Friday, January 23, 2009

Right Wing and Obama

It is a known reality, in media studies, that people tend to expose themselves to media that support their own ideologies. One might be forgiven for thinking that this is acceptable and a sign of normalcy but I contend that it is the weakness of most media outlets that the audience is not exposed to opposing views within the one broadcast often enough.

I happen to believe that the media is not here to form our ideas but to let us view/hear all of the opposing ideas. If we are not open to hearing opposing views to our own, then what is the point of viewing or hearing anything? Just to have our own ideals set in concrete? I think we need to be open. But if we are not then the media should challenge us to defend our own ideologies against a balanced rendition of the realities rather than allow us to relax into complacency.

Most media stay on one course and therefore they command their own lucrative audience. It is a pity. To overcome this we must expose ourselves to the opposing "media views."

In this desire for balance I frequently listen to talk radio. One can slip into the comfort zone of listening to the stations that support one's own ideas. One must be vigilant. In the San Francisco Bay Area I can listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and (Dr.) Mark Levin on KSFO 560 AM. On KNEW 910 I can treat myself to Michael Savage and his ideas. I have said over and over again that if you want to discuss media and ideology and the U.S. you must take these players into consideration. They command such an audience that they are important whether we like it or not.

With the aura of Obama adoration in the air, it was somewhat real to hear them talking him down. Dare I say that they have preempted what must follow. Obama must be removed from his pedestal. He cannot keep this adoration for too long as president? The public will pull him down? The collective, not just the right wing, media will knock the pedestal off its balance sooner or later.

A talk radio host shocked me in one instance. One commentator said that it was in bad taste for the press to field tough questions at Obama when he visited them at the White House. What did he expect? It seems he expected them to welcome him and ignore the tough questions. He should be smarter than that.

I suggest that he visit the press offices of the White House regularly and openly and that he take questions. Is it really so unreasonable to expect our technologically savvy president to visit the press and accept/answer questions regularly. After all the press is there to "represent" the public and report back to us? Why would our newly elected president want to NOT talk to the press and answer any questions?

And we must do our part by listening to the media's rendition of the president's answers from many different media sources. Then we must make informed deductions.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

RTE and Racism in Ireland?

Is Irish society and the Irish media in particular ignoring the apparent racism of the post celtic tiger Ireland?

Listening to Marian Finucane, is the most popular way to learn of current events for many in Ireland. The other day, as I was travelling south through windy and wet weather I tuned in. Her show covered a lot of ground but the issue that stuck in my mind was her coverage of one particular event which happened the night before.

A bus driver was spat at and dragged from his bus and beaten. The delivery of the story was matter-of-fact but the moment I heard of harsh words uttered at the driver and the act of spitting I thought of a racially motivated attack. Perhaps I am at fault here to assume this but my thoughts were, I believe, confirmed when later in the story we were informed that the driver was a Chinese man.

If this story was reported in the U.S., I imagine the ethnic identity of the driver would have been reported close to the headline. However, in this instance on RTE Radio One, the ethnicity of the driver was made known only when an interviewee was asked by Marian Finucane. She reported the event, introduced the interviewee from a Dublin Bus company and conducted the interview. At the end of the interview, almost as if an afterthought, she asked where the driver was from.

I suggest that the ethnicity of the driver might be the headline. I suggest that there is a high probability that the event took place as a racially motivated event. I suggest that if the driver was not a "Non National" (a term I hate which is given to immigrants living in Ireland) this event might not have taken place at all.

Should the media acknowledge the ethnic identity of the characters in the story? Is it racist to ignore the racial identity of the person being reported on? Would the story be more objective with or without identifying ethnicity? Should the media be color-blind? And how can it be?

Later on I watched the RTE Television news. The story was covered and the ethnicity of the driver was not mentioned.

I wonder if the lack of importance given to the ethnicity of the driver in this story is ignoring the real headline? The real headline may be that racial attacks and racism are alive in Ireland and may be gaining traction in these economically difficult times.

