Media Musings

A blog for students and stalkers of Brian Steffen, centering on issues of concern in media studies.

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Location: Indianola, Iowa, United States

Hello all... I'm a professor of communication studies at Simpson College and a junkie of all things media. I'm blogging on life on the faculty at Simpson and working with some of the best young future professionals in the world.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Old Media Rule New Media

So much for the idea that new media sites would push the MSM out of the fray when it comes to doing quality journalism on the Web. As Richard Roeper points out in today's Chicago Sun-Times, the nominees for top honors in the Online Journalism Awards are pretty much all old-school newspapers and magazines:

Really? Where are you getting your news? From the conservative and liberal radio talk show hosts who rely on the mainstream media for about 99 percent of their information, even as they're questioning that information? From the bloggers who soak up the news via the wire services,,, and about 50 other mainstream-news-organization-dot-coms, before they unleash their opinions?

The delivery system of choice for millions is now the computer instead of the mailman or the newspaper vendor. But in most cases, the news-gathering process remains the same.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Press is not the Media

James Carey, the recently deceased journalism and communication thinker at Columbia, once noted that the biggest problem with journalism is its identity crisis. "The problem is that you see journalism disappearing inside the larger world of communications," he was quoted as saying in The Elements of News. "What you yearn to do is recover journalism from that larger world."

That's all part of the soul searching of an industry trying to find its way in a Disney world of media entertainment. The latest news from The Economist is that things aren't getting any better. Newspapers, according to the story:

still earn almost all of their profits from print, which is in decline. As people look to the internet for news and young people turn away from papers, paid-for circulations are falling year after year. Papers are also losing their share of advertising spending. Classified advertising is quickly moving online.

Flak and Enforcement

We don't need censors in the United States -- we have Don Rumsfeld.

The defense secretary took the offensive on Monday, accusing journalists and others critical of the Bushies' illegal Iraq war of being appeasers of "a new type of facism". Funny, but Bill Keller really doesn't look much like Neville Chamberlain to me.

The AP's version of the Rumsfeld story, as reported by SPJ's Press Notes, has it this way:

On Monday, Rumsfeld had said he is deeply troubled by the success of terrorist groups in "manipulating the media" to influence Westerners. "That's the thing that keeps me up at night," he said during a question-and-answer session.

No word on whether Rummy lost much sleep in 2002 and 2003 when his boss and the intelligence establishment at 1600 were busy manipulating the case for war in the face of substantial international opposition.

This is press flak and enforcement of public-opinion discipline that takes a page out of Noam Chomsky's and Edward Herman's Manufacturing Consent. As the press critics argued backed in 1988, there's no longer a need for government agents to keep the press in line. We have no less a figure than the Secretary of Defense backed by the Ministry of Truth in the form of talk radio, etc., to enforce appropriate discipline.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Press and National Security

The folks at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press are out with new research on how Americans feel about reporting on government monitoring of bank records. Says the report:

The public is of two minds about news reports that the government has been secretly examining the bank records of American citizens who may have ties to terrorist groups. By a margin of 50%-34%, Americans think that news organizations have hurt rather than helped the interests of the American people with these reports. However, an even larger 65%-28% majority believes that these news accounts told citizens something that they should know about.

It should come as no surprise that one's position on the issue is dependent on one's politics. Eighty-two percent of the surveyed Democrats believe the public needs to know about the government's bank monitoring program. Only 45 percent of Republicans feel the same.

Also, close to seven in 10 Republicans think the reporting hurts the interests of the American people, a position taken by only 38% of the Democrats.