New Media and Revitalization of Politics: Rachel Gibson

I found this article by Rachel Gibson to be an excellent and informative read that examines the current American culture pertaining to institution’s and the use of social media  in the 2008 presidential election. I particularly liked this article because Gibson, a political science teacher in the United Kingdom, provides an unbiased examination of how the Obama campaign revolutionized the use of social media and “web 2.0”  In the article, Gibson explains how social media provided voters with a sense of citizen empowerment that was lacking prior to 2008. Social media allows the campaign to mobilize quickly and provide voters with a sense of connection with other voters and candidates. As Gibson explains, “Citizens are able to spread the word themselves, spontaneously, socially embed (rather than institutionally driven) layer of political action during the campaign.” The question that arises from this socially driven campaign is whether it negatively affects the content of the campaign. Gibson says that Americans are more concerned with scandalous and personality based aspects of politics rather than the substantive issues. Gibson states that the campaign is at threat of being “trivialized and tarnished” and therefore lacking serious debate.

Response:

This was by far my favorite article we have read as it made me reflect constantly throughout the reading and question just how American campaigns are operated. The first question that I wanted to examine is the notions that can we as Americans trust institutions, and more specifically, politics. Reflecting on the previous campaign, I recalled the first presidential debate where it was “unanimously stated” that Romney was the clear and decisive winner. Anchors from every news outlet praised how strong Romney appeared, but rarely referenced the content of his speech.  I believe as social media progresses, politics are moving further away from substance and closer to theatrics. Politics have become about who appears the strongest and most fit to stand in front of a camera and deliver a powerful speech rather than who is most competent to run the country. I can recall during the 2008 campaign when people said John McCain is too old and would make our country appear weak to the outside world. Politics is far too much appearance and not enough substance.

Another example of this is during the 2008 campaign where Barack Obama was very popular amongst celebrities. As Gibson states Americans are more concerned with personality led aspects of politics than the politics themselves. Politics are beginning to have a TMZ or People magazine like feel to them. Rap artist Young Jeezy released a song entitled “my president is black” and rapper Jay-Z was photographed several times having lunch with Obama. Amongst my group of friends it was almost like the “it” thing to do to vote for Obama because he was young and in tune with our demographic. I personally voted for Obama on issues, but it just raises a certain level of concern for me because I believe citizens should make the best informed vote rather than what is simply trending at the time. I suppose this could date back to John F Kennedy when he was so popular due to his handsome appearance and relationship with Marilyn Monroe.

I believe Americans should not exploit the use of social media, and rather use it as Gibson highlights it. We should use it as a platform to connect with fellow democrats or republicans across the country and unite to have our voices heard. We should use it to voice our opinions to our leaders in a timely manner and to demand substance.  Social media allows us as voters to have more power than ever before, and we should be using this power to promote serious debate rather than be consumed by celebrity like antics.

In conclusion I do believe social media is beneficial, as Gibson highlights it provides the voter with a sense of empowerment and connection to the candidate. During this past election, more than ever my friends were interested in politics. We found ourselves watching debates rather than Monday Night Football.  We all had our personal beliefs and every time there was a point or funny instance, we took to twitter. During the debates twitter was buzzing with college kids discussing politics. Instances such as these are why social media is great as it provides a unified platform for debate and discussion to take place. People may not know there is a debate, but they’ll check their twitter feed and see everyone discussing it and tune in. It is a fantastic way to get people to become informed, and in turn allow voters to vote on substance rather than appearance.

Shirky Summary:

In this book, Shirky discusses how society is a complex, ever evolving group that is intertwined with one another.  Shirky explains how there are several groups with different values and ideas that are constantly adding to one another, and in turn evolving. Technology has provided an easy platform to create these groups and share their ideas. Shirky explains that groups are now share then gather, rather than previous notion of gather than share. Because some groups are so large, the group faces the difficulty of all members seeing eye to eye. Coordination, communication, and organization all get harder when the group gets larger. Shirky cites the “Tragedy of the Commons” as an example of this. He explains when a small portion of the group does not consent to the goal and challenges it, the whole group suffers. With so many members, there is bound to be those who do not agree. Shirky explains how the main priority for groups should be to maintain the structure of the group. As an example, a corporation could provide a list of core values and make sure every member abides by them. The success of the company is contingent upon how successful it is at maintaining the structure of the group. Shirky cites how smaller railroad operations run smoother because they have fewer people and fewer things to manage. Large instances of management just stem more management, in turn making it much more difficult. Finally Shirky recalls how his uncle Howard’s small town newspaper compared to USA Today. USA Today was too naïve to think they would have competition as they are a very large group. Large publishers such as USA Today did not realize the impact of blogs would soon have independent writers. The main notion spelled out in the final section is how everyone today is their own media outlet.

Response:

I found reading these three chapters to be very beneficial. Shirky does a terrific job of providing real life examples to support his claims. I chose to look at this reading in two ways; the first being that America is becoming one large group, and the second being that everyone is their own media outlet.

