Theories on the Press & Social Structures

In our COM515 Communication Theory class today, things took off on a natural note even though we were without Prof. Alex Halavais. Mary Ann started the ball rolling by asking us for a simple explanation of why the press was the way it is today. Citing ???Four Theories of the Press???, members took turns to answer this question. Here were the salient points:

  • The Press always takes the form and coloration of the present society (pg 1.)
  • The readers today take in news more critically than in the early days, more rational.
  • Media conglomerates buying over presses, less room for open comments/opinions
  • Same situation for smaller radio stations
  • Fox tends to be conservative; other news agencies have different leanings, which is good because we have different points of view
  • Apparently network news agencies have no clear liberal slant, since they tend to report whatever they see

The next question was on the Theories on the Press and how it was related to the Durkheim???s theory:

  • Which comes first, Liberalism in the press as the cause or the consequence?
  • Durkheim???s idea of ???power??? seems to start with a main idea/belief which then influences the social structure. He believes that structure forms through collective consciousness.
  • Durkheim produced a ???scientific theory of religion??? as a powerful force underlying the rest of society. (pg. 149)
  • Last week, Blumer & Mead = Individual focused
    This week, Durkheim = Groups & Masses
  • Social density vs Connectivity; which leads to more suicides?
  • Perhaps the quality of connectivity? City vs. Countryside?
  • Division of Labor leads to interdependence on people, which might help prevent suicides
  • Dependence on an individual maybe less if he/she can be easily replaced (i.e. dense city)

Another question arose from the ???Four Theories of the Press??? reading about the ???Search for the Truth???:

  • Milton was confident that Truth was definite and demonstrable and that it had unique power of survival when permitted to assert itself in a ???free and open encounter??? (Pg 44). While some members questioned how this was unlikely the case, I explained that this was not testable in the first place as we have not encountered the phenomenon of the Truth, nor would know what the Truth looks like in order to look for it. Simply said, it is something which we cannot work on and thus is but a mere comment.
  • Reinforce that Belief shapes people, societies
  • Being libertarian is more like a religion (Pg 50). It is not perfect as out of the multiplicity of voices of the press, some information reaching the public would be false and some opinions unsound. It is up to the public to digest the information and discard what they deem as unsound. This is known as the ???self-righting??? process.

Summarizing Lasswell???s Structure & Function of Communication, I shared my idea on how Lasswell was an important figuring in how he was offered an early functional models of the communication process. He made it mechanical which was something we could work from and improve upon (pg.90). The Lasswell reading stood out from the other readings, which offered ideological perspectives on societies.

With regards to Laswell???s Sentiment Groups and Publics (pg. 96), I cited how Lasswell spoke of how ???the strongest power tend to be included in the same attention area, since their ruling elites focus on one another as the source of great potential threat.??? Given this notion, I argued that the power element of today no longer stood from politics but from the corporate nation of media conglomerates.

A question from the members was on whether the public was aware of this power shift to which I responded on how activism was a way in which we could see the public being aware. Movies such as Farenheit 9/11 and OutFoxed demonstrate this, and so do the numerous blogs from private individuals as well as media personalities in order to share their version of the inside news. I spoke of how there exists this constant exchange between ???personal media??? (Blogs, Street demonstrations against Paris Hilton???s book signing) and mass media.

Mass media = Voices of big boys versus Blogs = Voices of small boys

An example of the power of blogs was seen when bloggers first announced that CBS had made a major mistake in airing a news feature on President Bush, which was based on unconfirmed documents CBS had received. (See my post on Blog on Blogs for full details)

Lastly, we touched on the meaning of Equivalent Enlightenment (pg. 98), in which Sarah spoke of how it is the emergent information which one gets from someone else which is enough for one to make a decision. This is because there would be no such thing as perfect knowledge. By simply knowing enough, it would be sufficient for one to get on with their life (e.g. knowing the likelihood of war).

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