What the heck are "they" talking about?

I cringe every time I see someone slamming "the media" on Facebook -- or anyplace else for that matter.  What in heaven's name do they mean?

Media users are bombarded 
with multiple messages.
The word "media" comes from the Latin plural of "medium." The traditional view is that it should therefore be treated as a plural noun in all its senses in English and be used with a plural rather than a singular verb: : the media have not followed the reports (rather than : has not followed).  In practice, in the sense ‘television, radio, the press, and the Internet, collectively,’ media behaves as a collective noun (like staff or clergy, for example), which means that it is now acceptable in standard English for it to take either a singular or a plural verb. I tend to follow the traditional view. Consequently, the media is an amorphous phenomenon, not easily defined. Perhaps those who blast "the media" may want to look at some of these sites to better understand what it is exactly that they are blasting. 

CNET -- There are people on all sides of the fence who use the sites in CNET as sources for their own political understanding.

Accuracy in Media claims the the news media are biased toward liberal politics and politicians.

Fairness & Accuracy in Media claims the news media are biased toward conservative politics and politicians.  Supporters of these views see one group as right and the other as wrong. But the reality is not that simple. Yes, AIM and FAIR each point out coverage that appears to bolster their various claims. At times, the media do seem to be biased one way or the other.

What these groups don't say, however, is that their mistrust of the media is also a mistrust of the people. Those who complain most about media bias would see themselves as able to identify it and resist it. They get upset about it because they question whether the average American is able to do the same. If the average American can identify it and resist it, then there is little need to get upset about bias.

The AIM and FAIR web sites are full of material to help Americans avoid the cognitive ravages of the "evil" conservatives or the "slandering" liberals and their media lackeys.  The average American is capable of identifying problems with news coverage. Look at these FAKE news sites

Liberal Media

Conservative Media

So, to get at the TRUTH in the happenings of the day around the world, you may have to go someplace beyond Yahoo or Facebook.

So, what if you don't want to get information from a source that is biased one way or the other? Here's a suggestion on how to recognize bias in a newspaper article.

Here's an old-fashioned method of balancing perspective in the news from "Saturday Evening Post." Yes, the magazine that made Norman Rockwell a household name.

In your own words, guys! 

Students who take journalism in high school and college may become better news consumers from experiences they have in their coursework and on their publications.

The ease with which students can cut and paste information and paste it into their work makes for a problem for today's journalism teachers and publications advisers.

But the problem needs to be attacked, and students must understand from the beginning the consequences of their actions. It’s grounds for course failure, and it’s grounds for firing from a job.

This video talks about plagiarism and includes an interview with former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair  – it’s worth watching.

Turnitin is a way to find plagiarism in students’ work. Turnitin has extensive resources to help instructors get started quickly and develop deeper skills through continued use. It also will help students understand that they probably can’t get away with the practice.  The service was not available when I taught high school journalism, but I would have used it had it been.

Even if students with journalism on their résumé don't become professional media workers, they will have knowledge of the inner workings and potential manipulative powers of gathering and reporting information to the public. And maybe they will be able to recognize bias when it appears in their news sources.

Now that we know that some media are indeed biased, what are some other factors behind how media influence their consumers' behavior?

