Thursday, September 27, 2012

How are we ever able to know what "real world" is?

After reading Maxwell E. McCombs and Donald L. Shaw's "The Agenda Setting Function of Mass Media," I felt quite troubled because of news mediums' powerful effect that can influence peoples' attitudes about political issues. I understand that just because there exists a strong correlation between the actual content of the mass media during the campaign of 1968 and what the voters said were the main issues are not complete "proofs" that the mass media "is" steering peoples' opinions, yet there could not have been other ways that people actually took parts in the campaign (as McCombs and Shaw points out "...few directly participate in presidential election campaigns, and fewer still see presidential elections in person, the information flowing in interpersonal communications channels is primarily relayed from, and based upon, mass media news coverage," (1972:135)). I first doubted the study because I learned about modern amateur journalists and reporters working to bring the unbiased, as-close-to-the-truth-as-possible news could have an impact on our population to focus on many key issues rather than what the major newspapers, TV, and news magazines focus on. Yet as I viewed the slides presented during lecture, it seems our attitudes about what should be the key issues have been reported by the media and that we are still strongly influenced by it regardless if other venues of amateur journalism and hyper-local news exist. In this sense I wonder how we are to ever see the truth about what really matters, and what actually matters to individuals and society as a whole, and their actual political participation on issues that were not posed by the press, TV, radio, or magazines. It is understandable that journalism is limited, as Lippmann has suggested, like a spotlight on stage to shed light on one spot at a time although there are numerous amount of things happening all over the world. Further, the news medium mostly focus on negative events happening around the world such as natural disasters and crimes. This can impact the viewers to have a skewed view of reality as well, overestimating the amount of crimes or natural disasters around the world, while missing the news on disaster reliefs, recovery, and other positive news. I grew up in South Korea, and watching the news when I was little, I wondered why all the news stories were about horrors in the world. If my family and I wanted to view positive news, or more news about the world, we had to tune in during weekends to educational channels where reporters talked about refugees being rescued and people around the world coming together to learn about culture, about festivals, celebrations, and how there is progress and acceptance in the world. The evening and daily news were of politicians being uncovered from their cons, lies, and often, using physical violence during sessions where one politician gets up from their chair, and throws it at another politician. I am skeptical of any news that I watch on TV, and trust the newspapers (online) more because I can at least choose to read some and not read the others, and there are more content about the world events and articles. With TV news, I feel as if I am forced to face and listen to the contents of what are the truly most important based on the news company. My home town is very conservative and right-winged, and during high school I was often told to watch and trust FOX news by my high school political science teacher because he declared that it sets the right political agenda that so many people are ignorant about. Most parents, students, and teachers shared similar views, and I grew up not really exposed to other views because of what I was told to watch based on my environment yet people's attitudes swayed according to the news, such as the war in Iraq. McComb and Shaw's study found that "For major news items, correlations were more often higher between voter judgments of important issues and the issues reflected in all the news than were voter judgments of issues reflected in news only about their candidate/party", (1972: 132) and it relates to my experience and the statistics shown during lecture since the major issues posed by the mass media were in strong correlation to what people thought were the key issues. Although my community had very strong right winged, conservative views the overall statistics showed what people thought as a whole mattered differed, according to what all the mass media declared were important.

1 comment:

  1. Hello from Milwaukee! Thank you for sharing your experience in a fairly narrow media environment, and your concern over the possibility of obtaining direct experience of political events rather than filtered "news." And just because McCombs and Shaw say that "few directly participate in presidential election campaigns, and fewer still see presidential elections in person," that doesn't mean we can't directly participate, or that the percentage of participants cannot increase!