalism is not necessarily an indicator if the content is objective or subjective. There can be a fine line between sensationalism and, for example, fear mongering. For purposes of this study, the author believes that it is the intent that separates the two. Sensationalism is by no means a form of objectivity, as it is primarily used to create interest to watch, read, or listen where none may have previously existed; however, as it may not always be used in an attempt to sway opinion either, it cannot be considered overtly subjective. Infotainment is a relatively new term. It is currently being used to describe much of the informational programming that is presented to media consumers. Infotainment is defined in the Merriam Webster online dictionary as:
Infotainment: a television program that presents information (as news) in a manner intended to be entertaining. Interestingly enough, the entry also says that the first known use of the word infotainment is in 1980, the same year as the start of CNN and the year that the oldest subjects in the study’s age range were born. The word pundit has been and will be used in this study. Merriam Webster defines pundit as: Pundit 3: a person who gives opinions in an authoritative manner usually through the mass media The word opinion in this definition highlights the reason that no show with pundits, even if there are multiple pundits of differing viewpoints, can be considered objective, and therefore is one of the primary basis for excluding cable news from the list of objective sources. The author is not using an information source’s entertainment value as a factor for determining its subjectivity or objectivity. There are many entertaining and unentertaining sources that fall into either the subjective or objective camp. That being said, celebrity value and the “cult of personality” of the host or writer cannot be overlooked in terms of ratings and trustworthiness, but cannot be used as a decisive way to gauge objectivity or subjectivity. Postmodernism is more of a philosophical concept than a theoretical one. Merriam Webster defines postmodern as: Brian Roessler
Postmoderism b: of, relating to, or being a theory that involves a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about culture, identity, history, or language A.J., one of the people interviewed for this project, summed up postmodernism in the following way, an analogy he learned in philosophy class, using baseball umpires as the vehicle to describe postmodernism: â€œThe pre-modern umpire says, "I call 'em as they are!" The modern umpire says, "I call 'em as I see 'em!" The postmodern umpire says, "They ain't nothin' 'till I call 'em!" The application of postmodernism to the current state of journalism is a concept that will also appear in this thesis.
Chapter 6 Review of Selected Literature
6.1 A Model for News: Studying the Deep Structure of Young Adult News Consumption Associated Press and Context Based Research Group News must embrace a new model of delivery. Journalists must be prepared to tell the world not what has happened, but what is happening now (58). The inverted pyramid of organizing stories from most to least important needs to be revamped to match todayâ€™s technology (57). So says the results of a 2008 study conducted by the Associated Press and Context Based Research Group. The study profiled, interviewed, and examined the media consumption habits of eighteen participants in six cities to look into shifting media patterns. The study found the subjects were getting mostly headlines and snippets of stories redistributed and shared on the web and mobile updates instead of the deeper facts through newspaper and television reports. The study also notes there was a general news fatigue from the bombardment of so many (often repeated) facts (53). They determined that young news consumers were coming across information more by chance than intent (56), with facts and updates as the consumerâ€™s entry point into the information. Brian Roessler
The greatest challenge to a new distribution model is the consumers, themselves, and necessitates new methods of connecting consumer and content (62). The Associated Press believes the way to do this is coding all news and information, putting it all into a database format and standardizing the tags and meta-tags throughout the industry, in order to make news accessible regardless of brand or platform (63). The Associated Press also believes with industry-wide cooperation, this method will allow every aspect of the news, including online video content, linkable, searchable and easily archived (64).
6.2 Beginning Postmodernism Woods, Tim What is postmodernism? Is it an economic state? Is it a philosophical dilemma? Is it nothing more than a frustrated reaction to a decline in standard of living? Tim Woodsâ€™ Beginning Postmodernism looks to answer these questions in ways that every reader can understand. Woods discusses how postmodernism can be seen in all aspects of life. For this thesis, specific attention was paid to the sections dealing with television and popular culture. One of the problems of the idea of postmodernism, Woods contends, is the word postmodern has become an over-used buzzword Brian Roessler
which has lost relevancy to most people (3). It is not, Woods explains, more modern than modern, but rather a reaction to what is seen as modern (5). Postmodernism is a way seeing the world through selfdetermined filters rather than the way society sees it. It is a deconstruction of the modern into fragments and the reconstruction of those fragments (8). Woods, discussing the writings of Baudrillard, who is on the fringes of media skepticism, says:
His concept of â€˜the ecstasy of communicationsâ€™ suggests a society that has entered an information overload, and that the only powerful mode of resistance lies in a rejection of the commodified images that invade our consciousnesses (195).
Beginning Postmodernism brings up various questions in all aspects of postmodernism. When it asks whether television is a mirror of society or if our society is a mirror of television (202), it includes ideas that support both sides. This book doesnâ€™t seek to answer the questions of postmodernism as much as it allows the readers to form their own ideas, and in the end that may be the essence of what postmodernism actually is.
6.3 How to Watch TV News (Revised Edition) Postman, Neil and Powers, Steve Steve Powers and Neil Postman believe that television “is the consummate egalitarian medium of communication,” with everyone equally susceptible to what it puts forward (144). Their book How to Watch TV News is a response to what they believe is the downfall and commercialization of the news industry – and the blind acceptance of the public to it. The authors believe what information is important to each of us is a judgment call, and news directors often assign stories based on what they believe the audience will deem important that day (13). They also believe those decisions are made, largely in part, based on who owns the media company (17). Going past the assignment of news is the delivery of news. Who disseminates the information is important in the eyes of Powers and Postman who say:
News organizations spend a lot of time and money building up the reputations of their anchors, sending them to high-visibility stories they hope will convince viewers they are watching top-level journalists. Unfortunately, in some markets the top anchors are “hat racks” who read beautifully but can barely type a sentence or
two without the aid of a producer and writer (31).
The problem with this, they believe, is even if the same news is being delivered, an unqualified anchor brings an air of phoniness to the news â€“ even if it gains the favor of the audience (33).
6.4 News as Entertainment Thussu, Daya Kishan As of 2005, network news had lost 51 percent of its viewers since the launch of CNN (27). It is a stark fact among many in Thussuâ€™s book News as Entertainment. The American system of profit-based broadcasting (and all of the competition associated with it) has led to the concept of news being entertaining, if not informative (25). The rise of communications technologies mixed with media deregulation and conglomeration have resulted in an overabundance of choices and the opportunity of instant infotainment gratification â€“ not just in America but around the globe (43). Part of this technological infrastructure was at the behest of international organizations such as the World Bank who believed that communications technologies would allow them to perform their duties better. The media conglomerates, who have forsaken information for the sake of entertainment, are the ones with the most to win in this environment (57).
Thussu uses the term â€œMurdochizationâ€? when referring to the rise of entertainment based cable news that abandons its public service role for profits and ratings. Rupert Murdoch was one of the pioneers of this changing face of television news (61). In the end, Thussu believes that a more public media, rather than market-based journalism, is the answer to curb the tide of information as entertainment (170). If it doesnâ€™t happen, he construes, not just the American populace, but the entire world will be distracted from civic obligation by a steady diet of entertainment consumerism.
