Media Criticism and Journalism…A Weird Mix

I am so incredibly lazy with this blog it’s embarrassing. But I’m really going to make a real effort to try harder. Again, no real promises. But I’m mostly telling myself that (or like the two people I know who may read this).

Anyway, since it’s late I’ll keep this short. Today (or I suppose yesterday) in my Intro to Media Criticism class we were talking about “The News”. With a capital N.

My professor brought up some very good points, mostly about how the very nature of “news” being new makes it difficult to cover certain things. And, since publishers/editors need to know that they’ll be able to fill space for the paper (or time slot, etc), they assign “beats” so they can always expect certain kinds of stories. She also noted how “objectivity” is important for news because it helps show a clearer reflection of reality, emphasizing the reflection.

But when students in my class got to talking about the issue, they said the biggest problem with news was bias. First of all–duh. Second–they didn’t seem to understand how much audience loves bias. How bias is unavoidable. Which is why I’ve come to believe that, unlike other “media texts” (like TV shows, movies, anything that can be “read” by an audience and is culture), journalism is largely dictated by its audience.

Sure, audiences don’t have too much control over what movies show them, but technology in this day and age makes it easy for text readers to move on to the next paper, blog or channel. And journalists struggle to keep their attention, trying to show them what they want. Because readers can always move on. Unlike other texts, where producers or advertisers attempt to thrust ideologies on readers, journalism is for the readers. The bias in Fox News is clearly more conservative, but viewers use this bias to help themselves (by, I suppose, reinforcing their own ideals) and that’s Fox is so successful, and why bias is sometimes a good thing.

I know it’s hokey, but readers need journalism. Even if it’s not perfectly reflecting reality. I think it’s inability to reflect reality is in itself a reflection of the difficulties in defining reality.

My Foundations of Journalism professor told us last semester about a newspaper reporter strike a while back. I really don’t remember the details, but people said they felt lost without the information that journalists provide. People may have been sad or bored during the TV writers’ strike a few years ago, but they didn’t feel lost. Mostly because journalism, unlike other media, is something humans need. Not always entertaining (but it can be), journalism is part of an instinctive, organic need to know what’s happening. Knowledge facilitates survival. And journalism spreads, in the most efficient way, knowledge that people need and want to know.

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