I found Sharky’s notion that large groups are harder to manage to be very accurate. This past week we were assigned a five person team in marketing class where we had to come up with a product and promote it. After two classes we finally generated an idea and were about to work on promotion until the teacher added a student to our group. The new member hated the idea and instantly tried to critique what we had been working on for so long. This is similar to Tragedy of the Commons because a small portion of our group and challenged the main idea, in turn compromising our group as a whole. When I read this I thought of our current United States Congress. I am not a political science major but I always hear the news outlets discussing how nothing can get passed in the congress. They are a small group but one that constantly has a portion of it disagreeing. As a result, the ones compromised are the U.S. citizens. I just thought this was interesting as it goes against Shirky’s example of the small railroad company operating so smoothly.

My favorite part of Sharky’s article is his notion that everyone is their own media outlet. When I read this I immediately thought back to the night Osama Bin Laden was killed and it was  first reported by a local middle-eastern in the neighborhood that a helicopter was landing at a strange time of the night. This was literally up to the second breaking news being reported by social media. Another example I thought of was from this past election when the video leaked of Mitt Romney saying he only cares about 47% of the country. In my opinion everyone being a media outlet is a double-edged sword. It is beneficial in the sense everyone is connected and people can get news in a to the minute manner. People can hear about news and tragedies across the world and be informed. If you are sitting in traffic you can report it on twitter and people can know to avoid that area. If there was a terrorist attack or a shooting on campus you can get updates and take the necessary actions. In this sense, I think it makes life easier for people and offers several benefits. The contrary to everyone being their own media outlet is that it is very intrusive. I reflect back to my high schools day when we won the championship and at our post game cookout someone took a picture of kids drinking beer and they were suspended. It requires everyone to be on their best behavior, especially professionals, and I just don’t think that is fair. Everyone is now a member of the paparazzi just waiting to snap a picture and upload it to social media. People are constantly losing their job to pictures they did not know were being taken, something that would not have happened without the “web 2.0” age. I think it is an invasion of privacy that needs to be closely examined.

Questions: Do people believe everyone being their own media outlet is intrusive?

Do people believe social media is the reason Obama won?

Week 2: The World Of Mass Media

 

In this weeks reading, the various articles call into question how American news corporations distribute and control the consumption of mass media. The articles examine how the market is operated, and on several instances attempt to educate and provide insight for the general public. The various authors believe America news coverage lacks investigative reporting and it is our duty as consumers to challenge the current status quo. By doing so, the government will have to intervene and monitor the current atmosphere of news coverage in America.

 

The first article titled “Making Media Democratic” written by Robert McChesney, offers an explanation and summary of the current media climate in America. McChesney explains how the media is turning into a monopoly driven by politically biased news corporations, or as he refers to it “ commercial exploitation.” In the article he calls for more public funding for public syndicates, as he believes this Americas final hope for unbiased news coverage. The main theme in this article is McChesney’s skepticism towards major corporations. As McChesney explains, the only purpose of media today is to merely make money for the shareholders. As a result, the lack of several corporations eliminates any form of competitive market. Because many of these corporation leaders have personal political agendas, the news they release is often skewed and lacks compelling journalism. In one instance, McChesney states “conservatives reduce journalistic autonomy and ideological diversity.” It is this notion that motivates McChesney in his desire for the government to intervene and act immediately. McChesney cites several failed instances such as the Telecomm Act of 1996 where American legislation failed to improve and fix the current climate of the American media. McChesney believes American’s only chance is to act now and “reduce sensationalism and blatant political manipulation” or our media freedom will be lost and victory far fetched.

The next article titled “My Beef With Big Media” is written by entrepreneur and founder of CNN, Ted Turner. This article is very similar to that of McChesney’s because it calls into question large corporations and the government’s role in media. Turner believes what the consumer receives is shaped by political interest due to a lack of rules surrounding the media corporations. As an entrepreneur, Turner started as an independent company and worked his way up the chain until he became founder of CNN. Turner does not believe that would be possible in the current market, as corporations  already own everything in, as Turner put it, “the food chain.” As a result, rather than follow the competitive market McChesney pleads for, the companies coexist and complete business deals with one another in order to dominate the market. As a result, they are in control of the supply and demand and regulate what stories are released and how they are to be perceived. Turner fears this model as it suppresses speech and independent business. Similar to McChesney, Turner urges the general public to voice their opinion and challenge the current atmosphere or news coverage.

 

The following article was an ownership chart displaying the structure of the media industry and how six major corporations dominate it. The chart demonstrates just how dominant and prosperous these companies are and “calls for action to end broadcast swindle.” These companies are all worth several billion dollars, exemplifying how challenging it would be for an independent company such as Ted Turner’s to prosper and thrive in the current market. This chart is good because it shows how only six major corporations own so many smaller networks. With only a few resources for news, it is apparent why several authors are questioning how biased the market is.

