“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” – Thomas Jefferson
This has been an interesting and rigorous course. At the same time I was taking this class, I was also taking a class at another university and doing research, so I was incredibly pressed for time. Class discussions were interesting, and there were three people in the class that regularly shared their thoughts and opinions. I didn’t always agree with them, but that made for some interesting and much welcome discussion.
This post is my summary post – in this post, I will list four things I have learned in class and two suggestions to improve the New York Times.
This was very interesting, as it shows how the internal structure of journalism operates. My experience as an automotive journalist gave me some unique insight into how these biases actually work, and I can pinpoint times in my work when I felt pressure from these biases. I have listed the structural biases and their explanations below.
- Journalists print stories that have occurred recently or have recent relevance.
- Bad News
- We get pretty much universally bad news; this is where we get the saying “no news is good news.”
- Journalists have to write stories that will earn money for their newspaper, in place of stories that may have more significance.
- Journalists will write about something that is quick and easy, such as in access journalism, instead of something that will take longer and need more effort.
- Journalists will show more of something if it has an interesting corresponding visual aid, and placement within a website or newspaper makes certain articles stand out more than their peers.
- In trying to be nonpartisan, journalists can show a false balance, such as in climate change ‘debates’ on TV news broadcasts.
- Journalists want to tell a story with an exposition, conflict, climax, and perhaps resolution – this makes articles easier to read.
- Journalists want to be the first one to write about a story.
The Times is Missing A Crucial Part of a Good Newspaper
One blaring mistake on the Times’ part is its exclusion of the most important part of a newspaper. This is the comics section. Growing up, the first thing I did with a newspaper was look at the comics. If it doesn’t have Calvin and Hobbes, is it really a newspaper?
News passes through filters put in place by the “dominant elite,”, that depend on these five characteristics:
- How big and powerful the dominant mass media firm is
- Advertising as a primary source of revenue
- Reliance of the media on information provided by the government, businesses, and other experts
- Flak to discipline media that doesn’t align with the views of the dominant elite
- “Anti-communism,” or the creation of a common enemy, as a national religion and control mechanism
Freedom of the Press is the only career-specific amendment to the Constitution, and it’s the first one. The government cannot stop you from saying something, unless it is libel or defamation. Libel is a written form of defamation, and defamation is false information about a party that is spread with malicious intent. The government cannot silence a hatemonger. However, if I were to, say, break their nose, I would not be infringing on their freedom of speech. It would, however, be assault and battery and therefore illegal.
- Social Continuity Effect
- If the news is being printed, then social life is going on as it always has. Journalism helps democracy function.
- Insider Effect
- While the point of journalism is to inform an audience, that audience chooses when it wants to be informed.
- Legitimation and Control Effects
- To give a platform for someone or something to express itself in journalism is to give it legitimacy.
- Effects on Opinions
- Journalism can sway the opinions of its audience. After coverage of a brutal murder, support for the death penalty goes up
- Effects on Activities
- In some circumstances, journalism can suggest changes to behavior, such as copycat suicides
- Messenger Effect
- Covering an event may lead to repercussions, like covering police brutality helping to pass legislature in favor of civil rights
And last, but certainly not least:
The Times Does Not Use Oxford Commas
This may sound nitpicky, but I get truly annoyed when a publication does not use oxford commas. In fact, the utter lack of oxford commas is one of the first things I noticed about the Times. This annoys me to no end; when I find a scholarly article that does not have oxford commas, I usually try to find a different source.
If I had been looking around the internet and not been in this class, I would have avoided much from the Times purely because of this annoying habit of theirs.