6.5 Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News Mindich, David T.Z. What are the implications of an entire generation losing interest in the news? Will it only affect the news industry or are there greater implications to political and democratic processes? In Tuned Out, David Mindich explores the declining consumption of news among Americans under the age of forty. Everyone, Mindich believes, is somewhat culpable for this shift including media, society, technology and Americans, themselves (5). The beginnings of this disinterest started, not in this generation, but in the fifties and sixties as the cities lost population to the suburbs (9). During this era, as radio gave way to television, people stayed inside Brian Roessler
more and began to isolate themselves from the sense of community which used to be a prevalent part of life (8). One of the biggest dangers of the loss of media consumers is the subsequent loss of the media’s capability to be a watchdog and a check and balance on the powers that be (96). Mindich suggests that the lack of an informed public leads to a weakened democracy when he says:
Above all else, there is one thing that makes America great: our working democracy, built on sound information and common dialogue. We have had dark times in our history...but we have always preserved the workings of a democracy that allows its citizens to speak and protest based on information that has become, for the most part, free and unfettered. In return, the only thing we must do is stay informed (111).
Some of Mindich’s solutions include providing more news for children to create interest (115), diversification of media ownership (116), and adding civic knowledge qualifications to college entrance requirements (118). The need to “create, consume and teach quality journalism” (122) is paramount to rear citizens who are not just news consumers, but consumers with the ability to discern news from misinformation.
Chapter 7 Social Responsibility and Postmodernism In the time since Siebert, Peterson, and Schramm published Four Theories of the Press in 1956, it has been a staple of many journalism classes. At the time it was written, the authors felt that American media had evolved into what they called the Social Responsibility Theory. This theory suggests that the main purpose of the press is to benefit the public. It can do this primarily by making sure “anyone who has something to say” has the right to use the media, with the primary objective of “raising conflict to the plane of discussion” (7). The chief control of the media in the Social Responsibility Theory does not rest in the hands of the government, but is rather shared by the professionalism and ethics of the journalists themselves, and the public through opinion consumer action (7). If media is somewhat controlled through public opinion, then the Social Responsibility Theory has to assume one thing in order to truly be viable: The public is media literate and informed enough to actually control the media. If even the title of David Mindich's book, Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News, is somewhat accurate, then the Social Responsibility Theory may no longer be viable. Jeffrey John suggests in his paper, Fifty Years of Community News: The Erosion of Social Responsibility?,that the press has switched to an entertainment Brian Roessler
model, focusing on diversion, rather than sticking to a social responsibility model (24). The digital age of media brings forth other issues that can cast doubt upon a social responsibility model. The proliferation of usergenerated content in the web versions of traditional media outlets, citizen journalism, blogs, and social media raises the question of whether or not people are getting their information from professionally ethical journalists. If taken in its entirety, media no longer has consistent gatekeepers of objectivity. Without constant of objectivity, much of the information put out to the public can come in subjective form. The idea that reality is subjective is one of the main ideas of a loosely grouped set of theories known as postmodernism. Bybee and Overbeckâ€™s article Homer Simpson Explains Our Postmodern Identity Crisis, Whether We Like It Or Not: [...]â€? tries to clarify postmodernism by saying:
postmodern symptoms include the idea of image overload, intertextuality (the seemingly random quoting of one text by another), a heightened sense of media self-reflexivity calling attention to representation as a hall of mirrors, and pastiche, defined as the tendency to assemble disjointed images and text fragments. Finally, the postmodern condition is marked by commodification overload (the tendency to turn everything into a
product or marketing opportunity), irony overload (the elevation of irony as the dominant rhetorical posture), and the increased questioning of the meaning of personal identity brought on by viewing the self as a social construction.
Postmodernism and its relationship to journalism can be seen in two ways â€“ the postmodern news provider and the postmodern news consumer. Both are tied to the constructs of media choice. Media choice is a reality that means stories have to beg for attention just to get noticed. Media creators will often form their own versions of reality just for recognition. Those snippets of reality may be placed in print, on television, radio, and/or the internet â€“ anywhere and everywhere to gain exposure. Sensationalized teasers and headlines are the norm as opposed to the exception. Cable news outlets pander to different ideological groups. Bloggers interpret events through their own world view. Citizen journalists report on what is important to them with little regard to anyone else. Michel Smith implies in his article, The Role of Postmodernism in Influencing Modern American Journalism News Conventions that journalism has lost its objectivity because there is no absolute truth and all realities are seen as equal (3). Mitchell Stephens, writes in We're All Postmodern Now: [...], that journalists now have to add more to a story just to get it noticed by affirming:
More serious journalists are still going out and working to get the story right, but now the facts they collect have to be rehydrated, reconnected, placed back in context. Call it perspective; call it analysis. But what has happened, in essence, is that modern reporters have had to relearn to scratch their heads, rub their chins, and weigh in. The old twentieth-century line between fact and interpretation has become more difficult to draw (or pretend to draw) (62).
As their own gatekeepers, today's media consumer is bombarded by information. Media choice also means that every individual can create his or her own reality based on the information they have personally selected from the cornucopia of available information. For those who are not fans of liberal ideologies, conservative tenets, or politics in general, there are media outlets that will cater to specific interests. If a person's only interest is in celebrities, there are sources of information that will accommodate them. Similarly, if a media consumer's interests only lie in sports, all their world information can come from a sports source. If a consumer is not interested in news, they can choose to be willfully ignorant of the world's news, and instead get their information from social media and text messages. With so many choices, it is increasingly difficult to create a societal identity based on common communications, as the telegraph first did when it spanned the Brian Roessler
American continent like Carey pointed out in his seminal work Communications as Culture (164). Instead of the message, those under thirty are connected by media technologies â€“ the internet, the cell phone, the iPad and others. The realities each can create on these technologies are as varied as the sources of information available on these technologies. In this postmodern age, the medium has replaced the message as the unifying cultural thread. In an America with so many different realities, perhaps the only thing holding them all together is the world-wide-web.
Chapter 8 History of Communications Technologies
Introduction Although every modern generation has had some new form of, or improvement upon, communications technology, the greatest shifts in attitudes towards the dissemination of news and information seems to have correlated with the times greatest changes or advancements in communications technologies. Spoken language gave way to written language which succumbed to moveable type. The printing press went from bibles to books to newspapers, which eventually began printing upto-the-day information because of the telegraph. Telegraph yielded to the telephone, the phonograph, and the photograph. Radio and television each took their place in line of the next advances in communications technology. Cable and satellite television brought more information options to more people than the over-the air channels could possibly provide. The advancement and ensuing explosion of the internet brought endless information to more people at any time of the day. Mobile technologies such as Wi-Fi and 3G have made information portable and accessible anywhere. Technologies have been more than just mere scientific advancement, however. They often arise in response to intricate social Brian Roessler
situations, and in the process change the way humans interact with one another (Palmer 2). Whenever the new technologies came along it was the generations born with these technologies and having grown up with them who see the â€œadvancementsâ€? as a natural part of their lives. Regardless of what technologies may be available to a person through the ages, or why they had to be developed, the one thing which has never been in dispute is that news travels. The exchange of information stems not only from a certain need to know about what is going on in the world around us, but also a human need to tell, as news is worthless if it is not shared (Stephens 19). To understand how information is dispersed today, one must know the history of news and information sharing, and the technologies that have made them possible. It is the progression of those communications technologies has magnified the amount of information and the role and importance of the disseminators (Stephens 27).
