Tuesday, October 30, 2007
  Love Hurts.
While watching the season premiere of Fx's Nip/Tuck, Sean and Christian, the two main characters, are asked to work on a television executive who opens his shirt to reveal, of all things, bite marks.

Sean innocently asks if he was attacked by a dog. The exec is quick to deny this, explaining that when his "Dark Mistress" puts on his collar and leash, he becomes the dog.

Coincidentally, the exec explains his reasoning for using the dominatrix as exactly the ones we discussed in class - relinquishing the power for a brief period of time.

It was interesting to hear a mainstream TV show explain this.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
  Let's talk about sex baby....
It was a song that dominated the charts in the 90s by Salt 'N' Peppa. And suddenly every television show and movie started sexing it up (not that they weren't doing it before), yet Salt 'N' Peppa did help push the envelope and boundaries.

Lately, Television shows, movies and EVEN commercials are bringing sexy back (or maybe it's more commecials that are bringing sexy back since there are more commercials for Viagra). Sex and violence do seem to be themes and topics that reel in an audience.

I've noticed that practically every show on television has a "sex factor." Grey's Anatomy hasn't had one episode that doesn't have a hot sexy McDreamy or McSteamy scene (check it out). Even comedies sex it up a little, I can't remember which webisode I was watching of the Office but there was sexual tension occuring between Pam and Jim.

Last night after many hours of typing away, I decided to have a break. (For some reason I always gravitate to NBC), Bionic Woman was on so I stayed tuned. It was an interesting plot, but of course they sexed it up when Jaime Sommers falls for a guy who is under her surveillance. It's amazing how "a throw down on the couch with a masculine hand tracing a woman's thigh" can cure any impotency (you would figure).

Sex is and most likely will always be a part of our culture. Just look at the ads on ESPN, primetime network and cable. They are not only filled with Viagra ads, but everything seems to be "sexed up." It's amazing "how they can "sex up" a Gillette razor ad, or car ad. And let's not forget that "sexed up ad" by Paris Hilton; weren't we all trying to figure out if it was an ad for a car, her perfume or some new lingerie? Only to find out, it was an ad for a hamburger.

I guess the bottom line is whatever erouses the emotions will cause people to watch and buy, which advertisers, television and cinema execs bank on.
Friday, October 26, 2007
It seems like every night around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., no matter what channel I'm watching, a half naked woman shows up in an ad for some telephone dating service. These types of commercials always boggle my mind; Do guys actually think the girls sitting at home on a Saturday night using a telephone dating service really look like that?...or that they do so in lingerie?

The whole tone of these commercials is so cheesy it is almost comical. These ads don't even try to be artistic or tasteful; they just feed into the theory that sex sells. Some of these dating service ads are more explicit than others, but I generally find them offensive.

Yes, when they air it is after midnight and children are typically no longer watching television, but I AM! When did it become culturally acceptable to air such sexually suggestive commercials? I understand that people are concerned about childrens' exposure to such material, but what about mine? I don't care whether I am watching television with my parents, friends, or my boyfriend; these ads still make me uncomfortable. Not to sound like a prude, but I usually excuse myself for a bathroom or snack break when these ads come on television.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
  Blood and Violence On Demand
So tonight I discovered an entirely new and life-changing feature that I never even knew came with my cable package. Behold: HBO On Demand—a treasure-trove of past episodes of shows such as Sex and the City and the Sopranos, as well as a vast selection of movies to satisfy every possible taste. Giddy with excitement, I parked myself in front of the TV to choose my lineup for the evening. I decided to watch Blood Diamond…again… because nothing beats Leonardo and that sexy South African accent.

What struck me was how much violence actually exists in the movie. For some reason this wasn’t something that really stood out when I saw the movie the first time around. When I first saw the movie I had been completely unaware of this conflict diamond market, so I think the violence in the movie took a backseat to my reactions to this issue itself. I didn’t really view the violence as “violence,” but rather as something that added to my understanding of the subject. Movies like Blood Diamond benefit from the use of violence in a way that I don’t feel our readings have really stressed.

So I will continue to sit down in front of my television set like the rest of the world, and tune into violent movies like Blood Diamond, murder-ridden episodes of the Sopranos, and sexually graphic episodes of Sex and the City. But I will remain convinced that this exposure will never contribute to my being a murderous, violent whore… it hasn’t seemed to yet.
  The appeal for the V word
This past Friday night I decided I needed to unwind from a hectic week. I turned on the TV and looked at the guide, pushed 05 on my remote and became transfixed by Las Vegas.

I was immediately drawn to the murder of a woman in a hotel room. I'm always amazed by the way murder is sensationalize and somewhat glamorized. Television and movies seem to know the right formula on how to heighten the thrill and create the effect that draws the audience in.

Well - you'd think I'd had enough of murder and violence, but oh no, I stay tuned for Law & Order: SUV . I guess I was on "murder & violence" mode. Two hours later, I turned the television off and realized that I was entertained by nothing but murder and violence. I couldn't help but get analytical about it... I'm sure it had to do with this class. But, as I thought about what I saw I couldn't help but think about a conversation I had with a producer at WFAA this past week.

She was telling me that she started as a news producer in San Antonio. She told me that every night on their news cast they had a gun related incident. I asked her why was that and she said it's what drives the news and keeps the ratings high.

I wonder what it is about our psyche that draws us to violence and murder. What is it that makes us so fascinated by it? It has to be something! Look at all the top shows that dominate the ratings: CSI: Miami / Las Vegas, Law & Order: Criminal Intent/SUV, 24, Prison Break and the list goes on.

Obviously, we are drawn to the V word and the V (violence) world.
BTW- there was a billboard for the Dallas Hockey team that said I go for the fight!
  Does media violence really have an effect?
Growing up, my younger brother was obsessed with the Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers. He watched them constantly, he had all the action figures, costumes and toys. But he also had two sisters, and we liked to dress him up as a girl and force him to play house with us. This must have outweighed any of the supposed influence from the countless hours of "violent" television he watched, because he turned out to be a pretty nice and non-violent guy. Either that or - as I would argue - violence in the media doesn't impact or influence kids as much as some people suggest.

I think there is a tendency to immediately blame the media - TV, movies, video games - for violent incidents involving children and teenagers, and that the violent behavior can be attributed to many other factors that are underestimated or overlooked. I think that gender, social surroundings, and family life have more to do with a child's tendency to act violently than does the media.

