Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Media Torrent

In Media Unlimited, Todd Gitlin writes, "Media are occasions for experiences -- experiences that are themselves the main products, the main transactions, the main 'effects' of media. This is the big story; the rest is details." What do you think he means by this? And how is it related to the ideas of Georg Simmel discussed later in the book? Please respond by the start of class Tuesday, Nov. 27.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hutchins Commission

I thought many of the ideas you put forward in class today for reforming the press were intriguing. Of course, recommending government regulation of the media, even in the interest of social responsibility, flies in the face of longstanding libertarian principles. It was, after all, the fear of government censorship and control that led to the First Amendment guarantee of free speech and press in our Constitution. Thus to invite the government to regulate the press if it doesn't or can't regulate itself represents a sharp break with tradition. Yet the Hutchins Commission recommended something very much like that. Commission members also recommended:

1) Non-profit, government-subsided media to supplement the news and entertainment fare of the commercial media, which the commission found to be often shallow and trivial. PBS and NPR are outgrowths or reflections of this recommendation.

2) Better professional training for journalists. The growth in journalism schools and professional development workshops -- for example, those offered to working journalists by the Poynter Institute -- are part of the legacy of that recommendation.

3) A national press council to which complaints about inadequate or unfair press coverage would be brought and by which they would be arbitrated. This was attempted, but never took hold.

4) Self-criticism in the form of press ombudsmen who would cover newspapers and other the media the way they cover government or entertainment or sports. Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review, as well as Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and similar media critics, fulfill this function today.

Although it's not required, feel free to comment on these recommendations. I'd be interested in reading what you think.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Group Project (aka "The Final")

Propose a set of reforms for the problems preventing the press from fulfilling its functions under democratic theory. You can draw on Postman, the Hutchins Commission report, and other in-class sources.

You should first define what you see as the major problems affecting the functioning of a socially responsible press, then specify how they might be resolved.

Each group is responsible for an 8-10 page paper, fully footnoted, explaining your recommendations. In addition, the groups will each make a 10-minute in-class presentation on one particular recommendation. The presentation should be accompanied by or accomplished through a video, PowerPoint, or another audio-visual aid.

(Please give your input; I'll revise this with your input in mind.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Amusing Ourselves to Death

After reading the first three chapters of "Amusing Ourselves to Death," what would you say is the major premise of Postman's book? For a helpful example or illustration of his premise, you might cut, paste, and check out the link below:

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Big News

What, to your mind, was the biggest media- or press-related news of the summer? Please clearly identify the story you think qualifies and explain why you think so in a concise paragraph.