Oral Tradition One might be surprised to know that the tradition of journalistic objectivity is something that is relatively new. For most of the human existence on this planet, this transfer of information has been spoken and face-to-face. The ability for people to travel en-masse to distant places is a current phenomenon also aided by newer technologies. In Brian Roessler
fact, for most of the time since the advent of agriculture, people have been tethered to the towns and villages where they were born. Soldiers, messengers, and traders were among the few who traveled outside the common boundaries. The length of todayâ€™s marathon races is based on the distance traveled by a messenger who ran with news of a military victory (Stephens 39). For many towns and villages, minstrels, criers, and traveling messengers were often the only source of outside information. These travelers would share with listeners the news from the last town and receive the news of their current hosts. Often it was at the discernment of those paying the traveling source of information â€“ in a way the first assignment editor or gatekeeper (Stephens 29). Often spiked with humor or put into rhyme, rhythm or song, news was, then, as much story and entertainment as it was information. Oral tradition was rife with interpretation and the twisting of tales. Objectivity still was not a part of the journalistic tradition.
Moveable Type The printing press brought literacy out of the church and placed it in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which eventually created a change in the way news was consumed. What the press did was give the news a mass audience beyond the local news of the town (Stephens 84). It did not, Brian Roessler
however, immediately make the entire world literate, and there was still the need for oral storytelling, as the printed information needed to be delivered from town to town. Storytelling diminished as literacy (and towns) grew. Much like today, those who owned the press(es) determined the content, and the news was still subject to the lies either told or believed by the printers (Stephens 85). In American history, the printing press played an important role. Printers with anti-English views helped sway public opinion through the printing and mass distribution of revolutionary pamphlets. The AntiSedition Acts tested during the Adams administration helped him lose the presidency and tested the First Amendment of the Constitution. Later, books like Uncle Tom's Cabin created a fervor and helped to solidify attitudes which contributed to the Civil War.
Telegraph/Telephone It was not until the invention of the telegraph that objectivity even began to become part of the news cycle. With the telegraph came the standard system of communication which helped solidify the identity of America (Carey 164). It did this by eliminating the time news took to travel, and subsequently connecting cities and towns under one umbrella of information. This connecting of America led to a standardization of the language and prose of news which could be understood from coastBrian Roessler
to-coast, and took away the partisan press by forcing objective copy that could be picked up and run in papers of any leaning across the country (Carey 162). The telegraph also led to the use of correspondents, making observed facts available and not waiting for official reports (Stephens 228). Correspondents became a key way to get content for newspapers which featured a large part of their stories from the electric wire (Stephens 230).
Newsreels The motion picture made the theater fad, and newsreel took that motion picture technology and put a visual form of news in front of an audience (Fielding 399). By attaching the newsreel to a social, entertaining event, the newsreel brought together news and entertainment in a way that had never been seen before. With the advent of television news, as well as other factors, the newsreel became a rare media that has actually disappeared (Fielding 401).
Radio KDKA, Pittsburgh was the first commercial radio station. It began in 1920, not as a way to inform, so much, but as a way to take advantage of a technology that had not been used commercially and sell equipment (Stephens 276). Within two years there were close to six Brian Roessler
hundred stations and hundreds of thousands of radios sold. As radio journalism began, reporters were often brought in from newspapers, and therefore, had the same style of objective, dispassionate delivery (Stephens 277). World War Two helped to bring the power of radio news to light, as it was the first medium to truly garner a national audience (Stephens 278). The creation of national networks added to the common American identity by extending the bond of news. The medium of talk radio still holds that national audience today much in the way that news radio did prior to the advent of television. Radio became such a success because it does not require literacy. It does not require previous knowledge. It does not need the news consumer to leave the house. These are all attributes that television news later capitalized on, but they all got their start in radio news.
Broadcast Television Broadcast television news lead to the demise of the newsreel, yet it relied heavily on newsreel footage for much of its initial news images (Stephens 281). From these humble beginnings, television news grew into a power where the anchorman held the trust of the public and pictures shaped the American reality. Throughout the 1960s, the power of television became realized (Stephens 282). From the Kennedy â€“ Nixon debates, through the J.F.K. assassination, through the civil rights and Brian Roessler
Vietnam movements to the moon landing, the images on television branded themselves into the American consciousnesses. The power of the broadcast television news anchor became so pervasive that President Johnson feared that, in regards to the Vietnam War, he lost the American people when CBS anchorman, Walter Cronkite, described the war as â€˜unable to be won.â€™
The VCR The VCR is the first major invention that took the delivery of content and allowed the consumer to view it in their own time and at their own pacing (The Changing Face of Media). It is often overlooked in the realm of communications technologies, but was the true technological advance that made the idea of media self-selection possible.
Cable & Satellite Television In 1980 Ted Turner changed the way news organizations operated (Postman and Powers 59). Cable and satellite television news had taken the traditional newscast and changed it into an all-encompassing commercial enterprise. The business models of cable news networks turned information into more of a commodity than ever before. Cable news created a previously unheard of choice for the news consumer. Now the information seeker could watch news when they wanted, and Brian Roessler
how they wanted. The addition of analysis and discussion turned cable news into more than just news disseminators. For the young information seeker, shows such as South Park, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and The Simpsons add social commentary, satire and parody to their informational media diets.
The Internet and Mobile Technology. If cable television was the start of media consumer information choice, the internet turned choice into an endless buffet. Like cable news, information is available to fit the schedule of the consumer. Unlike cable news, the internet allows the consumer to self-select the content of that news like never before. Information choices can come from websites of traditional or cable news outlets, social media, blogs, or any other source that can be imagined. With the additional technological advancement of the internet, regarding information is its user-generated content. Now anyone can take information and news, with or without personal bias, and post it online. It can be as simple as a social media status update or as complex as a video-news blog. In a huge change from previous media models, the user is in control of the web, in both consumption and dissemination roles.
Chapter 9 Media and Youth In the forward of his book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman contends that Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World was warning of an age where books would be ignored and the truth would be a needle in an informational haystack – where information overload would lead to disinterest in the populace (Huxley vii). The information overload would actually become societal shackles and come from the very technologies adored by the populace. Amusing Ourselves to Death is Postman treatise attempting to correctly prove his thoughts on Huxley. At the time Postman was writing it, it very well may have been true. That book was written in 1985 – a mere six years after the launch of ESPN, five years after CNN's appearance, and four years after the debut of MTV. Cable television provided options, as well as a news, current affairs, and information overload, in comparison to the nightly news of the “Big Three” networks. Amusing Ourselves to Death was written long before the internet and the dominance of the 24-hour cable news cycle and the subsequent proliferation of news-based infotainment. Infotainment, in fact, has become so encompassing since Amusing Ourselves to Death was first written than Postman has since co-written another book specifically on how to watch the news. Brian Roessler
Much like Postman surmised, today we live in an age where information is all around us. It is also an age where the American population is looking to be entertained. Twenty-four hour news, sports, and weather, interactive video games and movies delivered digitally, terrestrial and satellite radio, cable, digital and satellite television, the Internet and its dizzying array of websites, YouTube, weblogs, social media, smart phones, netbooks, iPads and all the applications associated with them bombard the populace with millions of kilobytes of sight and noise pollution every day. Most of it is for the sake of keeping the populace amused and engrossed, if not informed. For much of the population, this bombardment can seem both overwhelming and intrusive. For those under thirty, this is not seen as advancement in technology and information overload, but rather media bombardment is simply the pattern of day-to-day life. Having grown up in an era of fast-paced advancements in communications, information, and media technologies, the youth of America are used to fast moving images, incessant celebrity coverage, weblogs, and social media as information consumption methods. Just because the news is all round them, however, does not necessarily mean that todayâ€™s youth seek the information out. In other words, the media they chose to consume is of an informational nature.