In this instance, I believe the ethnicity of the driver was an important fact in the story. Educating the public to the existence of racially motivated attacks is one of the duties of the media.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wife Swap: A Whole Lotta Lovin'

I am wary of the ideology that TV is bad for you. It seems to be the popular sentiment and it is very seldom contradicted, especially in the company of intelligent people. As an analyst or critic, I like to think that I would look for the good in TV, even if it is only now and then.

The other night I was watching Wife Swap . Now, the popular response to this kind of viewing is negative. "It is rubbish, useless, bad TV, waste of time etc. etc." Indeed I would agree with this analysis of Wife Swap, almost completely.

In the company of my twelve year old daughter and my wife I was watching a typical episode. I don't remember the characters names and they are not relevant. One family fitted the urban description with more interest in appearances while the other was a rural/hippie type family. One husband was bearded and well-fed. One was fit and clean-shaven. One mother was of healthy weight and the other was well-fed. One mother was interested in being perceived as motherly, and the other wanted to have colored hair and make-up. One father was grumpy and difficult to communicate with obviously, and the other father was extrovert and not so obviously difficult to communicate with.

The event which I am getting to happened when the heavier and obviously grumpier father was forced to have a heart-to-heart chat with his teenage daughter. He listened to her plead for more talk, communication, and love. He listened and then asked, "are you done?" She answered in the affirmative and then the show cut to a close-up of the father talking about the heart-to-heart without any real emotional change. The teenage daughter had asked for love.

As we watched and listened and, I noticed, fell into the typical reaction of denouncing the characters,we laughed at them and scorned them and wondered at the uselessness of the show while we continued to watch. The teenage daughter said that she didn't remember the last time her dad had hugged her.

I thought. We laughed. And then I jumped up of the couch, faced my twelve-year-old daughter and said, "Maybe I don't hug you enough. Maybe you need a big hug from Daddy right now." She smiled. My wife smiled. I looked at her and then I smothered her with a bid hug. She laughed and laughed. I laughed through my advances of huggery and my wife laughed. We three laughed together for the sake of laughing.

Instead of laughing at the characters on the TV we were laughing and hugging in reality. Is this a positive result from watching some "useless" TV? I think so. So now when I see Wife Swap or any other similar rubbish, I think that maybe, just maybe, there will be an opportunity for some laughter and love in the final analysis.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Leave the Travolta Family Alone

I am saddened to learn of the passing of a 16 year old man today. How does a family cope with this kind of loss? The death of young people just seems so difficult to understand. The Travolta family should be allowed its privacy in this time of grief.

When I was thirteen my family lost my twenty year old brother. Justin was full of life and promise. I saw from the inside how a family deals with this kind of event. Privacy is extremely important.

Years later, I was an intern at a local TV station and was invited to accompany a reporter on a morning story. A building fire had taken the life of a toddler. The reporter, who was well respected, didn't have to think twice about getting himself (and me and the camera) into the building and knocking on the residence door, hoping for an interview with the parents.
As I climbed the stairs in the building and smelled the aftermath of the fire I was sickened by the prospect of invading the parents' privacy. I hoped that they were not in. I thought of Justin and my own family as I climbed the steps. No one answered the door.

I was physically shaking when I came out of the building and felt nauseated. I knew that this kind of journalism was not for me.

It does seem, however, that to succeed in TV journalism you have to have this killer instinct to get the footage. "Good TV footage" at any cost.
But I think it doesn't have to be. A little respect for peoples' privacy in a time of mourning and loss is not a lot to ask of any professional.

I suppose this issue drives at the ethics of reporting and the ethical choices that professional journalists must make in the field.

The Travolta family is a family similar to any other family. Try to put yourself in their position if you can. I'll wager that any human being who does this will allow them their privacy and wish them peace in these tough times.

And every time the story appears on TV, just try to imagine the young 16-year-old's sibling trying to watch a little TV for comfort. No child deserves to be treated like that.

Maybe some day the media will wish peace on people by leaving them alone?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009, Sponsorship of Time

O.K. 2009.

So, New York rang it in in style.

Happy new...Toshiba or is it Happy new... Nivea?

Is there anything beyond sponsorship?

I'm only asking.