With two sisters who liked to paint his nails and have tea parties and a dad who taught him that it was never okay to hit girls, it was unlikely that my brother was going to turn out to be the violent type. On the other hand, the way my cousins (two brothers ages 4 and 5) interact with one another is a completely different story. They are always punching, kicking and jumping on each other. They think it's fun. They like to beat each other up and purposely crash their kid-sized jeeps into each other at full speed. They get away with it more because they're just two boys and that's just "how boys act"; my brother just wasn't exposed to this as much because there were always so many girls around. But I can definitely see a big difference in how they act and how my brother acted at that age. They are much more aggressive and, yes, probably more violent. But the only show they watch is Sponge Bob, which (as far as I know) isn't violent. Their behavior seems to have more to do with who they are surrounded by and who they interact with on a daily basis.

While I think media violence might reinforce kids who already have violent dispositions, I don't think it's fair to say that it CAUSES violence, as this ignores important factors that likely play a larger role.
  fashionista politicians
Last night I was flipping through the October issue of Allure magazine and came across an article entitled "The Year in Beauty," by David DeNicolo. The pictures on the first page included pretty much all of the tabloid favorites--Paris Hilton exiting jail, the guy from American Idol who had the weird mohawk, Anna Nicole Smith, Victoria Beckham...and Hillary Clinton.

Instead of focusing all of the "beauty" commentary on rehabilitated celebrity youth, the story had a twist. A large part of piece had to do with the image of political candidates and how their clothing choices, advertising, make-up and even spouses contribute to their appearance. When it comes down to it, appearance is crucial to politicians and if people don't like what they see the candidates won't get favorable press.

For example, Washington Post critic Robin Givhan wrote an article about Hillary's cleavage surfacing at a Senate meeting, which prompted a serious discussion about the appropriateness of boobs in politics on NBC's Meet the Press. People commented on Fred Thompson's "excessively young, excessively blonde" wife and John Edwards' grooming habits. John McCain allegedly freaked out on staffers who suggested that he wear a casual sweater. Obama Girl and Giuliani Girl featured on YouTube sport heels and halter tops while promoting the candidates.

The point the author is trying to make is many voters will make instantaneous judgments based on appearance. It might seem shallow, but it's true. Just as celebrities must look fashionable and interesting, politicans do as well but in a more understated way. Voters aren't going to listen to a candidate who fails to present himself or herself well.

No one wants the next president to be incompetent. Or a fashion disaster.
  Was That Really Necessary?
What is going on with “horror” movies nowadays? I personally don’t get scared from movies but the movies now don’t even attempt to be somewhat scary. I think the model now is the more disgusting the movie the more frightening the movie. I just watched this movie called Touristas, and I was a little disturbed. Now, I’ve never had a problem with violence in movies, but this movie was just disgusting. Who in the world thought that it would be entertaining to watch a girl get her kidneys cut out when she’s still awake? This movie reminded me of a similar one called Hostel, which was basically about tourists being killed for the thrill of it. I don’t even now why I watched these movies. I guess I was just curious because I’d heard so much about them.

Now, I don’t think that gory movies like these are going to be the end of society, but it just seems like each movie tries to out do the other. I think there’s a Saw IV coming out in a month. I mean the growing fascination with these kinds of movies amazes me. These movies keep making money, so there’s obviously a demand for them. Maybe it’s the “that’s disgusting but I can’t look away” syndrome that keeps people coming back.
  Across the Universe
I recently saw the movie Across the Universe. It's a musical based on America's struggle during the Vietnam War using only Beatles song. Just for the record, it was amazing!!! But I was very impressed by how they portrayed the little violence in the film. There were only a couple of scenes with violence at all, including fighting from the war and a riot in Detroit (that actually happened).

The fighting from the war was shown in a sort of psychedelic way, with images flying across the screen and overlapping each other. You were put in the head of one of the main characters, which was a soldier at the time. It really didn't bring out the typical emotions I feel when I am watching a war scene. It simply showed how much he as a man was changing due to his surroundings, and how fast his life and priorities changed. If it would've been like the past war scenes in movies, I can actually say it wouldn't have affected me as much. Because there are so many war movies out there (Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, and The Great Raid) that show the same style of fight scenes, I have almost become numb.

The riot scene simply showed the two sides fighting each other. What got me was the involvement and danger one of the main girl characters had in the riot. Of course I became caught up, seeing as I had been learning about her throughout the entire movie.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I liked not getting a racing heart or sitting straight up in my chair because of a violent scene. I liked the impact it had, without being too gory or bloody.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Recently I was at a friends' house, and I was sitting with her 8 year old autistic daughter. She was watching some old cartoons on TV. I began to watch them simply because I was bored and had nothing better to do. I quickly realized how violent they are!

I have heard people comment on how violent cartoons are and how they should try to change that, and I used to roll my eyes at them thinking they were overreacting. But now I see it. As a child, you're going to watch cartoons because that's what kids do. If the main ones you have the choice of watching are like these, it can definitely have an effect on you. Maybe not a noticeable one, but an effect none the less.

I tried to recall my reactions to cartoons as a child, and only remembered liking them and not at all noticing that they were violent. It shocked me to see my reaction now as opposed to then. I looked over at my friends' daughter and realized she was the same way. She watched them like any other show.

I would like to know how much of an effect they have. How could we study that? If there isn't one already, there should be a study done to see the effects. We have so many issues with teenagers being angry and shooting their peers, that maybe we should look at their beginning stages and their entertainment then. Am I wrong? I think I want to look into that, and see what results I come up with.
  Funny Story
So I am sitting at my favorite lunch spot, Short Stop, in Snider Plaza, a place I go to for a quick newspaper read and sandwich and came across something funny. I was sitting by myself at the counter, surrounded by newspapers such as Quick and DMN, when this elderly woman came searching for a particular section.

"I want the "good news" section," she said to me with a smile. We both laughed and agreed that that was not possible.

"Look" she said, as she pointed out headline after headline of bad news. Finally, she found what she was looking for: The comic section.

"I can't handle the other stuff anymore" she said smiling at me. " I agree" I said back, as she walked to her table.

This tiny interaction with this woman really stuck with me because here is this elderly woman, that doesn't even want to read the news anymore. It's all bad! It effects her so much that she only likes to read the comics. This was just a small event that happened in my day, but it was just funny it happened to me because I am studying all this in my classes and understand the reasons why the news is all "bad."

It was a great interaction to write about and share. Atleast she finds joy in the comics!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
  "24" is not the problem...
Personally, I do not watch the Fox television show "24," but I know it is quite popular. However, I have a hard time reading articles like "US military tells Jack Bauer: Cut out the torture scenes...or else!," "Whatever It Takes," and "Does "24" encourage US interrogators to "torture" detainees?" without thinking do US army generals, experienced military and FBI interrogators, and human rights groups not have anything better to do then meet with "24's" creator and creative team?...because I think they do.

I cannot fathom "24's" torture scenes have an impact on troops. I'd be a little scared if my country was in the hands of individuals who are that easily influenced by a television show. The troops are trained to handle crisis situations and I hardly think an episode of "24" depicting acts of torture falls into that category.