More technology means more information acquisition? Despite the fact that today Americans have access to all of these sources of information, studies into media consumption patterns show that just because more news and information is available, people aren't necessarily seeking it out. Research from the Pew Research Center shows those who tend to be highly informed in regards to news are those who are more educated, although even those numbers have been declining (What Americans Know 14). Table 9.1 shows changes in knowledge levels for three general news items asked in both 1989 and 2007. Despite low numbers
in 1989, the 18-29 demographic is at or near the bottom of the knowledge
Table 9.1 Knowledge Levels (What Americans Know 14)
for all three news items in 2007. The Associated Press sees part of this lowering of desire for information among today's young as â€œnews fatigueâ€? (Associated Press 53), and there was a lack of wanted depth in coverage that is likely to perpetuate, if not increase this disenchantment for news
and information if not addresses by the media (Associated Press 42). From a business model standpoint, the Associated Press sees the need for the news industry, as a whole, to teach news consumers how to dig deeper into stories instead of recycling the same basic story over multiple platforms. In his study Where Young Adults Intend to Get News in Five Years, Seth Lewis specifically targets college students. College graduates are a group that the Pew Research saw as one of the most informed groups, so this formed the basis for that future group. Lewis's study not only looked at what media sources they were consuming and what news they believed they would consume in the future, but also their perceptions of news and information (Lewis 45). His results on the perceptions of news seem far more revealing than many of the studies of what young America is consuming. His results,
Table 9.2 News Perceptions (Lewis 43)
shown in table 9.2, shows that the perception of news held by young adults is not particularly favorable, with most seeing it as biased, inconvenient if it involves time Brian Roessler
and effort, and often negative, boring and irrelevant (Lewis 43). The positive perceptions came mostly when it came to making civic and personal choices, or if it was entertaining and socially useful. Again, this is from a study of college students. If Pew Research is an accurate reflection of society and college graduates are among the most news knowledgeable groups, one would have to wonder what the news perceptions are of the entire age range, including those who fall into the less knowledgeable groups. The participants in the Associated Press study saw news as shallow and relayed that television news was a source of both relief and frustration, often with the teasers not living up to expectations (Associated Press 45). The participants mentioned sports and entertainment news gave them resolutions that most news outlets did not deliver. In parodying government officials and celebrities via news clips from other mainstream news and information sources (particularly cable news), shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report routinely parody the notion of the objective media gatekeeper and the processes of the mainstream press (McKain 422). To an extent, the shows play the role of comedic ombudsman â€“ the watchdog looking over the watchdog. The kind of satirical, often negative exposure of the processes of journalism brought to light by parody could possibly lead to subconscious negative feelings in some or mistrust in regards to certain Brian Roessler
aspects the press, possibly leading them towards self-selecting news that fits a point of view that they can trust or, at least, not be negative about. McKain, however, sees the potential consequences of the success and impact of The Daily Show on news transmitting rather than consuming, forcing more traditional news sources into more entertaining or humorous reporting and swaying from the traditional. Ana Kothe responds to McKain in her article, When Fake is More Real, by saying, “Anyone who has watched Bill O'Reilly or listened to Rush Limbaugh knows that serious news reporting was entertainment by the time Jon Stewart became so very popular” (pg#). Even the New York Times has commented on Stewart's popularity asking in a 2008 headline if Stewart was the most trusted man in America, saying The Daily Show: has earned a devoted following that regards the broadcast as both the smartest, funniest show on television and a provocative and substantive source of news. “The Daily Show” resonates not only because it is wickedly funny but also because its keen sense of the absurd is perfectly attuned to an era in which cognitive dissonance has become a national epidemic (Kakutani).
Whether or not The Daily Show is seen by a viewer as a comedy show, a news show, or a media critic, it has become a legitimate source of information, for today's youth and partly because of their disenchantment with the media, and partly because of the agreement with the expressed views of the show. In his book Sex Drugs and Cocoa Brian Roessler
Puffs, Chuck Klosterman may have summed up how the young see the media when he said: The truth is inevitably combined with a whole lot of crap that's supposed to make news stories unbiased and credible, but really makes them longer and less clear. The motivation to do this is to foster objectivity, but it actually does the complete opposite[...] As a result of this ham-fisted objectivity, skeptical news consumers often find themselves suspecting that a deeper truth can be found on newspaper opinion pages, or through talk radio, or via egocentric iconoclasts like Bill O'Riley or Michael Moore (Klosterman 208).
Those willing to take the time and effort to consume the news, the Associated Press believes, do so because knowledge is a form of â€œSocial Currencyâ€? (Associated Press 46). To make the news work for them, they would have to take the information that is out there and make it fit into their lives, and that which didn't would be discarded or ignored (Associated Press 47).
Sources of information: If the youth of today have negative perceptions in regards to the news, how then, are the youth of today getting their information? A postmodernist would argue that everyone creates their own reality. Media consumption surveys and studies have shown that what Brian Roessler
information those under thirty are getting comes from a wide variety of sources, inclusive of almost every media format. So many information options lead to the inevitable self-selecting of sources. With the known biases and leanings of various hosts, writers, programs, and channels, one could easily self select the news and information that best fits into their own box. In their article, News Consumption and Media Bias Xiang Yi and Miklos Sarvary look into media bias in reporting among competing sources, and simply define it by saying: A common feature among these alternative reports is that while they are factually correct, they convey very different messages and stimulate radically different impressions about the events. This is achieved by selective omissions and differing emphasis. The different impressions created from an objective event by slanting information are what we call media bias (611).
Based on Yi and Sarvary's take on bias, virtually none of the news or information that is available to anyone, yet alone the youth of America, is particularly objective. They see media bias, not as much as a method of the media to force a viewpoint, but rather a response by the media to demand of media consumers with a desire to hear their news and information in a certain way. Lewis's study of college students shows the subjects getting their information from all kinds of sources, and shows trends on where they Brian Roessler
feel they will be getting information in the future. Again, this information is hard to extrapolate for the masses, but they see themselves getting information from objective sources (as well as some subjective sources) at a far higher rate in the future than they are currently getting right now, with the only noticeable
Table 9.3 â€“ News Sources: Present and Future (Lewis 45).
information consumption drop-offs being social media and, for obvious reasons, the campus newspaper (Lewis 45). Lewis also mentioned that those respondents with the highest level of positive news perceptions were the most likely to trend towards higher consumption of traditional news sources later in life, while those who did not hold the news in high regard would most-likely continue their patterns of getting information. Specifically, he stated that those respondents who did not believe the news was entertaining were less likely to anticipate becoming future consumers of media from traditional sources (Lewis 46), and that those who saw finding news as an effort were more likely to sustain themselves on a news diet of late-night comedy and social networking. Brian Roessler
The digital age has also allowed the sharing of bias with others. News recommendation engines now allow news consumers to share their news interests with their acquaintances, but takes those recommendations and compiles those that have been most sent out, creating a list of stories that people are suggesting. Essentially, this allows the consumer to help define what other consumers look at, and limit the role of the media source in dictating the important stories of the day (Thorson 486).
Chapter 10 Survey Data Analysis and Evaluation A survey instrument (Appendix I) was created on Google Documents and the link to it was dispersed through email and social media. The purpose of the survey was to see what media the respondents choose to consume on a regular basis. Specifically, it looked at the types and media sources of news and information. It also attempted to gauge what trust, if any, the respondents have in information sources. Although the author was looking only to analyze the responses from the under thirty demographic, he neither mentioned that nor limited the responses to only that age group. The authorâ€™s reasoning for this decision was to not make that age group feel specifically targeted, and therefore answer more freely and naturally. The first question asked the respondentâ€™s age and allowed the author to isolate the answers of the targeted demographic. There were a total of 133 respondents to the survey instrument. Thirty-one respondents are under the age of thirty. The following pages will analyze the data and responses. The frequency questions were to be answered on a scale of 1 to 5 representing never through daily.
