In defense of mass media creatorsBy Rich Robinson | 09/29/2014 10:10pm
I hate being this guy, really, I do. Most days, I just want to sit back in class and listen to the person with the doctorate. Not trying to start debates or pick fights with classmates, just trying to write legible notes. But in the past few years, I have noticed a strange trend that may say something larger about our society: People hate the media even though they have created it and continue to feed it. It’s the same general argument time and time again. The example, whatever it is, usually attempts to prove that the media fails to rise to an academic level of thought, and therefore demonstrates that the media is utterly lacking. It’s a weak sauce stance that sets up straw men in the form of massive media outlets.
But people seem to buy into it. Some will speak up and announce that the media is one of the root causes of our problems. One student said that President Obama gets his talking points read over the airwaves each night, ignoring the fact that Fox News is the most popular cable news outlet. Another in a different class believes that the media should stop using graphics and charts because the outlets running them have no way to explain them in enough detail, therefore confusing the public. It goes on and on.
It’s not the debate or conversation that is troubling, it’s the mindset that allows these opinions to exist in such a prevalent way. With hints of conspiratorial assumptions and gross misunderstanding about the way journalists work, this mindset allows us to miss bigger problems facing society. Why do people have negative stereotypes about certain Sub-Saharan African countries, for example? Is it because the media only focuses on the bad things that happen in that part of the word? Perhaps, but to say that would only shift blame off the real reasons, which include bad governance, residual impacts from a century of European colonialism and a lack of internal capital.
It’s too easy to say that things would get better if we just stop talking about the bad stuff, since those things are real too. Staying with the Sub-Saharan African example, there are also some media outlets who are doing great work in trying to tell both sides of the story, including the BBC World Service which broadcasts its “Newsday” program live each day from Johannesburg. By the way, you can hear it on Alabama Public Radio.
There are thousands of different operations that attempt to do the best job they can do. There are also some bad eggs and outlets that aren’t worth their salt. These should be ignored. In the end, we are all the media and have the ability to change it. If you don’t like WVUA-FM or The Crimson White on the local level, then stop complaining and do something to bring your talents to the table. Support good journalism and challenge outlets that just validate what you already think. In the end, hating the media doesn’t make you smart or enlightened, it takes you away from the real conversation on the most important matters of the day.
Rich Robinson is a senior studying telecommunications and film. His column runs weekly.