"24" did not come up with the concept of torture on their own. The "Does "24" encourage US interrogators to "torture" detainees?" article states, "There have been more than 700 investigations carried out by the Army involving prisoner abuse..." So maybe human rights groups should focus on the Army and where "24" is getting the ideas for their torture material rather than try to police what is being aired on television.

Since I do not watch "24" I am not familiar with the graphic nature of the torture scenes involved in the show. However, I can imagine there are much more disturbing, graphic, and influential available on television, movies, on the Internet, and in newspapers and magazines (I'm not saying that makes it right). A prime example would be the Nick Berg beheading video available on the Internet.

The video is similar to "24" in the fact that it too is not without mixed feelings and controversy. I did not view the video, but regardless, I can safely say the video is undoubtedly more troublesome than any episode of "24." The Nick Berg video depicts reality, a real human being was abused and killed. I do not think the Army and human rights groups are in any position to criticize "24" until they can control things like the Nick Berg incident from happening. Until then I think they should focus on the real issue at hand instead of turning their attention to television shows.
Monday, October 15, 2007
  Are we the condemned?
I watched a rather disturbing movie last week that I haven’t been able to forget. The film was called “The Condemned.” Yes, the one starring Stone Cold Steve Austin. (Read the synopsis .)

The film resembles the Japanese “Batoru Rowaiaru” (Battle Royale) directed by Kinji Fukasaku released seven years prior in 2000. Violence is often associated with Fukasaku films and other famed Asian directors.

American directors try desperately to imitate Asian cinema and its often violent nature. Take “Kill Bill” for example – Quentin Tarantino did an incredible job of introducing serious violence to Americans. “The Condemned” accomplished the same effect for the most part.

The film is gory and morally corrupt. People around the world use their computers to view a death match, which is broadcast live over the Internet. And the worst part is – they pay for it. They pay to watch people torture one another; they pay to watch people kill; they pay to watch people die. And at the end of the day they justify it because everyone (involuntarily) playing the game is a condemned to death criminal.

At the end of the film a reporter poses the question “Are we the condemned?”

This phrase resonated in my mind for hours Thursday night. Are we really that intrigued by violence? Would you pay to watch someone die? Better yet, had you been given the opportunity to watch Saddam Hussein hanged last December, would you have taken it?

I know I wouldn't.

I know people are naturally curious but give me a break. I’m not fond of violence. However, the occasional scary movie doesn’t bother me. It’s when I see the blood and the gore that I get truly sick to my stomach.

“The Condemned” not only made me sick, but it made me pity the human race as a whole.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
  Ethical Decision Making at "Warp Speed"
At SMU’s annual Sammon’s Lecture in Media Ethics last Wednesday, CNN correspondent and documentary producer Frank Sesno recalled the noise generated by bands of reporters banging away at their typewriters on the press plane. But the loud clacking that marked Sesno’s earlier days as a reporter has since been replaced by the gentle pattering of computer keys. Now that the delete key is the new whiteout and stories can be published with the click of a button, journalists face new challenges in regard to ethical decision-making.

The journalist’s ability to make ethical decisions has become increasingly valuable and essential as advancements in technology have accelerated the time for reporting news to what Sesno referred to as “warp speed.” Without the luxury of time to weigh and consider an ethical issue, journalists must be prepared to make such decisions quickly and instinctively. Today’s consumers expect new information immediately and seek the source that can deliver that information the fastest.

Sesno suggested some factors contributing to the time compression that has transformed decision-making. New technology has clearly played a role as it has become smaller, cheaper and faster. Anyone with $3,500 can purchase a portable case with the equipment to broadcast live from anywhere in the world, introducing the age of “every-man news.” Sesno also raised the issue of a fragmented public, as an overwhelming majority of consumers choose to get their news online as opposed to consulting the available print version. Almost all the students raised their hands when Sesno asked if they use the Internet as their main source of news. As a student, I can attest; online news is faster, easier, interactive, more diverse (multimedia) and offers more options and user control (I can get as much information as I want, when I want it). We are an impatient, “use and move” generation.

Other contributing factors include what Sesno called a “hot house of do-or-die,” referring to hesitation to hold information that the competition may choose to run. An increased focus on ratings and circulation has caused many journalists to lose sight of their responsibility to inform the public fairly and accurately. Instead, as illustrated in the Duke Lacrosse case and many others, they will go beyond merely reporting the story and continue beat the dead horse, using hype to get an audience. And society’s relatively recent obsession of celebrity culture has changed the idea of what is considered news.

With dramatic changes in how reporters work, Sesno wondered, where is the time to think? What do we need to do to adapt to this new “warp speed” journalism?

While it is obviously important for journalists to remain true to the purpose of journalism and remember to be skeptical and responsible despite competitive pressures and a rapid flow of information, there is also a responsibility on part of the consumers. Consumers should be informed and acknowledge their ability to make their own decisions when faced with so much information coming at them at once. Both journalists and consumers should embrace what Sesno called a “language of live” that acknowledges the fast pace of the reported information and recognizes that is constantly changing and often incomplete and should be consumed as such. If journalists maintain skepticism and accountability and if consumers understand that information is being reported extremely quickly under intense pressures, perhaps we can adapt to these new changes and reestablish the trust in the media that we once had.
  The "shock culture" vulture
Frank Sesno outlined several elements that contribute to the decline of media ethics; it's based on the "shock culture" of delivering the news.

Sesno used the Duke Lacrosse scandal as a perfect example of what's plaguing the news: Reporting the most salacious story (even if it lacks facts) or delivering the most sensational story (even though the truth has not been verified).

Sesno said that Duke was a lot like the Richard Jewell scenario; the accusers became the victims of salacious news reporting.

In both scenarios, there was an individual (or individuals) being accused and tried through the media. And in both cases, once the "facts" were scrutinized and determine the accusers were not the guilty party as the news headlines suggested.

Sesno says that the media has adopted a "shock culture" mentality. It's all about what can stir the senses. He views the biggest fundamental challenge in news reporting as "staying true to the issues:" Politically and generally.

Sesno says the "ethical failure" in news reporting is harping on an issue with sensational images and salacious headlines. I had to agree with Sesno's analysis about the news cycle effect. He believes that a story plays out much like a Hollywood movie: A protagonist (prosecutor trying to find justice for a rape victim), an antagonist(s) (a group of privilege college "jock" boys) and a juicy plot line (the jock boys rape of a minority girl).

Just like a Hollywood movie, this guarantees a large audience.

Sesno gave a great lecture; however, I think his admonishes about how the media is not doing or getting it right should be given to the journalism community and not to journalism students.
  Frank Sesno on the importance of ethical reporting
CNN reporter Frank Sesno gave a lecture at SMU Wednesday and unfortunately I wasn't able to attend...from what I hear though he offered good insight on the need to remain ethical in a competitive news market.

