Bias in Media – Week 4 9/28/14-10/5/14
- How are all narratives affected by bias and perspective?
- How can the power of media influence perception?
- How can teachers make students aware of bias so they can effectively make their own judgement?
This will be the easiest and the hardest topic to which I must respond…easiest because I have thought about the subject for many years and hardest because of the depth to which media is entrenched in our lives. So much so that I think most people have no idea of it’s affect and don’t realize the just a few companies control most of media. For an eye-opening dose of who-owns-what see Mass Media Influence on Society by Dr. Anthony Curtis – UNCP Mass Communication Dept. In fact, you might want to check out all of his Resources for Courses. Crazy good.
Where to start…?
When you have kids, you start to see things through their eyes so I guess my awareness really began in the grocery checkout line. My kids were young but old enough to read. I tried to block their view of the Princess Diana and Bigfoot headlines. I just wanted to avoid endless discussions about headless bodies and alien babies every time we bought milk. I remember telling my kids that those papers should be on a roll so at least they could be of some use as toilet paper.
Around the same time, I canceled our local newspaper subscription. It was politically biased, often “facts” were incorrect or poorly sourced and, worst of all, it contained 90% bad news. The question, “How are all narratives affected by bias and perspective”, can be answered in part by watching Chimanda Ngozi Adichie’s TedTalk: The Danger of a Single Story. The single story I was “getting” from the newspaper was that my area was full of crime and criminals and bad news was more important than good. I felt that paying for the paper (even if it was only a dollar) was enabling the creation and perpetuation of misinformation.
Next on the chopping block was cable TV. I have a real problem with commercials…I pick them apart just like Kendra Eash did in her “poem”, THIS IS A GENERIC BRAND VIDEO. (You may also enjoy Jon Wu’s, A GENERIC COLLEGE PAPER – and lots more funny stuff on TIMOTHY McSWEENEY’S INTERNET TENDENCY.) And it wasn’t just the commercials that bothered me – there is an immense amount of programming that makes big money off of people’s bad fortune, poor choices and plain stupidity! Just how many Jerry Springer-type shows do we need??
It used to be that when people heard we haven’t had “TV” in decades, they were shocked. Some said they just watch TV for the news…and boy, were they sorry they told me that. Watching the news makes me bonkers. I keep a well-worn soapbox to stand on just so I can rant about the evils of network news. If you haven’t listened to Marshall McLuhan yet, do so just to avoid my raving on the the subject that news should not be packaged as entertainment. A relevant clip can be found at here beginning at minute 3:50.
Of course, it’s not just news shows that influence perception – all media does that. For example, here’s a snapshot from the Women’s Day website’s “More” section. It makes me think that all women cook, workout, are great shoppers, care about their sex life, …more cooking, are well-coiffed, healthy, healthy, healthy — but still make yummy desserts, and by reading Women’s Day, they will become more proficient in all of those things…and have a rear-end worthy of Signature jeans.
One of the insidious things that websites can do that other media can’t do is tailor the advertisements that appear to YOU. I’m guessing the ads from AdChoices embedded in the Women’s Day webpage appears because my previous searches were about education, local businesses and maybe even job searches.
Teachers can make students aware of bias so they can effectively make their own judgement by creating lesson plans that include media literacy. A few key questions include: How does each element you analyzed affect your perception of the story? Why is it important to get the news from several different sources? Get more of these thought provoking questions from the MEDIA LITERACY LESSON PLAN created by the PBS series, Flashpoints USA. Make sure to check out MediaSmarts Media Literacy Week plans. The site is Canadian but maybe it will help kick-start the US to focus on media literacy!