Technical Literacy The first non-demographic question in the study dealt with how technically literate media consumers under the age of thirty believe themselves to be. Technical literacy is, simply, the ability to understand and use the common technology of their culture. As most of the people within this age group grew up with the internet, cable news and, to a certain extent cell phones, there is an ease (or at the very least, a fluency) in the mediums that is to be expected. The chart shows that, indeed, the subjects do feel a certain comfort with the technology of the day. It is this technical literacy that allows the respondent to, if they so choose, get news and information from any source they may want.
Table 10.1 â€“ Respondentâ€™s (perceived) Technical Literacy
Media Literacy The second graph deals with the subjectâ€™s perceived media literacy. The idea that one is media literate means that s/he can take all of the information the world provides (from white noise to IMAX cinema) and filter the good information from bad information. This graph shows almost all of the survey respondents believe they are, at the very least, somewhat media literate, while most believe that they are quite media literate. Should the rest of the data prove the premise of this thesis, this would mean that the respondents know that they are getting information from subjective sources, but still choose to do so, willingly.
Table 10.2 â€“ Respondentâ€™s (perceived) Media Literacy
Current affairs Awareness This question was put into the survey because although media literacy is good, it doesnâ€™t mean that much if one is not keeping up to date with the news and information of the day. The respondents answered this question in a manner that suggests that they either are moderately aware of what is going on, or they believe they know more than they really do about the world outside of their personal space. The small number of people at the upper end of the chart leads the author to believe young adults are not actively seeking current affairs and news information, but rather get it through a high amount of exposure to other media.
Table 10.3 â€“ Current Affairs Awareness
Daily Media Consumption and Percentage Spent on News These two questions were asked to get a baseline of how much media and information the respondents are exposed to on a daily basis. The first of the questions includes exposure to all forms of media
Table 10.4 â€“ Daily Media Consumption
including television, radio, internet, iPod and any other media the respondents believe they consume on an average day. Table 10.5 looks at the percentage of that daily exposure that the respondents spent exposed to news sources. With so many entertainment options, it is no surprise that only a small percentage of the respondents had over fifty percent of their media consumption time spent on news. Seeing the limited amount of time spent on news
Table 10.5 â€“ Percentage of Media Time Spent on News
while looking back at the response for the current affair awareness question (table 10.3), leads to the question of how much current affairs the respondents actually know versus what they believe they know. Brian Roessler
Preferred Method of News Consumption Table 9.6 looks at the respondents preferred method of news consumption. The respondents had many different preferred methods, but cable news and social media were the predominant responses. The popularity of social media as a source of social communications and information is common knowledge. The surprise of these answers is that over twenty percent of the respondents see social media as their preferred source of their news. Social media is user-supplied content and primarily without gatekeepers. Social media is not journalistic in its nature but, instead it is narcissistic and voyeuristic. It has been a way that many in cable news, as well as other news-media sources, get instant audience feedback, and share that feedback as content.
Table 10.6 â€“ Preferred Method of News Consumption
Preferred attribute of a news source Despite the fact that cable news and social media were the preferred sources of information, objectivity was the preferred attribute of a news source (Table 10.7). As mentioned in the parameters section of the study, and because of the use of tactics such as pundits and usergenerated content, cable news cannot, for this study, be considered objective. As mentioned in the analysis of the last question, social media is not journalistic in nature. The respondents claim to find objectivity their preferred attribute of the news, but of their two highest preferred sources, neither of these could be considered objective. It is one of a few paradoxes that the survey has produced.
Table 10.7 â€“ Preferred News Source Attributes
Media Frequency Analysis of Objective Sources Media Frequency Analysis: Newspapers The most basic intro to communications textbooks will say that newspapers are losing ground to electronic forms of information. Recent headlines have included tales of majorcity newspapers that can no
Table 10.8 – Frequency: Newspapers (physical)
longer stay in business. This survey asked about newspaper readership. Table 10.8 shows that the respondents overwhelmingly do not read newspapers on a daily basis. The study by Seth Lewis showed that respondents who had favorable perceptions of news felt that they most likely would start reading newspapers when they got older (Lewis 45). When looking at the respondents’ consumption of online newspapers (Table
Table 10.9 – Frequency: Newspapers (online)
10.9), the numbers are still relatively low, but do trend slightly towards some readership. Brian Roessler
Media Frequency Analysis: Local News – Television and their Websites Before the days of the telegraph, most of the news one received was local. Although communications technologies have made the availability of information world-wide, free and fast, local news should be the cornerstone of current affairs knowledge. As table 10.10 shows, a majority of the respondents rarely look at local news and their websites. Could it be a case, however, of their local information being even more local than local television? Looking back to table 10.6, a number of the respondents cited social media as their preferred source of information. Information directly from social media “friends” may be a more organic way that those under thirty use to get local information.
Table 10.10 – Frequency: Local News
Media Frequency Analysis: National Broadcast Network News When it comes to the national broadcast news and their corresponding websites, the rate of intake was slightly higher than the local news, but the graphs are still predominantly outside of the realm of daily news consumption. For broadcast Table 10.11 â€“ Frequency: Network News
news (table 10.11) is only one half hour long, and in a time slot that traditionally may have been a prime viewing time, but today may not have as many people at home as it once did. What viewers they may have who are under thirty may stem from tradition passed down through the family. Their corresponding websites (table 10.12), could suffer, as well, because the networks have not built up the relationships of familiarity and trust they once
Table 10.12 â€“ Frequency:Network News Websites
did with nightly viewers. Later results will point out; however, that Brian Williams of NBC was one of the more trusted media hosts. Brian Roessler
Media Frequency Analysis: National Public Radio When close to two out of three respondents to a survey reveal that they never use a media source as a resource for information, then that media source may need to look into ways of marketing itself towards a younger demographic. National Public Radio (NPR) does tend to have its news based programs during hours that may not be conducive to listeners at work, or the geographic location and/or availability of signal of the respondents can play into it, but to those for whom the lightning fast images of digital technologies rule, receiving news only via voice may seem a bit archaic.
Table 10.13 â€“ Frequency: National Public Radio
Media Frequency Analysis of Subjective Sources Media Frequency Analysis – Cable News Much like broadcast and local newscasts, a majority of the respondents rarely watch cable news, despite the fact that it is on the air all day long. This tells more about the respondents’ concept of the importance of news and current
Table 10.14 – Frequency: Cable News
affair information in their day-to-day lives. There are slightly higher numbers of daily viewers than broadcast news, but the number of nonviewers is also higher. The cable news websites follow the same trend. Again, like the broadcast news website, if someone is not watching a channel, the likeliness of visiting their website diminishes.
Table 10.15 – Frequency: Cable News Websites
Media Frequency Analysis â€“ News Shows Featuring Pundits News discussion shows featuring pundits such as Face the Nation and Meet the Press have been staples of broadcast news for decades. They tend to use less loudly opinionated pundits than cable news, and can have an interview feel to them. Just like all of the other news sources shown so far, the majority of respondents rarely watch these sorts of shows. One thing that is not shown by graph 10.16 is that the question of what pundits were came up in a few of the responses to this question. It could mean that the respondents are watching these shows, not knowing what a pundit is, but it is more likely that they are not watching them at all. The time(s) these shows air is also an issue for viewing, as most fall during church or sleep hours.
