Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Information Overload Equals Information Lost

Although McCombs's study did not prove the agenda-setting function of the mass media it did successfully show that the media are the major primary sources of national political information for the general population. Everything we hear regarding politics comes from a mass media. Be it television, radio, internet, newspaper, or magazines. As McComb said, we sometimes don't even seek it ourselves. It is there, and we consume it passively at times, creating for ourselves a general idea of what is going on in the political spectrum regardless of our political affiliations or specific interests. 

This research was of great interest to me because it applies greatly to today's age of information overload that has been facilitated by the democratic public sphere that is the internet. Furthered by innovations in technology, this democratic platform is now an every-day part of our lives. We now get tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, Youtube video, and the classic daily news on television and newspaper along with shows that satirize politics like the Daily Show with John Stewart or The Colbert Report. Because we are exposed to so much information, the real issues, the nitty gritty details that are of most importance, and are the very reason we elect such candidates for office are lost. Upon analysis of the major item emphasis on different topics and candidates during the 1968 campaign, McCombs found that “a considerable amount of campaign new was not devoted to discussion of major political issues but rather to analysis of the campaign itself.” This is upsetting. But as Retzinger discussed in lecture, this is exactly what is going on. If the media chooses to devote more information to the candidates, their personal lives, their mistakes, their families, their chances of making it, then they are setting the stage for us to mistake this information for being of great importance, for being about the issues, when it in fact is really not. As Walter Lippman famously concluded in his book Public Opinion“...public opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound--not by the press as is the case today”(Lippmann, 1922). And his words still ring more true than ever before. We must be wary of what we hear and not accept the truth that we believe to be so. We cannot let the media think for us.

1 comment:

  1. You actually point to the same phrase that Eileen did (quite a few posts back), and we should discuss tomorrow whether or not the media focus on how campaigns are run is worthwhile or not (or whether it detracts from attention to issues and values). Clearly, the ideal is a middle ground. If we didn't pay some attention to the veracity of candidates' claims about opponents, as well as the way they've conducted their lives to date, we'd risk being deceived or taken in by false claims and appearances. However, it does seem that the bulk of campaign money and time goes toward managing perception rather than more substantive debate.