"We (the media) need to force ourselves out of the horse race and onto the issues," said Senso. "I'm talking about war, peace, immigration and outsourcing."

Though news outlets want to be the first to report breaking news, it's so so important to get the facts right first. Take the Killian documents case, for example. On September 8, 2004, Dan Rather reported on 60 Minutes that a series of memos concerning President Bush's Texas Air National Guard service record had been discovered in the personal files of Lt. Bush's former commanding officer Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian. The contents of the memos included: Bush being ordered to take a required annual physical, being suspended for failing to do so, and later Killian noting pressure to sugar coat Bush's annual rating report for a period when Bush was not on base. A group of conservative bloggers claimed the documents were fake, but Rather stuck by his story, insisting that the documents had been authenticated by experts. Unfortunately, Rather spoke to soon...he failed to follow up with an investigation and misled the public- the papers were, in fact, forgeries.

On September 20, CBS retracted the story. Rather stated, "if I knew then what I know now, I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question." Many believe Rather's retirement was a result of this incident.

It's important that journalism students view this case as a lesson and I admire Sesno for pointing out the problem. I would hate for any of us to learn the hard way...
  Funny Violence Isn't Funny
When most people think of violence, they think of abuse, crime, blood and guts, etc. When shown by the media, especially when the violence is real (not scripted), this violence is meant to raise fear and call for emotional appeal.

And then there is Jackass. This MTV show is an adolescent boy's dream. Check out the show's web site at http://www.mtv.com/ontv/dyn/jackass/series.jhtml. The most prominently displayed blurb is the following disclaimer: "Warning: MTV's hit show Jackass featured silly pranks, absurd antics and idiotic stunts performed by total jackasses. Leading the sick and twisted pack of sadomasochists was Johnny Knoxville, who probably broke just about every bone in his body during Jackass's three seasons. His motto most definitely should have been: 'Don't try this at home, kids.'"

The problem is hormonal boys probably watch the show and think "Man, I totally want to try that at home!" Segment after segment, Johnny Knoxville and his friends perform dangerous stunt after dangerous stunt and come away relatively unscathed considering the risk involved. They do things like taunt alligators and throw pool balls at each other's crotches for laughs--and hospital visits.

It's not funny. It's stupid. And the message it gives out to kids that don't have a grip on reality is that they could act like the Jackass cast, somehow manage not to die or get severely injured and people would think they're cool. After all, people watch the show, right?

Violence deemed as humor or entertainment is still violence. Yes, the show does post a disclaimer before every episode. Yes, the creators of the show call the antics "stunts," which supposedly takes away the violence implication. And not all of the segments are physically harmful. Running through a public place naked, for example, isn't necessary physically detrimental. It could, however, lead to serious legal consequences.

Still, a majority of the memorable content from the show could be considered physically destructive. Violence comes in many forms--and Jackass has displayed more than we could possibly count.
  Frank Sesno
When I first stepped into the auditorium to hear Frank Sesno speak, I thought I would be pretty bored the whole time. But leaving, I felt differently. He wasn't what I expected at all! He was very laid back, and had a great sense of humor (unlike most speakers I've seen). He definitely helped me understand how important ethics are in journalism today. I mean, I understood the impact of ethics, but hearing specific stories about where it could've gotten him a better story helped me see clearer.

I particularly liked learning about how CNN decides what war stories to air, depending on the level of danger they could create. I had never thought of that being an issue. It made me respect journalists who consider that as a factor more. It was interesting to learn that CNN had a meeting to come up with rules rather recently on what shouldn't be aired because it could "jeopardize lives or situations". Honestly, it surprised me that they would even need to have a meeting. It seems like after all the wars they have covered in the past, that they would've already had a system or a rule in place. But as long as they do now is all that matters.

This is a bit random, but I definitely enjoyed his statement about newspapers not disappearing. Every journalism class that I have been in at SMU has told me opposite, that they are slowly being trimmed down. Since print is my interest, this is not something that I want to hear! Finally hearing a different take on it was refreshing. I agree with him, not because I don't want to believe they are going away but his reasoning is valid. He said that newspapers simply need to learn to keep up. It's really that simple! With the ever-changing technology, newspapers are lagging.

The main point that I read into his speech was accountability. He seemed to show that having and practicing ethics in journalism leads back to accountability. It's definitely true. Because a person wouldn't do something ethically wrong knowing in the end they would have to be accountable for it. If everyone went by that philosophy, things would start to look up in the news world. The hardest part is getting everyone to work together though. Just because one channel or newspaper is practicing it, doesn't mean everyone will follow right away. That is definitely something I will take with me into the "real world".
  Popularity contest anyone?
Frank Sesno spoke specifically about media competition; I have encountered this a few times in the last year.

Sesno said journalists are supposed to be responsible and the journalism profession is not about popularity.

I could not agree more with Sesno; however I find it difficult in today's world to find such pure-hearted journalists: They are few and far between.

At The Daily Campus we often find ourselves competing directly with The Dallas Morning News. Especially lately with the Bush Library story standing still like it is. Everyone is on edge just waiting for an announcement, any announcement, perhaps the announcement. There have been a few instances in the past year where the DC and DMN have been in direct competition for updates on the story. A reporter from New York went as far as to deny the faculty's request for a media restricted meeting. He sneaked into a closed meeting just to have an edge over his competitors.

The DC has competed with the DMN on other stories usually relating to sports. This isn't unusual. To be honest the competition is a friendly one. It's not as though we're hostile toward one another.

The important thing about reporting on topics such as the Bush Library is that we get the facts right the first time. There is no sense in posting "breaking news" if it's only speculation or opinion.

Sesno said such reporting can lead to holes in stories and the point will often be lost on the public.

There's a sense of competitive pressure sparked by the obsession of "multi-media." Many news sources insist on having multiple media outlets - for example newspapers have massive Web sites (made up of Blogs, video and pop-ups), which are often difficult to navigate. Advertising drives media to this point. It becomes and endless cycle: Newspapers aren't selling so companies pull their ads and look for new places to put them, but as the Internet becomes more tailored to peoples needs adverting is forced to dig deeper.

I also agree with Sesno that we as journalists have a purpose to inform the public. My definition of a journalist is someone who delivers the facts. People are much more capable of making informed decisions with straight facts.

