By Rachel Feldman (editor), Tom Landro, and Alex Bausch
Criticisms of the Modern Media
In today's society, communication is faster than it has ever been. As technology advances, the media is gaining more and more outlets to transfer information to the public. However as information output increases so does the amount of criticism aimed at the media and what it posts.

Citizen Journalists
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Many amateur writers are now becoming more involved in the media through what is called Citizen Journalism. This is defined as ordinary individuals who collect, report, and analyze news content. Some are paid for their efforts, while others simply volunteer for the pure enjoyment.

The internet seems to be the most popular outlet for citizen journalism, and often people will cover local events with details that might not have been included in reports from larger companies. Traditional news media sources have also realized that citizen journalists may be able to reach the scene of a story earlier than their own reporters. They often ask viewers to send in photography or video footage of breaking news. For example, CNN has their own iReport website for viewers to submit information.

However the use of citizen journalists is controversial in society today. They are viewed as increasing participation in setting the agenda and framing issues, however there is a reason they are called citizen journalists. These writers most often have received no formal training, and therefore are not familiar with the standards and rules involved in the profession. Sources may not always be as reliable, fact-checking and respect for accuracy is not guaranteed, and objectivity is always a concern. The biggest overall question is how to tell the difference between trustworthy and false information. With so many citizens giving their input it is impossible to decipher how much is the cold hard truth.


Media Consolidation

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Media consolidation is the concentration of ownership of media where less people and organizations are controlling larger portions of the media. In recent years, consolidation has increased, allowing a small number of big companies to control much of the media.

This has proven to be true, for the top six companies (by revenue) are all at least double the size of any one of the companies at seven or below.These six include: Comcast/NBC, Disney, Google, News Corp., Viacom, and Time Warner.

The consolidation of media to just a handful of companies is seen as detrimental to the news that the public is presented with. Because of the lack of diversity in the news industry, getting the hard facts out of the media has become next to impossible. By picking and choosing what they will want to cover, the large media companies are protecting their own advertising and political interests rather than choosing to cover more diverse stories. The media, as fewer and fewer are competing, becomes less diverse and hurts the quality of the news presented.
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By signaling, identifying which stories are important, important stories in their opinions, the large media companies can influence public opinion to fit their own company interests. This would further the damage to the quality of news presented by these media companies.

The increase of media consolidation could further give these few companies even more influence on the public opinion, giving voters less facts and more propaganda from these news companies.




Narrowcasting

Competition has always been a prominent element of the media and attracting viewers has always been a main concern. Narrowcasting is defined as targeting media programming at specific populations within society. The country is more polarized today than ever before and the media is known to use this polarization to attract specific viewers.

The two news stations famous for this are MSNBC and FOX news. They are known for catering to the ideology of their viewers. MSNBC is known to have more of a liberal perspective, and FOX news is criticized for its strong conservative positions. Studies also show that Democrats are more likely to tune into network news while Republicans most often turn to cable news.
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Narrowcasting has had some positive effects. Spanish programs have become more popular as a result with networks including channels like Univision and Telemundo. Focusing information toward certain groups can be an aid in making sure everyone is informed.

That being said, narrowcasting is seen as limiting the information presented in these sources. One side is normally overrepresented and the media tries to cater to an appealing perspective for their viewers instead of simply stating the news. This has lead to further polarization in the country, especially in the prevalent ideologies.


Media Bias

A topic of concern in respect to the validity of news is bias in the media. This bias includes gatekeeping, determining which stories make the news, among other things. By being the gatekeeper of information to the public, the media can choose to add or omit things of their choosing to support their own, specifically political, views.

Also, the media can report stories in such a way that it only includes the parts of the story which represent a positive of their political views. Much of the time this features the media priming, or ascribing responsibility for a problem to a person or group, someone or some group who has opposing political views of those from the news source. By spinning stories against their political opposition, media can use biased information to display news in a negative light for their enemies or positive for their allies.

Media can also be biased in the sense that news sources report what the public would pay attention to as opposed to what the voting population actually needs to hear from their news source. Because of this omission of critical political news, voters that receive information from that source will not be as informed as they should be, for they are getting news stories that are appealing and will get viewers as opposed to the important news that will properly educate voters.

Review Questions
1. What is narrowcasting and why are news stations such as FOX and MSNBC good examples of it?


2. Describe how media consolidation has shaped media.



3. Which of the following companies are one of the top six media companies?

(I) Hammond Musical Instruments
(II) Atlantic Records
(III) Marantz Corporation
(IV) Time Warner
(V) Boston Acoustics


4. What does it mean to be a citizen journalist?


5. Increased participation in agenda setting and framing issues are due to what/who?


6. Other than gatekeeping and priming, how else can news sources be biased?









Vocabulary
Agenda Setting: The process of forming the lsit of issues to be addressed by government
Citizen Journalists: Ordinary individuals who collect, report, and analyze news content.
Framing: The process by which a news organization defines a political issue and consequently affects the opinion about the issue.
Gatekeeping: When the media determines which stories are actually covered by the news
Media consolidation: The concentration of ownership of media where less people and organizations are controlling larger portions of the media.
Narrowcasting: targeting media programming at specific populations within society
Priming: ascribing responsibility for a problem to a person or group, someone or some group who has opposing political views of those from the news source
Signaling: Media identifying which issues are important.


Related Articles
http://pcworld.about.net/od/apple/Bogus-Jobs-Heart-Attack-Repor.htm
<http://www.globalissues.org/article/159/media-conglomerates-mergers-concentration-of-ownership>.

Works Cited

"International Media Corporations 2012." Media Data Base. Institute of Media and Communications Policy, 17 Sept. 2009. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
Mac Guill, Aidan. "Infographic: Media Consolidation – The Illusion of Choice." Infographic: Media Consolidation – The Illusion of Choice » , News, Augmented. OWNI.eu, 2011. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. http://owni.eu/2011/11/25/infographic-media-consolidation-the-illusion-of-choice/.
O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, and Alixandra B. Yanus. American Government Roots and Reform. AP Edition ed. Glenview,IL: Pearson Education, 2011. Print
Raphael, JR. "Bogus Jobs' Heart Attack Report Rattles Citizen Journalism." Bogus Jobs' Heart Attack Report Rattles Citizen Journalism. About.com, 3 Oct. 2008. Web. 16 Dec. 2012.
Shah, Anup. “Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership.” Global Issues. 02 Jan. 2009. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://www.globalissues.org/article/159/media-conglomerates-mergers-concentration-of-ownership>.