Communication & Media
All forms of media have the capacity to shed light and educate by sharing information and giving people the tools to learn more about various subjects. When this happens, people are often better able to explore relevant issues that may impact their lives. Knowledge gives people a voice, especially when people of like minds come together to make plans instead of just waiting to see what happens. This often involves community organizations and other interest groups working to cultivate support by making their case. It may also involve members of the media working to decode the complexities of proposed legislation and other efforts to initiate some type of change at either the local, state or federal level. This may be accomplished by the media “fact checking” a campaign, a movement or prevailing public perceptions. Even fact checking, though, is difficult because there are many subtle complexities that may be interpreted in more than one way. ? Unfortunately, with the power that various media possess to reach the public consciousness, there is also potential for abuse, but spotting what is manipulation versus what is productive dialogue is so hard to decipher. So-called “grass roots” campaigns for a certain cause may be genuine or they may not actually be grass roots at all even though the description suggests that they are relatively spontaneous events in which communities come together, often to right a wrong or to do something collectively for the greater good. Organizations, institutes and councils are funded by political parties, lobbyists, religious or cultural organizations, war mongers, pacifists, liberals, conservatives, philanthropists, people with a shared financial interest, people of certain socio-economic groups, self-appointed “guardians” of the public morals, extremists or people who share a particular interest in one side of a controversial issue. ??WHAT YOU’RE DOING: ? Please go online and search to learn more about a controversial issue in which an organization is pushing a certain point of view or even just trying to create a general perception. Is that organization working toward a greater good? How legitimate does its message seem to you? How is the message of that organization being received in the media? If you feel that the message has merit, is it being heard? If you feel that the public or the media are being manipulated, is it working? Will any changes that could result from a different way of thinking be to the benefit or detriment of a certain segment of society? Do those who demand more or fewer rules stand to benefit or suffer from such a change?? Try searching for such terms as “interest group,” “media manipulation,” “hidden agenda,” “civil discourse,” “lobbying,” “weasel words” or other similar terms and try to analyze the machinery that is at work in that cause or campaign. Please dig a little deeper, though, by not just stopping at the first few search results that you receive. Is there an organization or cause that is shedding light or is it trying to put a blindfold across the eyes of the public? Is it a little of each? Doing this, of course, is like peeling an onion because after each layer comes off, there is another. For example, you may find a web site for an organization with a pleasant-sounding name or even a title that suggests a benevolent mission or noble mission. The purpose of this assignment is NOT to suggest that you suspect conspiracy at every turn, but it is asking you to dig a little deeper and try to identify anonymous voices that are wrapped in a slick and seemingly sincere package. Perhaps you will come across an organization that has a pleasant-sounding name such as “Americans For (fill in the blank)” or so-called think tanks or “councils” or “institutes.” What is their mission? Who do they represent? Do they have a central mission that seeks more or less government control over particular things that may or not need a different level of regulation? Do they suggest that tipping the scale in the other different direction will make things fair or may they be seeking to shift an advantage from one side to another?? In three to four pages, please examine an organization, movement or cause that is, by your estimate, getting media and public attention for either a good reason or a bad reason. Is this group promoting a better understanding of an issue that you think needs to be more prevalent in the public consciousness? Is there a fairness or lack of fairness in the message? Does the organization seem to be working to right a wrong, perpetuate something destructive or distract the public? Does the perception or even perceived-reality that the organization is representing have a hidden agenda? Does the organization want to shift a burden from one segment of society to another, achieve a balance of power, hold people back or claim an unfair advantage? Please cite specific examples that demonstrate a depth of thinking. The idea behind this assignment is that you, as a future member of the media, will be bombarded with communications seeking attention or even trying to “get you onboard.” People will try to reach you with sincere missions to make the world better, concerted efforts to spread hate, cloaked efforts to obscure an issue or just seemingly irrelevant messages that are unfocused and may not even be worthy of your attention. ? As always, please avoid clichés and assumptions that lead to general statements about “unfairness” or “manipulation” without citing what, specifically, you think the forces are at work. Again, please cite examples to support your observations. This is not just a personal stream-of-consciousness rant about an issue that is familiar but undefined. You’re looking for a good example of how you think that somebody… for better or worse…. is trying to float a message that will influence public perception. So, you will want to pause to reflect when somebody tells you that “the American people” want something or that all of the “smart,” “decent,” “forward thinking,” “open-minded,” people are doing something because they’re the ones who “get it.” The message may be true, or it may not be true or it may be somewhere between the two. It’s time for you to go exploring.