the medium, the message

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My husband is in media - radio to be specific. He is not on the 'talent' end (though I find him to be very talented!) - he is in tech support (so-to speak). He and I have had several conversations about techniques that various media use to put forth a point of view, while seeming to be 'fair and balanced'. I keep hoping that he will write a longer post on the topic, but he is a much more careful writer than I am, and won't put something out there until he is sure that he has it right. It's a virtue, I think, but it isn't mine. Anyhow, this newspaper article is about the recent announcement by the Pontificator (referenced below). Read it through - and then think about how that last paragraph might affect the casual reader.


The description I use is "Make it appear fair, balanced and reasonable. Then put the 'Zinger" at the end. This will show what your reader should take away as a conclusion!" That reporter has been listening to too much NPR. (Listen for yourself)

In a nutshell, the most important paragraphs are the ones at the beginning and the end. The beginning is the "grabber". It gets the reader's (listener's) attention. The ending is the conclusion. It is what will most likely remain in the reader's mind.

It is important that this is brought to light and the forefront! Words, how they are crafted and assembled are not innocuous.

It is not "rocket science" to see how this works. "The proof is left to the student." I apologize if this interferes with anyone's ability to listen / read in a non critical fashion.

The reason for the apology in advance is that I risk making it likely that you will view (read, listen to) things critically from the time you are sensitized to them.

A brief story: The closest my wife has been to murdering me (with justification) was about 25 years ago. I thoughtlessly pointed out the technical flaws on the radio station that she most often listened to. I am trained to listen for these flaws. If I hear them on a station I have worked for, I correct them if I can. But if I cannot correct them, I have learned to ignore them. She discovered that once she heard them, she could ONLY hear them. She could no longer simply and uncritically listen. Her enjoyment was now gone.

A noteworthy aspect of how "fair and balanced" is presented is to cover all the outlying viewpoints and assume that it is sufficient. The underlying assumption is that "everyone knows what is 'normal' so we don't have to include it."

There is a bias. It remains unrecognized and/or unacknowledged. Just as the legal system places "due process" above all else; Journalism assumes that it's version of "fair and balanced" is unassailable. At it's best this is a "blind spot" caused by a fixed and unquestioned view of the world. At worst it is willful manipulation.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by alicia published on May 21, 2005 1:34 PM.

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