POL382 March 21.docx

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12 Apr 2012
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POL382 March 21, 2012
MEDIA & DEMOCRACY
- role of the media in relation to democracy
- media there to sell info for a profit -> so need to understand how to view media
Michael Vassey, Globe & Mail columnist + fellow at Massey Hall, teaches media here & at
Western
- doesn’t believe media has obligation to perform any high level function in
democracy
- 1st function of media: think of as mythologizer
- reveals deep patterns of meaning & coherence of a culture; what goes on in our
minds
- mythology simplifies complex notions
- as long as a group believes in a myth, the group will act as though the myth is true
- was once part of Canadian mythology that natural-born peacekeeper, which is now
no longer the myth (ie Canada’s role in Afghanistan)
- James Kerry (media theorist) gives notion of media as affirming narrative, thoughts
readers already believe; likened daily reading/viewing of mass media to attending a
Christian mass -> a ritual view of communication that is not centred on act of
imparting info, but to imparting beliefs
o Media = carry on conversation w/ the public
o Problem that frequently too narrow, too many ppl, points of view, which
media don’t let into the conversation
- If extrapolate on those 2 notions, get 3rd purpose: to be an instrument of social
cohesion
- Idea that ppl live in community b/c of the things they have in common; ideas,
intangibles
o To be a nation we have to have a public life in common, for which need media
- and 4thly need media b/c competition is one of key tenets of capitalist society; in
order to make choices we need freedom of expression, all of which comes through
the media
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- Litman’s conclusion: public opinion has nothing to do w/ influencing
actions/decisions of public leaders; public opinion is volatile, shifting radically in
response to most recent dev’ts; it’s incoherent
o Basically he argued modern state had become too complicated for many ppl
to understand & thus make informed decisions about
o So his aim was to use newspapers to reach those members of society
intelligent enough to understand the complex workings of gov’t
o Litman saw purpose of journalism as “intelligence work” -> journalists wd be
link b/n policymakers and the public
- from Litman move to Herman & Chomsky w/ their book Manufacturing Consent
o model of propaganda in the media
o Chomsky argued that news media w/ its corporate, conglomerate owners,
was simply one business to another business corporations & advertisers
o Continuous stream of info which only gov’ts had ability to produce
- Robert Hackett: Sustaining Democracy? Journalism & the Politics of …
- He argues that newspapers, rather than be messengers of propaganda, more
accurately see themselves as the dominators of orthodoxy
- He says audience for mass media too often neglected in the standard histories of
mass media, ie Sun advocated right to lawyer & appear before judge of G20
protestors be waived, whereas The Star denounced the behaviour of police
o Interesting that at time, poll showed 70% supported police; but a year later
once stories out, lrgly thanks to Star reporting, 30% supported
- 1 of most famous aphorisms re media: may not be successful in telling ppl what to
think, but is always successful in telling ppl what to think abt
What drives news judgment of G&M & how much is it driven by the economics of it?
- Globe wants to lay claim to segment of society called “poems” (professionals,
owners, entrepreneurs, & managers)
- So v difficult to ever see anything critical of business community
- One major problem of paper is skewed balance b/n male & female readers (for yrs
was 70-30%)
- Focus group asked women to personify the globe: 1 woman said “I think of it as an
older man you’d marry for $”
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