Table 10.16 â€“ Frequency: Pundit Shows
Media Frequency Analysis – Entertainment/Opinion Based Shows This is one question to which the respondents answered somewhat favorably. Many shows such as Glen Beck, The O’Riley Factor, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report fall into this category. A few reasons for
Table 10.17 – Frequency: Entertainment and Opinion Shows
the slightly greater popularity of these shows include: 1) Timing: All are on during the prime hours between 8:00 PM and midnight. 2) Celebrity: All the hosts of these shows are as much celebrity as host and can draw based on name recognition. 3) Entertainment: Whether humorous, controversial, or confrontational, the shows are capable of holding on to an audience after attracting it. 4) Viewpoint: There is a show to fit everyone’s perspective. If there is analysis going on with a similar viewpoint of the media consumer, that consumer no longer needs to think for themselves. Brian Roessler
Media Frequency Analysis – Talk Radio Talk radio is different from many visual media in that it can be on in the background during the workday. Talk radio was among the media which had the highest daily use by the respondents. Even with that, a majority of respondents still
Table 10.18 – Frequency: Talk Radio
rarely listened. Media Frequency Analysis – Online News Blogs Once again, the results show that most respondents rarely view online news blogs; however the use of the word “news” in the survey may have skewed the results a small bit. An interviewee mentioned in the course of conversation that he
Table 10.19 – Frequency: Online News Blogs
reads blogs for the writer, not the content, and doesn’t know if they are news blogs or not. This could mean that the respondents did not know what was meant by “news” blog. Brian Roessler
Trust Issues If a news consumer doesn’t trust the information they are receiving, it is most likely it will be ignored or dismissed. The final three graphs reviews the answers the respondents gave regarding the issue of trust.
Table 10.20 – Trusted Sources Table 10.20 shows that internet news gathering sites had the highest number of respondents say they trusted them. These news gathering sites, like Google News, pull content from various sources all over the web and display it as a series of headlines and links, and don’t actually practice journalism. The fact that the most the respondents showed the most trust in a group of sources that don’t actually create their own content lends credence to concepts of self-selection of news.
Trusted Conglomerate In talks about the thesis, the author was surprised to find out how few people knew the reach of media conglomeration. After their media ownership enlightenment, some people generally appeared stunned, and a few even felt a bit duped.
Table 10.21 highlights the most one-sided answer in the entire survey. When given a list of media conglomerate and asked which one the respondents trusted the most, twenty-one out of the thirty-one responded to the
Table 10.21 â€“ Trusted Conglomerate
question by answering â€œNone of the above.â€? It is clear that those under thirty do not trust the organizations behind the newscasts. There is nothing that hints at changes in this pattern of ownership, so one should not expect media consumers to develop trust for these companies.
Trusted Host The media is about personalities. Recognition and star power are two of the driving forces behind ratings and successive advertising dollars. But knowing who information comes from isnâ€™t the same as trusting the media host.
Table 10.22 â€“ Trusted Hosts
Table 10.22 shows the results of which host the respondents trust the most. Jon Stewart, with twelve respondents saying the trusted him the most, was the most trusted host in this survey - doubling the number that Brian Williams (the next closest result). Regardless of whether Stewartâ€™s Daily Show is parody, as early as 2000, one in five young Americans claimed to prefer to receive their news from his show (McKain 415). Brian Roessler
Other Analysis Looking at these survey results as a whole, a generalized profile of the average media consumer under thirty appears. The typical young media consumer gets a good deal of information online, either from social media or news gathering sites. Stories are selected from the headlines in those media. Media outlets are not frequented, and the traditional journalistic sources are looked at even less. Media is not to be trusted and companies that run them should be trusted even less. The survey did not seek to answer if it is possible to get the respondents viewing and trusting the news again, nor did it seek the causes of the behavior. The survey shows that the young news consumers of America are disaffected by news and those that do watch are conflicted. They say the want objectivity as the main attribute news and then trust a comedian as their news provider. In the end, they get their news when they want and where they want, which isnâ€™t very often and not from traditional sources.
Chapter 11 Interview Analysis “Fox News doesn't piss me off,” VN said as part of a roundtablestyle discussion on media consumption habits. The discussion was held with four interviewees ranging in age from twenty through thirty. The hour-long interview took place in an informal setting and was recorded for analysis. The following pages will share and analyze the discussion. The participants were: VN – Male, 30 MN – Female 29, married to VN CG – Male, 20 ND – Female, 23 The discussion started with a question about general news viewing habits – if they are getting news and, if so, where are they getting it from. Four of the five indicated that they did seek out news and information from sources as Fox News, Yahoo!, online newspapers and the websites of the cable news outlets. When asked why they preferred the online version of newspapers as opposed to physical copies, they all agreed - online newspapers are free, and why would they buy something they can get for free? It is a valid argument, and as Napster and similar peer-to-peer file sharing websites have shown the record industry, if producers of media are not Brian Roessler
technologically current and have business models to deal with emerging technologies, there is a good chance their relevancy will follow the same trajectory of the technology being replaced. Are newspapers, then, the news equivalent of the record industry – or at least seen in that light by those under thirty? The interviewees did not specifically know where the information on sites like Google and Yahoo! originated, but CG said “I look at the headlines while I'm checking my email.” What this says is that he isn't actively seeking out the news, per-se, but rather getting news headlines (which he can look further into at his own discretion) while he is attempting to look at items of personal interest – in this case email. For the interviewees, news is a matter of personal convenience. “If I wanted to watch NBC nightly news I would have to DVR it or actually watch it when it came on, and I can't always guarantee that I will be in front of the TV when that happens,” said MN when discussing television news. With dissemination of news being a part of the overall programming of a broadcast network, they are locked into a schedule that may not fit with potential viewers, especially the younger ones who may be working less steady hours, taking classes or taking care of young children. Cable news has the luxury of recycling and adding to a story through the course of a day. “I wouldn't have known Michael Jackson died unless it was on Brian Roessler
Facebook,â€? ND said of her own consumption patterns. She added that she gets her news by coming across it, not really so much by looking for it. With information coming at America's youth in the form of status updates, social media postings, and headlines, the digital news that the interviewees do go deeper into is a matter of choice, rather than what is decided for them. In regards to the most recent election, only half of the interviewees voted. Of the two who did not, one moved and did not get the new address information in on time, and the other felt that one person's vote didn't really matter. The two who voted did make a concerted effort to find information on the candidates, and the one who moved said that if he could have voted he would have done the same. The other non-voter felt as if one vote didn't really make a difference and that life would pretty much be the same regardless of who is in office. The desire to research who the candidates are shows a blatant distrust of political advertising, and to an extent the media coverage of politics that they are exposed to without the extra research. There were differing opinions in regards to celebrities in the news among the group. CG finds interest in what it is someone has done, for example the music a band puts out and could care less about the personal life of those celebrities. MN, on the other hand, sees entertainment news as a way to enjoy fame vicariously, and would rather Brian Roessler
watch a show like E! News Daily over newscasts because she feels with the celebrity news on E! and in magazines such as People it is more based on fact as there are no politics or undue analysis, just reporting on celebrities. It is an answer that, quite honestly, was a surprise, as the objectivity of (non-tabloid) celebrity news has never really been a factor when discussing the format before. Regardless of perceived invasiveness, she has brought up an interesting question: Is celebrity news less biased than regular newscasts? In regards to shows such as the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, the group felt that enjoying those shows was not so much a matter of trusting the information in them, but rather, in knowing the difference between comedy and news. MN said in regard to truth in today's journalism that if trying to entertain an audience is a major art of the purpose that we are going to get as much truth out of a journalist as we are out of a comedian. They also agreed upon the fact that comedybased shows don't highlight violence, something which greatly turned off the interviewees from regular and cable news. In the vein of violence, they were also disenchanted by the fearful or sensationalized teasers that are employed, especially by the local news and weather to try to attract viewers to watch a story that is often anti-climactic in comparison. Interestingly enough there was mixed reaction from the panel when asked if they felt it was their responsibility to stay informed, and it went Brian Roessler