At the end of the day it's not about the ratings; it's about informing the public.
  Violence on TV doesn't compare to real life!
I’m a guy and like most other males I do watch a lot of violent content on T.V. However, no matter how many dead bodies I see on TV, I don’t think it compares to real life. I really don’t think watching someone die on a TV show or movie will desensitize me from real world violence. For example, if I’m watching an action movie with two guys fighting and one of the guys gets their arm snapped in half, seeing that on TV really isn’t that big of a deal because I know it’s fake. Now when my friend suffered a compound fracture in his arm about three years ago, it was totally different than seeing one on TV. I mean seeing my friends bone protrude from his arm was one of the sickest things I’ve ever seen. I don’t think any action movie could have prepared me for that. I just think that if people can distinguish between reality and fantasy that they will not succumb to desensitization.

I could sit down and watch violent TV shows or movies all day, and they would never make more accepting to real world violence. I don’t know, maybe it was they way I was raised. I remember the first rated R movie that I ever watched was Rambo when I was about four years old. My parents drilled it into my head that what I was watching wasn’t real. Besides, people watch violent stuff on TV all the time, if people were desensitized wouldn’t most of them be okay with violence?
  Frank Sesno-- the other kind of celebrity journalist
Unfortunately, one of my midterms coincided with Frank Sesno’s lecture and I was unable to attend. However, I have been able to hear a lot of feedback from fellow students who were in attendance. Much of the lecture seemed to be focused on some of the challenges that journalism is facing. One such challenge is the so-called “popularity contest” among journalists, which can lead to bias in news coverage. The first thing that comes to mind is the show “The O’Reilly Factor” which airs on Fox.

I have to admit that even though I am in complete disagreement with the majority of Bill O’Reilly’s opinions, I will tune in on occasion for the sheer entertainment of it all. When you watch this show, it is really nothing more than a shouting match between O’Reilly and whoever his guest at the time may be. There is absolutely no value in the little news that is reported because of the strong bias dominating the discussion.

I think this type of “news” show is a perfect example of what Sesno meant during his discussion of “celebrity” news journalists and the resulting “popularity contest.” Shows like “The O’Reilly Factor” present an ethical problem because they are being presented as “news” shows when in reality they are nothing more than entertainment. While I am fortunate enough to understand the difference, many Americans are not. This is problematic because of the resulting bandwagon effect of “Bill O’Reilly Loyalists” tuning into his show for their primary source of “news.”

The fact that Frank Sesno spoke to this problem is somewhat interesting because some may consider him to be exactly what he argues against—a celebrity journalist. However, I am encouraged by his comments because it shows an awareness that I definitely do not see in others (like Bill O’Reilly).
  Frank Sesno and the New Media
After attending the 2007 Sammons Media Ethics Lecture, the lecturer, Frank Sesno, has opened my eyes to many of the changes in the journalism world. Sesno delivered an engaging and intelligent lecture detailing many of these changes, starting with the beginning of his career as an Associated Press Radio White House correspondent.

The most significant change Sesno touched on was new technologies. He jokingly asked an audience member what a newsroom used to sound like and was met with blank stares across the audience. With much reluctance, someone finally mumbled "Typewriters?" which was the answer Sesno was expecting.

Besides the obvious advances in technology - the switch from typewriters to computer, from film to digital, etc. - Sesno has also noted a distinct change in the public. He believes that all of the new media has resulted in what he referred to as a fragmented public, meaning that the public receives its news from many different sources. Whereas you read CNN.com to get your news, it is likely that your grandparents still may receive a hard copy of the Dallas Morning News on their doorstep every morning.

Sesno also mentioned a new fascination with ratings that wasn't prevalent in his early days as a journalist. Our class has also discussed this phenomena when we've talked about the attention that particular celebrities receive from the media for their often unsavory actions.

Also important to Sesno is the change in audience that has occurred. Today's audience is younger and wants more news accessible at their fingertips.

I feel that Sesno is the journalist that we should all strive to be. He is well aware of what his audience wants and needs to know, but also has a well-balanced ethical foundation when it comes to what is and isn't right.
  What is Journalistic Responsibility?
Frank Sesno, a special correspondent and documentary producer for CNN, spoke at the Southern Methodist University's Rosine Smith Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics Wednesday. He addressed the issue of journalistic responsibility saying that every day journalists are faced with decisions about what to cover and what not to cover. Sesno recalled numerous personal predicaments he encountered throughout his career as a journalist.

For example, when Sesno was advised to be cautious with his portrayal of September 11th and troop deployement. Sensitive subject matter such as these require careful thought. What is a journalist's responsibility to report information to the public? In this case, Sesno said, "We will be sensitive to information...sensitive, but not necessarily not report it." Naturally the appropriate response varies by situation.

Journalistic responsibility entails more than what to report, it also includes how and when to report information. Another example Sesno mentioned was the case of the Duke lacrosse players. Reporting is a very competitive industry with pressures to have high ratings and be the first to break news. How do reporters balance these pressures with their responsibility to reader's/viewer's to provide accurate and informative information in a timely manner? It comes down to a language of live-we can only report what we are told, it is not confirmed, and it is constantly changing, said Sesno.

Sesno said 53% of people think the press is often inaccurate, 32% think journalists are immoral, and many think the press are biased. Sesno believed the answer to this problem can be addressed through accountability. He thinks organizations need to open themselves up to inform the public why they make they decisions they do.

Journalist's have a responsibility to the public, but ultimately it is up to journalists' discretion what to cover. However, I believe people would be more accepting and trusting of journalists if they were informed of the process behind what and how journalists go about their jobs.
  Frank Sesno
After watching Frank Sesno's lecture, two main topics stuck with me. I was actually kind of disturbed to hear that news organizations prefer to be first rather than be the most accurate. I guess news is more about ratings now than anything else. I mean whatever happened to reporting accurate stories so that people can get a truthful sense about what’s going on in the world around them. Now, I understand that news organizations are businesses that need to make money, but is it worth it to sacrifice their integrity? Okay, so maybe being the one to have a breaking story out first will increase ratings, but how will that look upon the organization if it’s wrong? They can only run so many corrections until people start to lose faith in them!

One point that Mr. Sesno made that I really liked was that most reports seemed to have a grasp on their ethics. I don’t remember the details but it was a story about the war. He said that reports were told to not report a certain story because if they did, a lot of people would die. I liked the fact that most reports won’t report a story, even if it’s a really good one, to save lives. I knew a lot of journalist weren’t as cut throat as they’re made out to be.

After hearing the lecture, I started to think of what kind of journalist I would be, if I decided to become one. Let’s say I do become a journalist after I graduate. I would try to be ethical and non-bias, but I know that’s easier said than done. I know there will be a lot of pressure to try and skew a story to make it a ratings booster even if the skewered story isn’t the exact truth.
Acclaimed journalist Frank Sesno spoke Wednesday night at the SMU Sammons Lecture in Media Ethics about the complexities of being a journalist. What struck me most in his speech were his comments about networks wanting to be first to break stories. Nothing positive results from horserace journalism. History has shown that when this yearning to be first overshadows accuracy, reputations are ruined. There's no way to restore ruined reputations; the damage has been done. Fresno's recommendation to stop this was making sure newscasters use a "language of live." This language would enforce that the information they are delivering is what they know NOW. Not set in stone. Not exactly proven. Just current.

