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Manipulation: a sampling of modern media strategies


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We were assigned a research paper of sorts. The prompt had us identify eight different examples of the way the media "uses its power" from our text for a Poli Sci 101 course. It was, IMO, a fairly elementary assignment meant for students to use critical thinking skills. That's a big thing, apparently, in current collegiate curriculum. Anyway, I don't know that it is that great of a paper, but the standards were really, really low. Enjoy.

ps - the weird format is what I understood as standard APA format as taken from Purdue's OWL site.

  • Quick follow up. I have seen Dr. Dahi several times since last semester and could ask him what my score on this paper turned out to be. I do not find that necessary, however, because of where I was in his course, grade-wise, when this paper was submitted. At submission, only there would be only three more grades tabulated to determine final score for the course: attendance & participation; this paper; and a final exam. My score in the class when I turned this in was a very high B. Because of the way he weighted assignments, exams and participation, I would need to get an A on all three of those remaining three elements to get an A for the course.

    I got an A for the course.
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Manipulation: a sampling of modern media strategies

  1. 1. Running head: MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 1 Manipulation: A Sampling of Modern Media Strategies American Government 101 Louis Wischnewsky Professor Naji Dahi, PhD TR 12:00PM – 1:20PM November 29, 2011
  2. 2. MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 2 It is difficult to say when the role of journalism was deemed to have changed from onethat reported on the concerns of political or special interests groups, but there is little doubt that,for decades now, the populace of the United States has expected the reporting of news to be un-biased; free from the reporting observers opinion. However, the printed word, whether hand-written or the Gutenberg Bible, has always influenced minds and guided lives. The dawn of newforms of communication transmission has not changed the purpose of media. Watching localnewscasts demonstrates that, while the techniques of persuasion from which media derives itshefty power are often subtle, they are nonetheless ever present in modern journalism. Todemonstrate this point, recently three different networks in the Los Angeles area were observed.The networks, dates, and times were as follows: KCBS - November 25 at 5:00 PM; KNBC -November 27 at 11:00 PM; KABC - November 28 at 4:00 PM. Thomas Dye and Bartholomey Sparrow describe the term “newsmaking” as, “decidingwhat is news and who is newsworthy” (Dye & Sparrow, 176, 2011). KCBS met this definitionin spades Friday. Tragic as the story of Bryan Stow may be, his beating was a single incident.Rarely are people killed or beaten nearly to death after sporting events in the United States.Regardless, the original incident was news. He survived and two suspects have been arrested(Mauldin, 2011). One might argue it was all newsworthy. However, are regular reports of hisrecovery necessary? Again, it might seem cold, but with many in LA on the verge of beinghomeless due to a terrible economy, is it news? KCBS gets to decide the question demonstratingthe medias power to decide what is news and who is newsworthy. Agenda setting is described as “the power to decide exactly what will be decided” (Dye& Sparrow, 177, 2011). Again, KCBS met this standard handily with a series of stories ofparticular subjects in an orchestrated sequence – that set a clear agenda. The first story led off
  3. 3. MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 3with news of the Occupy LA ordeal. True, that could be considered news. But the next twostories were about violence among shoppers, specifically, violence at Walmart stores. The samepepper spray story came again later in the broadcast (Mauldin, 2011). The choice of stories andtheir sequence are strong evidence that there may be an agenda the station was trying to frame.Should the 99% demand more responsibility from corporations like Walmart in preventingviolence among shoppers? KCBS was also able to provide the perfect model of sensationalism to viewers. Sen-sationalism as “a bias toward hype in the selection of news, its presentation, and its inter-pretation” (Dye & Sparrow, 182, 2011). In lay terms, sensationalism is the creation of hype, andover-emphasis of an aspect of a story or the story itself. More than sixty percent of the storiesduring the newscast involved Black Friday. The Friday after Thanskgiving is the busiest retailday of the year, trivia well-known for decades. Why is this news? Who cares: the point is thatsomeone at KCBS decided that the most important news of the day was Black Friday. And ifviewers did not know how to be a part of Black Friday, KCBS gave ideas. Viewers could goshopping at a mall, buy a new car, or shop online via their smartphones – three different storiesall within the hype, or sensationalism, of Black Friday (Mauldin, 2011). Moving on, KNBC shows they are not above the fray, providing the perfect example of afeeding frenzy. Political scientist Larry Sabato sums up feeding frenzies: the story growsexponentially into a bigger ordeal than it really is (p.184, 2011). The Occupy story fits thiscategory, pardon the pun, to the proverbial “tea.” The movement has never had any cohesivemessage and certainly no goal other than wanting everything to be free from monetary cost. Yet,in true feeding frenzy fashion, Sunday night KNBC kept mentioning the mayors deadline for theOccupy seige, showing live footage of the scene througout the broadcast. There were three
