Saturday, January 31, 2015

When the Today Show makes a mistake

It's not often the Today Show makes a mistake...

Well...there was that time...Kathie Lee Gifford dropped a puppy, and the time she forgot Martin Short's wife had died. And there was the time her cohost Hoda Kotb revealed her personal telephone number on air, and just last week, she called the biker community "losers,"warranting an on-air apology.

It seems that the Today Show makes mistakes with relative frequency, and the mistakes mainly happen on the fourth hour–probably from Kathie Lee and Hoda's early morning, weekday consumption of alcohol.

In class last week, we discussed the major media conglomerates and how they affect our consumption of news. The news networks are so large and so encompassing that nearly all the news networks are dominated by the three largest: CNN, Fox, and MSNBC.

It's easy to forget that when these networks make mistakes, they are automatically egregious. The television news market is quite small, and when one company makes a mistake, it's literally heard around the world, or in the least across the United States.

Sometimes their mistakes can impact groups of people. For example, the Today Show reported a story about "vocal fry," or an emerging change in speech patterns. The story referred to an "expert" who spoke on behalf of the scientific community, saying the speech pattern was dangerous and plaguing women. They describe vocal fry as a "low pitch, animal-like sound."

The news story does not present an objective view grounded on the solid foundation of science but provides editorial commentary from a medical correspondent and one linguist. This isn't an "error," but the shallow reporting could reinforce stereotypes against woman.

The push to sell news means reporters are now selling editorialized content, and although it's not technically an "error," it's certainly egregious.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Free speech in a private market

Most political speech happens online. We use our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts to be watchdogs of the government and share our opinions, predictions and solutions surrounding politics. For example this was my tweet today:

Tbh I'd rather watch congress than the real housewives

In colonial times, I would shout this from the public green at the passing powdered wigs and petticoats to communicate my message about the melodramatic and inefficient nature of Congress. I'd have that freedom because constitutionally, through the first amendment, the government can't prevent political speech.

But today our political speech happens outside the public green. It happens on social media platforms, many of which are corporations traded on the stock market. Like other private media –think A&E and the "Duck Dynasty" fiasco last year – my right to free speech is not guaranteed. My free speech rights only go as far as the user agreement.

Moving forward, I think social media should be viewed as "sidewalks" where the public can express itself freely and without moderation from the social media platforms. Eventually the constitution should be incorporated into Facebook, Twitter etc., which may change the traditional separation between public and private sectors.

We should incorporate the first amendment into social media. Perhaps more government, essentially more Constitution, would mean more freedom.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The future of television

People want choices. They want to decide when, where, and how they will eat, sleep, or watch something. We like freedom, and we like choosing what we'll watch. 

This accounts, in part, for why television is declining in popularity. Time Magazine reported that fewer people than ever are watching TV, which is likely because TV doesn't allow viewers to select their programming. TV is still the most popular source of entertainment for Americans, but it's quickly being overrun by online streaming websites and devices like Netflix, Apple TV and Chromecast. And more people can't watch TV live, without the convenience of DVR to zip commercials. We'll delay watching a show one or two hours just to escape the commercials. 

Still, television is the only way people can watch sports, reality shows and some television dramas,  (Bravo comes to mind as being especially TV exclusive--it's nearly impossible to watch the Housewives outside of the boobtube) so the television set continues as a central fixture in 97.6 percent of American homes. 

But as the media landscape continues to evolve, the most successful platforms will let the audience select the show.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The socialness of social media

Our professor surveyed the class yesterday to see who produced content for their Facebook accounts. Only a few hands shot up. I didn't raise mine. I don't write Facebook status updates and rarely post pictures, and aside from sharing the occasional blog link and clicking "like," I rarely put content up there.

It's strange because I love reading and looking at content other people post. Facebook is my favorite social media to casually peruse, but for some reason, I just don't really like contributing to it. And I think many of my friends feel the same way.

My unofficial, purely conjectural reasoning for this is that A) we are lazy. Posting pictures and statuses to Facebook takes quite a bit of thought and work. It requires the skills of a writer and editor, lest you look stupid or silly in the eyes of 1,000 close friends. And B) I'd argue that Facebook feeds are becoming platforms for click bate articles, serious news discussions and political conversations.

Scrolling through my newsfeed, there's an announcement about a concert, an article a friend linked about police guns that can now spy inside people's homes and one about current events at Duke and UNC distracting students from their education.

Facebook isn't for posts like "got new glasses!! yay:)," which I wrote on November, 11 2009 as a sophomore in high school.

People are turning to social media, specifically Facebook, increasingly to learn something new--not to post about a new pair of totally rockin' spectacles.

In a way, maybe social media is becoming less social.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The price of free speech

In media law today, my professor asked about the "marketplace of ideas." The "marketplace" is a concept that the free exchange of thoughts and ideas can bring solutions and answer difficult questions in society, which is why the first amendment is so coveted.

She asked what has my experience been with free speech. Free speech, with its mighty purpose, can be pretty nasty. Free speech means that someone can criticize you, and judge you, and that's ok. Protecting free speech means protecting someone else's right to offend you.

The marketplace can also be pretty nasty, divisive and judgmental. Social media is instrumental in allowing people to exchange their ideas (like what I'm doing now), but most social media also allow users to express their approval and disapproval: We can click "like" or "favorite."

Mass media and the internet give feedback on our thoughts, pictures and lives. If you're like me, you're constantly hoping people will like or favorite your content. You're pining for enough likes on Instagram that the app no longer lists individual usernames, and crossing you're fingers your picture will be "liked" on Facebook.

Free speech and the marketplace are great, but they also mean the freedom to pass judgment and the possibility for rejection.