I know that when I am in a hurry, my work can be not near as thought-provoking or thorough as when I have all the time in the world. Emotions get involved. Panic ensues. The deadline starts to loom over me and I feel the pressure.

And that's just for schoolwork! I can't imagine what it would feel like to break a story like Sept. 11 or the Virginia Tech shootings. Deaths, families, entire lives' work were suddenly shattered or severely fragmented. And an anchorperson has the responsibility to deliver this news to world in the most timely--and accurate--fashion.

Journalists need to emphasize that what they are reporting is to the best of their knowledge accurate, but it might not necessarily be 100 percent fact. It might not even be 50 percent fact. It's just the information or intelligence they are being fed at the time by the best sources they can access.

Journalists also need to realize, however, that they are accountable for the news they put out there. They can't expect the public to be forgiving when the news is inaccurate, especially if it affects the people they love. Journalists also can't attach an invisible disclaimer of sorts to everything they report. They must prioritize: it's better to get the facts right the first time, rather than be first on the airwaves.

When immediacy overshadows quality, lives are ruined. The Duke lacrosse players accused of rape will never have their unscathed reputations back. Check out this link for more information: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/10/11/60minutes/main2082140.shtml.

Even though they were falsely accused, they will have a stigma placed on them for the rest of their lives. Because a public official came forward early on and said he was "convinced" there was a rape and the news networks wanted ratings, those young men were essentially persecuted for a crime they did not commit. Though they are not considered rapists by the American justice system, they were deemed rapists by much of the country before the public knew any of the facts.

Instances such as this should not be allowed to happen. People's livelihood is at stake. Journalists need to triple check their information and present what they know to be accurate. When there is a doubt regarding accuracy, this doubt should be verbally and explicitly expressed to the public. We owe them that.
  "I'm From the Media and I'm Here to Help"
Frank Sesno, CNN correspondent came to SMU for the media ethics lecture and blew me out of the water. Sesno was one of the most articulate, comfortable, and intelligent speakers I have seen in a long time.

The speech consisted of a number of ethical examples (including that of the Duke Lacrosse team, and its media coverage) and challenged journalists to do a few things to improve the art.

“Our most fundamental challenge is to be true to the mission of journalism, not speculate or assert, and sustain focus on the topic at hand,” Senso said.

An interesting part of the speech was when Sesno referred to the Duke lacrosse case and the media coverage on it. He said, “When public officials speak out, that’s what journalists have to work with.” As angry as I was at the whole case, what Sesno said did, in fact make sense. If some public official were telling me some details, I would report them as well, I wouldn’t have questioned or at least not at first. What Sesno said to prevent this was rather interesting.

“Get over it! We need to realize this is the environment. We need to realize the language of live.”

I guess this is true. Since there is nothing we can do as journalists to know whether or not what the officials tells us is true, and we have 10 seconds to get it on the air, It would make sense to live with the understanding that that is the environment we are living in. There was so much more Sesno went into, but this was the part that really stuck with me.

Sesno really inspired me. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see him speak.
Friday, October 12, 2007
  Media Ethics and Agenda Setting...are they actually the same thing?
Last week I read the chapter on agenda setting, to be perfectly honest I found it rather interesting, in the fact that I saw a lot of my research paper source information fall within the concepts of agenda setting.

But then last Wednesday, I attended a Media Ethics lecture, with CNN's Frank Sesno. Although, he was discussing the constant daily struggles journalist, reporters and producers go through in deciding what to cover or ignore, before anything hits the airwaves or goes to print; all I could think about was how much this sounded like agenda setting.

I am sure the media does not intend to ignore or not cover certain topics because they do not feel like it...because that would just be unethical. But rather it seems that in attempting to make ethical decisions on what to report and what not to report, they inadvertently set the agenda for what the public or audience sees, hears, and/ or reads.
  "Dangerous World..."
So I was reading our Bryant and Thompson book when I came across a section, the Cognitive Effects section, that referred to the "dangerous world theory/ thought-process," which is discussed in Psychology. Although the Bryant and Thompson media effects book did not specifically refer to the concept as that, it made me think of three examples, that more or less prove the validity of the concept...at least to me:

The first being during a Mass Media and Society class, my sophomore year, we were discussing violence and its relationship with media and its impact on an audience; my professor used his daughter as an example of the "dangerous world" theory. He said that his daughter is scared to be alone outside, in a hallway, stairwell, or something of that nature...especially at night. At first, I didn't really think anything of...or I thought it sort of silly, but now..

Which brings me to my second example, I wouldn't say I'm scared, maybe more on edge, but whenever I have to walk across campus or walk to the parking garage, or unlock the door to my house at night, I'm significantly easier to spook. I'm not quite sure if this anxiety is completely due to the types of television show I watch (see previous blog for reference, if needed) or due to the fact that my old roommate told my that Dallas has one of the highest crime rates, especially homicide in the nation, or possibly due to the unsafe apartment I lived in last year. Needless to say, I'm sure the world isn't as dangerous as it seems at night...but the blanket of darkness always seems to get me.

This brings me to my third and final example of the "dangerous-world theory." I grew-up in a suburb of a large city, which never made the evening news...that is until recently when all of a sudden, shootings at high-school football games, families being robbed and massacred, and high-speed chases made it on to Block A of the evening news! So when I went and stayed, to celebrate New Years with some friends in a rural town in Virgina; I had a hard time not locking the doors of the house that I was staying in...alone. The friends that I stayed with told me that they never lock their doors, even at night!! Of course, all I'm thinking about is a sequence of scenes from "In Cold Blood" repeatedly playing in my head.

So maybe my professor's daughter wasn't so silly after all...or maybe the media really does have an enormous impact on how we see the world, which leaves an indelible mark...
Thursday, October 11, 2007
  Me? Desensitized?
As I was reading the textbook, I came across the definition for desensitization. I immediately thought about what my friend in another class was saying about war photographs. I know this isn't relating to the TV, but it falls under the same category. She was saying that in the past wars, we have had a handful of shocking and memorable photographs from the countries we were fighting (or even from our own country). Now, we have a multitude of photos every day that we can see from Iraq. Neither is better, but it seems that as technology improved we became desensitized to them.

She was showing me some very famous black and white photos; such as the Asian child running down the street naked after her town got bombed with smoke billowing in the background (http://stateoftheart.popphoto.com/blog/images/2007/06/08/picture_2_2.png). And then she showed me few pictures that are current. Due to the fact that they are color does take away some of the effect in itself, but most of the effect is taken away because of how many I have seen. It's sad really.