  4. 4. MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 4reporters, not including the helicopter voice, on scene the entire broadcast – an upgrade from theFriday before when only two reporters had been present. Yet, despite the journalistic sharkssmelling blood, nothing came of the ordeal (Smith, 2011). Surely there can be nothing wrong with patriotism, though. Right? As Dye and Sparrowexplain socialization briefly, socializing is showing patriotic images, such as flags or feel-goodmoments among government leaders so that audiences “learn[] of political values” (p. 178,2011). One can include loyal, patriotic Americans as icons of patriotism. KNBC does this in aunique way. Its hard to imagine a news station not giving due reverence to America but thebroadcast almost forgot do to so. Saving the day, KNBC ran with the story of three Americanstudents being released from Egyptian custody and returning home to the U.S. Now, in any otherpart of the world, the average citizen would have wanted to smack the three dolts on the back oftheir heads for not being respectful of a host country. But not in the U.S. Instead, the three youngmen received a heros welcome home. Of course, one of them revealed the shocking news thatthey had done nothing wrong. Worse, those dastardly Egyptian police threatened to torture thethree (Smith, 2011). To make sure audiences are socialized correctly, no one from Egypt wasquoted. But that is okay because everyone knows that three college-aged young men wouldnever lie about their prankster guilt. Doubting those young men are being completely forthright is pessimism. What KABCdoes in the three opening stories of their broadcast, however, is journalistic negativism. Dye andSparrow say the media has a bias towards bad news because audiences are more likely to watchbad news than good news (p. 183, 2011). But what is negativism? Negativism is a heavy focuson all the bad aspects of a story. The first story tells viewers to be careful shopping for bargainsthat are too good to be true on the internet. It turns out bad people are selling counterfeit goods.
  5. 5. MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 5Someone missed the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” memo at KABC but they made up for it in the nexttwo stories. Up first was a follow up on that “violence” at the Porter Ranch Walmart (turns outthe woman who turned herself in still has not been charged with a crime). That was not bloodyenough and neither was the third story of the newscast, but it was quite dark and negative,nonetheless. Not only does Penn State have coaches that think little boys that are hot, Syracuseapparently has a coach that thinks young men are sexy, too (Kleiner, 2011). The story regarding the coach raises a question about journalistic power but not nearly asdirectly as the KABC story about Michael Jackson murderer Conrad Murrays sentencing.Apparently KABC is second guessing the new “re-allignment” law regarding prison over-crowding. Non-violent or not-so-violent convicts are to be housed at county jails. The stationmakes a compelling argument that this law essentially lets sick bastards like Murray pretty muchget away with murder (Kleiner, 2011). The point is that this is persuasive journalism. Whenmedia outlets “engage in direct efforts to change our attitudes, opinions, and behavior,” they arepersuading viewers to adopt a view the outlet holds and compel citizens to take action to makethat view policy (Dye & Sparrow, 178, 2011). What should have been a story about Murrayspending sentencing became an opportunity for KABC to make a pitch toward new social policy. The problem with not realizing the power that the media has is that sometimes they getthe story wrong. It has been some time since the story of Miley Cirus toking on a bong was in theheadlines, but the evidence at the time indicated she was not using anything illegal. Unfor-tunately, the media seems unable to accept that the appearance of the young lady using drugs wasnot the reality. KABC aired a story about Mileys recent birthday party where her friends pulled aprank, having something on her cake about her being a stoner (Kleiner, 2011). It was simplechiding among friends but KABC does its best to interpret the gesture as something else. The end
  6. 6. MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 6result is that appearance and reality are two different things. This is called interpreting by Dyeand Sparrow and the particular instance falls into the category “appearance versus reality” (p.178, 2011). There they are, eight different examples of the way media weilds its power. However, thereality is that the debate of whether or not bias exists in reporting news is, frankly, an idioticargument. Mans very nature precludes bias will affect all that he repeats to others. Even whenthe story neutrally affects a reporter the story must be spiced with adjectives, which are usuallyopinionated in nature, so that others will be willing to listen to the story. Imagine Ben Steintelling the news in his famous monotonous tone, never once using adjectives to describe thestory, “A man died in Los Angeles today.” Rather, to be willing to sit through a half hour of newsthat mostly does not affect the audience directly, Don Henleys bubble-headed, bleached blond of“Dirty Laundry” fame has to tell audiences of tragedy or disaster with a gleem in her eye. Ridding the news of bias is not prudently possible nor necessary. It is not necessarybecause educating the masses to the different forms of rhetoric and how to identify them negatesthe power of the rhetoric. Yet, it takes more than knowledge of how media attempts to guideviewers thoughts and opinions; it also takes strong critical thinking skills in order to see throughthe “fluff” and hype of stories. To believe otherwise is naïve and to make that point this paperconcludes with a quote from one of the original modern manipulators of information, EdwardBernays: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of themasses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseenmechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of ourcountry [Bernays, 37, 2005].”
  7. 7. MANIPULATION: A SAMPLING OF MODERN MEDIA STRATEGIES 7 ReferencesBernays, Edward. (2005). Propaganda. Brooklyn: Ig Publishing.Dye, Thomas, & Sparrow, Bartholomew. (2011). Politics in America. Longman: New York.Kleiner, Arnold J. (President). (November 28, 2011) KABC-TV Los Angeles [ Eyewitness News 11:00PM ]. Glendale: KABC-TV Los Angeles.Mauldin, Steve (President). (November 25, 2011). CBS Los Angeles [ CBS 2 News at 5:00 ]. Los Angeles: CBS Television Stations.Smith, Cy (Producer). (November 27, 2011). Channel 4 News [ Channel 4 News at 11PM ]. Los Angeles: NBCUniversal, Inc.