 

The next article, “Public Media’s Moment” written by Josh Silver, follows the previous articles theme of reform. Silver explains a brief history about America’s late adoption of public broadcasting and the importance to not be late to the Internet sensation. As Silver explains, “the internet is providing a new media landscape” one he believes the general public must take advantage of. Silvers touches upon Americas obsession with celebrities, crime, and glamour rather than compelling journalism. We as Americans must reinvent media by utilizing the Internet in instances such as blogs and social media to voice our opinions. By doing so, their will be a wide spread of voices and ideologies, rather than  that of six corporations. Josh Silver also provides five main concepts that we must do in order to reform our media. The five are: Support, leadership, technology, diversity, and expansion. If we as general public can accomplish these, funding for public broadcasting will survive and not be cut as a deficit. Another main concept of Silver’s article is his skepticism pertaining to the government. Silver states that the general public is largely in support of public broadcasting, yet the government choses to ignore this and “annual congressional appropriation is fundamental flaw.” Another point that caught my attention is when Silver explains how people from political backgrounds such as senators, are appointed to the board of public broadcasting. The one outlet where politics should be excluded still finds a way to include them.

 

A similar article to this is Elizabeth Jensen’s “Public Broadcasting Faces New Threat” Like Josh Silver’s, this article explains how the current economic struggles and deficit result in a lack of funding for public broadcasting. When the house approved a bill to cut all funding, no republicans wanted to help, resulting in a constant political battle. Jensen believes the biggest challenge is educating congress on the importance of public broadcasting. She states the current successful model in England and illustrates how they have a tax on every television owned.

 

The final two articles “Public Broadcasting Faces New Threat” written by Leonard Downie, and “Americans Way Off on Public Broadcasting Funding”, a poll conducted by politico also offer explanations for saving public broadcasting. Downie explains how several citizens believe tax dollars shouldn’t be used to support news gathering. Downie attempts to plead to congress to review their deficit cuts and save public broadcasting. Similar to many of the  previous articles, Jensen says consumers of NPR need to raise voices and demand investigative and local reporting. The Politico chart demonstrates how the American public perception of how the funds should be distributed is mixed. This is no surprise as it seems every current issue in America is highly debated and scrutinized. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting currently only receives .00014% of the federal budget

 

Summary:

 

I found all these readings to be quite informative and easy to comprehend. I enjoyed all of them as they intertwined with one another, and it was almost as each concept built upon the previous one. I thoroughly enjoyed the different reader’s perspectives on the current climate of social media, and though they all seemed to cite different reasons for their displeasure, they all had a common theme, the consumer.

 

 

In the  first article Robert McChesney refers to the domination of the large corporations and how they have manipulated the media market. As I was reading it I began to think of recent examples of this and the main one that came to mind is the recent news if Instagram having full authority of your pictures. Instagram was started as a company out of nowhere that gained popularity seemingly overnight and amongst my group of friends is second in popularity only behind Twitter. I began to wonder why Instagram would sell their company to Facebook when people were registering for it every second. Then I remembered what McChesney said, “the only purpose of media today is to merely make money for the shareholders.” I feel as if companies today that gain large attention are so quick to sell because the money is so appealing. These companies are only as popular as their consumers, and they are at threat of losing them because the lack of privacy. I think this is a plague that is dooming companies because, just like major news outlets, the social media industry is now becoming corrupt. In my personal experience people are using less Facebook and more Twitter because they trust it. Throughout its life span, Twitter has remained close to their core values and rarely made any changes. On the contrary, Facebook became public and is rapidly changing their values from five years ago.

 

Social media is one of the few remaining platforms that allow the consumer control of their voice without corporations manipulating their message. As is stated in the readings, only six major corporations dominate the media and control what is released. They have the ability to skew a story and make it appear however they would please. I believe social media is the last form of investigative reporting because we are the producers. No one can alter our stories or tell us how to present our information. Examples such as blogs are unfiltered news stories that have not been tampered with by major corporations. I believe more blogs need to be created, and recognized as they are, in my opinion, pure.

 

The final major point that I found to be very intriguing is how the major corporations do business with one another rather than promote a competitive climate. When I read that they do this to form a monopoly, I couldn’t help but a recent movie I had seen, Blood Diamond. In Blood Diamond, wealthy buyers in England purchase several of the diamonds and keep them off the market, in turn they control the supply and demand. That is essentially what these corporations are doing. They are working together to control the market, making it virtually impossible for an up and coming entrepreneur, such as Ted Turner, to establish themselves. As a result our news coverage is lacking and will continue to do so unless action is taking. I believe, as several of the authors stated, we as consumers need to protest and demand regulations. We must protect our public broadcasting channels as they appear to be the most unbiased reporting. We can not have political driven CEO’s with  agendas as their main priority. I guess I wish we could just go back to investigative reporting such as the movie “All the Presidents Men” when they discovered the Watergate scandal. We as American consumers deserve the truth and unbiased reporting.

 

Questions:

 

1) Has there ever been a major court case involving all of the major news corporations?

 

2) Where do people in our class see our media in twenty years? About the same? Drastically different?