along the same lines as those who felt voting was important. The interviewee who felt it was not a citizen’s responsibility to stay informed, believed that since information was changing all the time – often about the same subject - it wasn't pressing to know that information today, because it was just going to be different tomorrow – especially if it wasn't in a relevant topic. While this type of disillusionment is not baseless, it is somewhat simplified and overreaching. What it can do is create a reason to detach from information that makes someone not just a more global citizen, but a community citizen as well. The others see the change in information as just part of the process of getting things right, not so much a finish line that never gets crossed. In bringing cable news into the discussion, VN said “News in its simplest form is fact.” He continued to say that he believes the reason that cable news puts on so many analysts and opinion people is that it needs to fill time during the day, and that people tend to watch the cable news that contradicts their own opinions the least. There is significance in the choice of wording between matches their opinion vs. contradicts the opinion the least. It suggests that, at least for this particular interviewee, it is the least of the evils and selecting a cable news source is more a matter of not looking for what you agree with, but rather looking for a source that doesn't upset the viewer. The entire discussion group agreed that cable news sources went into a story with a particular slant Brian Roessler
before even presenting it and the slant was often evident in its title. Despite this, only one of the interviewees said that was reason enough to not watch cable news. Continuing on cable news, MN said, “In reality you can make data spin whatever way you want to.” She believes that there are enough “sources” for the companies to pull from that a journalist can go into a story with a preconceived notion and still find the data they need to make it work. She thinks almost all of the stories on cable news can hold up if challenged in court because of this, but still does not believe it is truly ethical or correct journalistic practice. The interviewees agreed that all news is at least a small touch biased, because bias is human nature. VN believes some journalists try to maintain objectivity but may lean to the other side of subjectivity in order to compensate for their own leanings. CG believes that most of the people he goes to school with would not watch news based on fact alone because it wouldn't be entertaining enough or wouldn't be able to attract their attention to begin with. When the question came up asking whether the news drives the audience or does the audience drive the news, VN added that it was a matter of the motive. If the story was simply to garner ratings, then the organization will disseminate the news the audience wants. If the news organization is looking to get out a particular slant, its motivations will drive the story. Brian Roessler
He mentioned that you see only ever see Disney in a positive light on ABC stations, because Disney and ABC are the same company. With today's multitudes of communications technologies, shortened headlines, and sound-bite packages, getting the attention of the digital generation has to be one of the key components of a business model. Is it possible for today's media to attain that attention with an objective, fact-based story – or at least a headline – that hasn't been sensationalized? The survey instrument of this thesis leads the author to believe that the answer to that question is a resounding “No”, but simultaneously it is the sensationalism that can be a turn-off to today's young. Keeping on the concept of information as entertainment, VN said that he would occasionally listen to talk radio in the afternoon, not so much to be informed but more for its background noise or value as entertainment. He did mention that much of it did agree with his basic views, but realizes that people like Rush Limbaugh claim to be entertainers first and hyperbolize their views for the sake of keeping a radio audience entertained. The concept of radio or television on as background noise brings up the idea of getting information and not realizing that it's happening. How much information might today’s youth be getting and not realizing it? The number is more than likely small for those who are media literate, but for those who are not, they may not Brian Roessler
even notice most of the messages that they see on any given day, or be able to discern their meanings. All of the interviewees, when asked about their blog reading habits, responded that they do not really look at news blogs, though all for differing reasons. ND was not interested in too much more than social media and email when it comes to her digital experiences. CG would get information from the websites of his favorite bands, but does not have the same passion for news that he has for music. The interviewees cannot be considered members of the new media digerati and, for lack of a better way to put it, have lives away from their computer. Blogs are not part of their media diet, because their time online looking at news and infotainment is limited to just the headlines and the little bit that they wish to investigate. None are particularly isolated, and all are active in some aspect of the community. Blogs have always struck the author as a refuge for the isolated, and these interviews have strengthened that belief. All interviewees agreed that the messages posted on comment boards, although sometime entertaining, showed the worst side of humanity. The level of isolation that technology has afforded us as individuals has allowed us to hide behind a curtain of that very seclusion and spew out hatred that might not be spoken in a community or faceto-face setting. User generated content such as this is allowed on the Brian Roessler
online versions of most traditional news sources. They may not sway the objectivity of the stories, but they can spark an emotional response that the media consumer will then relate to the story. None of the interviewees turned out to be news junkies, but rather people who fit in news and information when they can. They are all interested in what is going on in the world, but none actively seek out information about it if it does not fit into their schedules. When they do look for information, they do not seek out items the that match their interests and values. Instead, they tend to avoid the information that do not interest them or match their beliefs. News is more of a civic duty than a passion for them, and that comes through in what they relayed as their media consumption patterns.
Chapter 12 Conclusions and Recommendations Conclusions Based on survey results, interviews and reading, the author has concluded those under thirty are not consuming very much news and current affair information. When it comes to the news that they are consuming, it originates from a wide variety of sources, and although they believe most of it is objective, the largest portion of it actually comes from non-traditional and subjective sources. David Mindich sees â€œThe lack of young news consumers as not a crisis of numbers and sales, but instead a crisis of culture that very few offer solutions forâ€? (4). For the author, it was quite surprising to discover how few of the survey respondents made news consumption a daily habit, and realizing the interviewees saw very little importance in the value of news in their day-to-day life. Most interesting though, is the trust the respondents show in John Stewart. If one truly watches his program, The Daily Show, they will see a show that spends as much of its time pointing out the flaws of the media as it does politicians. These flaws are not worth pointing out, but if a portion of the young media consumers in this country trust the person pointing out the flaws of the media then they, more than likely, will not trust the media either-flaws or not. Brian Roessler
Recommendations After consideration the author makes the following recommendations: 1) A more thorough study should be concluded to get a more detailed breakdown of the exact media patterns of the respondents, as opposed to the general patterns looked at in this study. The study should gather more details in regards to consumption and trust of specific shows, specific hosts, and specific networks. It should also break down those under thirty into different demographics to see if there are differing media patterns within the age group. Those breakdown could be based on one or more of the following: a) Gender b) Race c) Education Level d) Income
2) More needs to be done to show the importance of knowing what is happening in the world. It is not enough to only consume news. The knowledge of why news and current affair awareness is important to them, personally, is paramount to creating lifelong interest. An interested and informed populace is crucial Brian Roessler
to a democratic system, lest we become the America that Postman feared. Like all societal norms, this preparation should begin at home and be sharpened by the schools. Many of the children born today are coming from parents in the under thirty demographic, and if they do not have those values, they will not pass them along.
3) Believing in the importance of news means nothing without proper media literacy training. A news consumer who is media literate will be more likely to see though the bias of the source and make informed decisions. The author recommends that media literacy becomes a crucial part of the national K-12 curriculum.