I mean these photos are still just as sad, but because I have been shown so many I am totally desensitized. I don't want to be! But somehow, I can't go back. I have no control over how bad I feel anymore towards some forms of traumatic media. But what can I do?
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
  Just being a "baby" or being and educated movie-watcher?
Recently I have had to walk out of two different movies while watching them in theaters. Normally I would never do this, simply because it's out of the way and difficult to have to walk past everyone in your row in the middle of the movie. But there was no way I was going to stay and waste time I could never get back on these horror films.

It wasn't the fact that I was too scared, just too disgusted. I don't and will never need bloody gore or over the top violence to enjoy a scary movie. But it seems that society craves it more and more now, to where I'm not going to get away from it that easily. Why is that?

You would think that we would become better or pickier movie critics over time. But with these types of movies thriving, I think not. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoyed 300. It amazed me.

I can clearly see the difference in these two types of movies though. The first set is simply there to scare and disgust the audience as best they can. That's it. The second group (300) is there to make an action movie in a different way; some say a more artistic way. I seem to think so. Plus, it was based on a true story. I can't say the same for most of the horror movies that come out. I wish that movies were moving towards the second group more than the first. But it doesn't seem likes that happening. If 300 was such a success (which it clearly was), why aren't there more movies duplicating that idea?
  Media Violence for Entertainment vs. News
Whenever I think about violence in the media I am immediately primed back to 1995. I remember sitting in the movie theater watching Cher from Clueless make the winning argument, "Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value!" How right is she?!?!

Violent video games, television shows, and movies don't really appeal to me, but I expose myself to them occasionally. I have a hard time watching the news at night because the violence activates ideas in my head and I start to worry that the murderer on the loose will magically find my apartment or that I'll be the next person to get mugged in a parking garage.

I identify with Kelsey Smith (and others like her), the girl kidnapped from Target and murdered. I go to Target all the time. That could have been me or one of my friends. I cannot handle the emotional effects of watching "real" violence. I become paranoid, anxious, and fearful and I start to think the world is an overly dangerous place. I feel like the news displays a perceived reality that intensifies the violence in a way that differs from violent television shows and make believe video games.

I saw 300 in the theater and had a completely different reaction. Yes, it was violent. Yes, I turned my head away at certain gruesome points, but I didn't leave the theater emotionally damaged and I also didn't leave with a heightened sense of aggression. I feel the same way on the rare occasion that I play a violent video game. There is a sense of detached reality in these forms of media that make them personally more tolerable. So I agree with Cher, why restrict or criticize other forms of violent media when the news is readily accessible by the masses?
Sunday, October 7, 2007
  Agenda Setting? Conspiracy??
Agenda setting is making me a little nervous about what news I am missing out on. I mean, I remember when I was watching CNN at the time Paris Hilton lost her dog, and CNN announced it! Are you kidding me?? I was watching for the news and I get more info on Paris, as if there isn’t enough of that.

Even when Paris or Nicole or Britney or Lindsey go to jail or rehab, the major networks always cover it. I mean seriously, this is framing for us. What about things going on in Africa or something actually news worthy. I don’t need to hear about what is going on to some kids that get paid too much to look good and do drugs.

Or, even in the political world, certain stations frame their audience to be persuaded to vote for a certain party or person. Its crazy. I have never even thought about all this “conspiracy” going on. I am glad I am not ignorant and can think for myself. Or can I? Are all my ideas based on those of agenda setting news programs? I sure as hell hope not.
  Take Abilify-- but you might die.
Usually when the ads for prescription drugs come on TV, I zone out. But the ridiculousness of one such ad managed to hold my attention, and keep me thinking about it for days to come. The ad is for “Abilify”—a treatment for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The ad draws me in with its relaxing music and peaceful, serene surroundings while the it briefly (in about 4 seconds) explains the benefits of taking Abilify. These four seconds end abruptly as the narrators voice quickens to explain the negative side effects of using Abilify. I am shocked to hear the words “coma, death, seizure, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, problems swallowing, and problems with vision, speech or balance.” And just when I think its over, the narrator takes a breath and continues. “Be sure to report any unusual twitches or movements of the face as these may become permanent.”

Don’t worry guys… my bipolar symptoms are taken care of, but now I have a pretty bad case of Tourette’s and I can’t really see, stand or breathe like I used to.

I have never personally been diagnosed with any illness that warrants me to take these types of drugs advertised on TV, so I cannot speak to the urgency that some might have in taking them. However, I cannot help but question the agenda that is being set for the consumers of these ads. Are we really being told that the importance of eliminating the symptoms of bipolar disorder outweighs our right to not have seizures or unwanted twitching movements in our face? Are these ads taking advantage of people who may be in such a desperate situation for some kind of remedy, that their priorities are being shifted by the power of the media?
  Agenda setting theory makes me kind of nervous...
So, I just finished the assigned reading from our textbook regarding Agenda setting theory.

Honestly, after reading the chapter, I'm a bit more concerned about the role media plays in our everyday life. I guess it has just now sunk in that everything I see on the news or read online isn't even remotely close to a complete picture of everything that is going on in the world.

This theory is obvious when you realize that Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears' latest drama receives more coverage than the conflict in Darfur. That concerns me.

I can't help but question: what else is going on in the world that I have no knowledge of, simply because the media chooses not to tell me?
  So Many Drugs, So Little Time!
I’ve been sitting here watching TV for a while and I’ve started to notice something. There are a lot of drug commercials on TV. I started to think about the whole gratification seeking model and the example in the book about asthma. I never realized how many drug commercials are shown on TV. During commercial breaks, one out of every five commercial breaks was advertising some kind of drug. So it got me thinking that these commercials wouldn’t even be airing if people weren’t seeking some sort of gratification by viewing these commercials. They watch them, see what they’re for and go out and buy them. Now I know that’s the point of an advertisement, but it just seems to me that they have a drug for everything. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll have a commercial that says “do you sleep a lot at night, if so, this drug is for you,” and then they’ll have a list of 15 side effects that may occur once you take it. I know that example is a little bit extreme but you get the point!
  Just call me a "curious little rhino," everyone else does...
So I was thinking about what motivate people, me included to watch certain television programs. As far, I as I am concerned I do not think I watch what the majority of people my age or gender watch on TV, I could be wrong; but that is my perception.

It seems that most girls my age watch or watched: the Hills, Laguna Beach, the O.C., the Simple-Life, MTV’s Made, and Sweet 16….you get the picture. However, for some reason I never got into them, partially because I have a severe intolerance for stupid people and/ or the people and/ or characters more or less annoyed me; although I do watch Grey’s Anatomy, as do most girls my age. Instead, I watch Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent (CI) and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU), along with any of the CSIs and occasionally Shark. I also love to watch the shows’ like Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and the History Channel.