Public Relations has been around for a long time, but it hasn't always been known by that name. Politicians through the ages have tried to control their image in the media and corporations have tried to hide transgressions using "public relations." But it's really more than that.
Public Relations is the planned effort to influence public opinion through socially responsible performance based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication. Public relations practices, tactics and techniques have been used throughout history for both good and bad. The art of public relations, however, was not named until 1904 by Ivy Ledbetter Lee (right) (considered the "Father of PR"). Notable examples of these practices are listed here:
  1. Archeologists found a farm bulletin in Iraq that told the farmers of 1800 B.C. how to sow their crops, how to irrigate, how to deal with field mice and how to harvest their crops — an effort like today's distribution of farm bulletins BROCHURES by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  2. Caesar carefully prepared the Romans for his crossing of the Rubicon in 49 B.C. by sending reports to Rome on his epic achievements as governor of Gaul, and historians believe he wrote his Commentaries as PROPAGANDA for himself.
  3. The word propaganda was born in the 17th century, when the Catholic Church set up its Congregatio do propaganda, "congregation for propagating the faith."
  4. The necessity of an organization to implement actions made possible by a public relations campaignÐthe Sons of Liberty, organized in Boston in January 1766.
  5. The use of SLOGANS that compress complex issues into easy-to-quote, easy-to-remember stereotypesÐ"Taxation without representation is tyranny."
  6. Staged EVENTS that catch public attention, provoke discussion and thus crystallize unstructured public opinion - the Boston Tea Party.
  7. The importance of getting your side of the story to the public first, so that your interpretation of EVENTS becomes the accepted one - the Boston Massacre.
  8. Pressure group activities — The Federalist, the letters which urged ratification of the Constitution.
  9. The creation of the legend of Daniel Boone, now woven into to the fabric of our culture, was the creation of a landowner promoting settlement in Kentucky.
  10. Teddy Roosevelt, with his "Walk softly and carry a big stick" Bull Moose philosophy, was a master of public opinion building and lobbying other politicians.
  11. 1917-1919 - World War I, which brought dramatic demonstrations of the power of organized PROMOTION to kindle a fervent patriotism to sell war bonds, to enlist soldiers and to raise millions for welfare work.
  12. Ivy Ledbetter Lee was one of the first to practice what he called public relations in 1916.
  13. Muckraking, a key in the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, caused corporations to take the defensive against the public's exposure to conditions like those in Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."


The New Deal, The Fair Deal, The Great SocietyÐall designed to impress public opinion by their grandiose sound. Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator.

Perhaps the greatest practitioner of public relations has been Edward Bernays (right), the first to call himself a public relations counsel. Today, few people outside the public relations profession recognize the name of Edward Bernays. However, his name deserves to figure on historians' lists of the most influential figures of the 20th century. 

 • Procter and Gamble Company, a client, presented him with a problem: a boycott by black people. His fix: eliminate racist advertising, hire blacks in white-collar jobs and invite black people to open house gatherings at the plant. Nothing fancy here; mostly plain old common sense.

• The Beech-Nut Packing Company, another client, wanted to sell more bacon. His fix: promote what all America could respond to, a nutritious breakfast. • Bernays urged Thomas Masaryk, the founder of modern Czechoslovakia, to delay the announcement of that country's independence by a day for better press coverage.
For another client, American Tobacco Company's Lucky Strike cigarettes, Bernays promoted smoking to women. His fix: convince designers to use Lucky Strike green in their fashions for women and carry out a special event called "Light Up, America" during which many famous women publicly lit a Lucky at the same time all across America, causing much media exposure.

Click here for Public Relations Society of America. The site provides career information, job openings and references to other public relations information.  Click here for the 100 best PR stunts.

American newspapers have had a history of political support, questionable ethics and "yellow press" sensationalism over the years. This has often made it difficult to determine whether bias was present in the news content, separate from the editorial page.

Development of the American Newspaper tells the story of Newspapers from their earliest times through periods of growth and change. At several points in history, newspapers were openly political. At other times, newspapers seemed to have lost their grip on ethics.

1892-1914 Yellow Journalism

Named for the Yellow Kid, a comic strip (left) by Richard Outcault.

1894 William Randolph Hearst buys New York Journal. Begins circulation war with Pulitzer.

Sinking of the 
battleship Maine
Click here for discussion of Hearst and Pulitzer's impact on the Spanish-American War. (See image from the time at right which aroused public opinion)

Pulitzer bought the New York World in 1883 and introduced lively human interest news, emphasis on gossip, scandal and sensation. Circulation went from 20,000 to 100,000 in two years and eventually rose to 250,000.  Emphasis was on gimmicks and stunts: Nelly Bly, a woman reporter, feigned insanity to get into an asylum and wrote an exposé, raising money for the Statue of Liberty pedestal after Congress failed to appropriate money, contest to see how long it would take to travel around the world.
During the "Roaring '20s" a rebirth of  sensationalism bold headlines and photos and stunts to sell papers.  The New York Daily News introduced (a tabloid) by Joseph Patterson.  One infamous photo which appeared on the front page of the Daily News was of Ruth Snyder, a woman executed in 1928 in the electric chair (right) for the murder of her husband. The photograph caused such a stir it was run again the next day.

1923 Society of Newspaper Editors adopts Canons of Journalism, concept of social responsibility.

Top 10 Newspaper Movies