Chapter 13 Author Synthesis The author realizes that much of the baseline knowledge of the subject matter came from prior courses leading up to this thesis. Foundations of communications and media literacy played a large role in understanding the basic tenets of the arguments made. To claim that certain attributes were the direct results of certain classes, rather than the sum of the body of learning would be spurious, at best. The author would like to think that this thesis demonstrates the overall synthesis of the coursework and would like to thank every teacher and fellow student who has helped in the process. The concept of media conglomeration, from a variety of communications, business, legal, and consumption standpoints, was cultivated throughout the educational process. The business models of these organizations and the resulting impact, although debatable, and not yet completely realized, are the basis of much criticism in regards to todayâ€™s media, and underline the authorâ€™s own thoughts about the ideas presented in this thesis. Knowing the ownership of the media outlets and subsequently how to get to the truth through their various biases, takes the ideas of conglomeration into the principals of media literacy. There is a similarity in all matters of communications â€“ journalism, entertainment, public relations, and marketing which deal with the Brian Roessler
connection to humanity. Learning about the interaction of communications methods, technologies and humanity over the course of time became a significant part of the postmodern ideas of this study. More important than anything else, however, was the realization of the inherent value and usefulness of the theories learned, the concepts discussed, and the ideas read in regard to current media practice. It is one thing to read, theorize and banter, but to actually take those concepts and apply them has been very powerful and profound for the author.
Works Cited Associated Press, and Context-Based Research Group. A New Model for News. Rep. Associated Press, June 2008. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. <www.ap.org/newmodel.pdf>. Bybee, Carl, and Ashley Overbeck. "Homer Simpson explains our postmodern identity crisis, whether we like it or not: Media literacy after "The Simpsons.." Simile 1.1 (2001): N.PAG. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. Carey, James W.. Communication as culture: essays on media and society. Rev. ed. New York: Routledge, 2009. Print. Fielding, Raymond. "Motion Picture Newsreels." History of the Mass Media in the United States: An Encyclopedia(1998): 399401. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. John, Jeffrey. "Fifty years of community news: The erosion of social responsibility?" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, The Renaissance, Washington, DC, Aug 08, 2007 <Not Available>. 2010-1025<http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p203835_index.html>
Kakutani, Michiko. "Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?" Television. New York Times, 15 Aug. 2008. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/arts/television/17kaku. html>. Klosterman, Chuck. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: a Low Culture Manifesto. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print. Kothe, Ana. "When Fake Is More Real: Of Fools, Parody, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. "Americana (1553-8931) 6.2 (2007): 2. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 28 Nov. 2010 Lewis, Seth C. Where Young Adults Intend To Get News in Five Years. Newspaper Research Journal, Fall 2008. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <http://aejmc.org/topics/wpcontent/uploads/2009/02/lewis_full _text.pdf>. McKain, Aaron. "Not Necessarily Not the News: Gatekeeping, Remediation, and The Daily Show." Journal of American Culture Dec. 2005: 415+. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. Mindich, David T. Z. Tuned Out: Why Americans under 40 Don't Follow the News. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print.
"Objective - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary." Merriam-Webster Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/objective>. Palmer, Allen. "Following the Historical Paths of Global Communications." Global Communication. Ed. Yahya R. Kamalipour. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2007. Print. Postman, Neil. Amusing ourselves to death: public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print. Postman, Neil, and Steve Powers. How to watch TV news. Rev. ed. New York, N.Y.: Penguin , 2008. Print. "Postmodern - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary." Merriam-Webster Online. N.p.,n.d. Web 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/postmodern>. Siebert, Fred S., Theodore Peterson, and Wilbur Schramm. Four Theories of the Press: the Authoritarian, Libertarian, Social Responsibility, and Soviet Communist Concepts of What the Press Should Be and Do. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1963. Print. Smith, Michael. The Role of Postmodernism in Influencing Modern American Journalism News Conventions. Regent University. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://www.regent.edu/acad/schcom/rojc/smith/postmod.pdf>. Brian Roessler
Stephens, Mitchell. A history of news: from the drum to the satellite. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1988. Print. Stephens, Mitchell . "We're All Postmodern Now: Even journalists have realized that facts don't always add up to the truth." 60-64. Columbia Journalism Review, 2005. Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. "Subjective - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary." Merriam-Webster Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/subjective>. "The Changing Face of Media Consumption in the Digital Age." Ascent Media â€” Digital Media for Production, Digital Asset Management, Post Production, Content Duplication and Distribution. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.ascentmedia.com/buzz/industryinsight/Changing-Face-of-Media.aspx>. Thorson, Emily. "Changing patterns of news consumption and participation: News recommendation engines." Information, Communication & Society 11.4 (2008): 473-489. PsycINFO. EBSCO. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. What Americans Know: 1989-2007 - Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions. Rep. Pew Research Center for
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Woods, Tim. Beginning Postmodernism. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1999. Print. Yi, Xiang, and Miklos Sarvary. "News Consumption and Media Bias." Marketing Science 26.5 (2007): 611-628. Business Source Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.
Appendix I Media Consumption Survey This quick survey is for primary research for my graduate school thesis. It is a look at media, and specifically news/information consumption patterns. thanks in advance for your help! What is your age? Under 18 18-30 30-50 Over 50 Do you consider yourself technically literate? Do you find modern technology easy to use?
1 2 3 4 Not at all technically literate
5 Highly technically literate
Do you consider yourself media literate? Can you critically analyze what you see in the media?
1 2 3 Not at all media literate
5 Highly media literate
How up-to-date are you with current news and affairs? 1 2 3 4 5 Not up-to-date Very up-to-date
What is your approximate daily media consumption? Television, radio, internet, newspapers, magazines, mobile applications, video games etc
Less than 2 hours 2-4 hours 4-6 hours More than 6 hours
How much of that time is spent watching/reading news? Newspapers, local & network news, cable news, websites, news blogs
0-25% 26-50% 51-75% 75-100% Which is your preferred method of news consumption? Local/Network TV Cable TV Blogs Social Media Print Sources Talk Radio Internet News Sites Other: When looking for a news source, do you look for: Objectivity Entertainment value Views that are similar to yours Other: How often do you read the newspaper? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you read online versions of newspapers? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you read news/current affair blogs? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily
How often do you watch local news or visit the websites of local news channels? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you watch national network news? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you get news from the websites of national network news? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you watch cable news? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you get news from the websites of cable news? 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you watch entertainment/opinion based news shows Shows like Glen Beck, Keith Olbermann, The Daily Show, etc 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily How often do you watch news programs with pundits? Face the Nation, Meet the Press, etc 1 2 3 4 5 Never Weekly How often do you listen to talk radio 1 2 3 4 5 Never Daily Brian Roessler
How often do you listen to NPR? 1 2 3 4 Never
Do you get mobile news updates? Yes No Trusted Source Which of the following sources do you trust the most to deliver information and news
Newspapers Local/Network News Cable News Cable Opinion/Satire Radio News Magazines Internet News Gathering Sites Blogs Trusted Conglomerate Which of the following do you think provides the most trustworthy stories and/or analysis?
NewsCorp (Fox News, Wall Street Journal) Time Warner (CNN, Headline News) GE (NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC, The Weather Channel) Disney (ABC News, ESPN) CBS Corporation Viacom (MTV, Comedy Central) None of the Above Trusted Hosts Which of the Following Hosts do you trust the most?
Glenn Beck Rush Limbaugh Keith Olbermann Bill O'Riley Jon Stewart Brian Williams Katie Couric Charlie Rose Brian Roessler