Therefore, I was wondering if the type of shows one watches has any relation the one’s upbringing, personality, and/ or background. I know when I was little I always played the “Why game,” is where you just “ask why,” after everything; this obviously really annoyed my parents. I still ask a lot of question, only now I warn people, and tell them to tell me if they become annoyed. I have always just thought of myself as a more curious person than most. So maybe my need to know “why,” is the reason I gravitate towards programs that are more educational, that would make me fall into the category of Gratification-Seeking and Audience-Activity model. But does everyone have a personality ‘quirk’ that leads him or her to be drawn to certain television programs?
  Sunday morning: Baptized in the name of framing
Religion and politics are said NOT to go hand-in-hand. Yet as I watch my regular Sunday morning shows, "Meet the Press" and "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" and I overhear the regular religious Sunday morning programs of my parents (don't know the names); it's quite obvious that both have similar styles of framing and agenda setting.

I've been watching the Sunday morning political shows for years and right before any election the dialogue is the same: "America is looking for change;" "America's number one issue is to be safe and that 's why we need to be in Iraq;" "Every American citizen is searching for a candidate that will shoot straight with them."

As I watch these candidates and programs, I'm thinking, "Why are you speaking for me?" Because my number one issue, is not about being safe. Safe went out the door for me when we went to Iraq. (Pardon the rant)But I knew that once we entered Iraq, America would not be safe for a long time. (occupying) Iraq ensured us to be more of a terrorist target. Bottom line is, "Why are you speaking for me, because my number one issue is what are we doing for the American people in regards to economics and civil issues?"

From another television set, I hear a preacher saying, "If you love God then you must trust the leaders he has given us;" "God wants you to place men and women in government that will do the work of God." Now I'm thinking, "Why are you talking for God?" Because I have a strong belief in God, but I don't think God placed George Bush in office, nor do I believe that Dick Cheney is doing the work of God.

Every program operates with the notion of framing and agenda setting, regardless if they are programs that believe they are appointed of God to be on television. This morning I am wondering that if Jesus was on Earth today and was going to do a book tour for the Holy Bible, would part of his marketing agenda be crafting a cunning slogan and buy advertising time on the Internet, television and radio? Would he be on Rush Limbaugh talking about it? Would he have a MySpace or Facebook profile? Do you think that Oprah would help him have his own show?
Saturday, October 6, 2007
  Super Sweet 16
From looking at the past few blogs, it seems everyone is writing about how TV contributes to sanity. This semester I don't have cable, and I am going crazy from lack of trash TV. But now when I do get to watch it, it makes me wonder if I really need it after all.

I just watched an episode of My Super Sweet 16 online, and I have to admit there were some cringe-worthy moments. Though the featured girl from Ohio was not near as bratty as some of the show's kids in the past, she definitely had her moments--like demanding a Hummer and receiving it at a Rascal Flatts concert, in which she and her closest 10 or so friends attended VIP. The lead singer handed her the keys. When she was rattling off orders for party decorations, her dad finally asked, "Whatever happened to birthday cake?" The party favor was a risque calendar starring herself and her friends. Her mom asked her to show more bra at the photoshoot and acted completely miffed when her nearly-16-year-old refused.

MTV had a space for people to comment on the episode, and one girl said that watching the episode was like "watching her dream life."

While seeing the party unfold did take my mind off the 20 or so things I should be doing, it also made me realize I'm not missing too much on television right now. Seeing spoiled kids throw tantrum after tantrum can only be entertaining for so long.

Amusing? Yes. Humorous? Absolutely. But is it making me more sane? I doubt it. Do I really need cable? No. But do I love it nonetheless and feel its absence in my life every moment I'm home? You bet!
  TV Saves My Sanity
This is the time in the semester where I always curl up in bed with every unhealthy food item available, have a mild panic attack, and scream "AHHHHH...this is officially the worst week ever! I'm never going to survive it!" I know, I can be a little dramatic, but whatever.

I deserve to be a little stressed out. I have over 300 pages of reading, three papers due, a presentation to make, a community needs assessment to create with the most worthless groupmates imaginable, a puppy to take care of, a boyfriend who just broke his right elbow and has to have surgery, and I have a broken foot myself. It is no wonder my friends leave me Facebook messages like, "I miss you!" "Where are you?" and "Are you even alive?"

It is UT/OU weekend. For the last four years I have exercised a strict routine for this weekend: I go to the Texas State Fair, go to the Cotton Bowl, and then go out and celebrate (regardless of Texas' win or loss) with my best friends. This year I am not doing any of those things, but instead I am hanging out at home trying to calm down just long enough to get my work done.

I spent Friday night in a state of panic asking myself how I would ever manage to get everything done. I knew I needed to relax, escape, and reduce some anxiety. I had to watch TV, just one Tivoed episode of Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane would help me relax.

After an hour of TV watching I felt cool, calm, and collected or at least as calm as I could with a to-do list of 25 items. I was no longer worried. I knew I would get everything done, I always did. I just needed to take a moment to escape and regain a sense of focus. And who said TV couldn't fix problems?
  Chomsky's view
Thursday in our Objectivity & Bias class, we watched a film on Noam Chomsky, "Manufacturing Consent." I can understand the thoughts many have about Chomsky, "The man is way out there;" however, Chomsky does present some valid truths.

His theories definitely are derived from the models and theories we are discussing presently in our Media Effects class. Actually, I found Chomsky to be a little bit more prophetic than linguistic. It seems that the speeches he gave in this video are exactly what we are experiencing with the media today: Large conglomerate control, indoctrination that is inconsistent with democracy (who's patriotic vs who is not), myth makers and above all agenda setters.

I'm placing myself on a very delicate position here (but for the sake of a significant point); it seemed obvious to me that one certain political party used Chomsky's label of the "elite media" to set their own 'network' agenda.

Chomsky may have had some absurd thoughts; however, he did present some obvious truths to what we consume and observe as media watchers. Sometimes I view us (the audience/consumers) as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; we are being directed and manipulated by "someone behind the curtain" (the big media conglomerates).
Friday, October 5, 2007
  Long Lasting Reality TV Shows
I just finished watching the premiere of the 9th season of America's Next Top Model. I kept thinking how amazing that the show has lasted that long. I can understand why though.

First of all, it's inspiring for a lot of girls in America. Tyra Banks is a dynamic role model for thousands of girls. She uses her celebrity to empower women, and to take away the typical stereotypes set in society presently. Not many celebrities do that.

Secondly, it's a huge dream of a lot of girls to become a famous model. With this show, all you have to do is show up to the audition and stand out from the crowd. I don't think making tons of money is the big attraction here, I think it's the fact of being famous and doing something that is "fun".

I have watched the show since the second season, and will continue watching it until it is done. I haven't wanted to try out for the show of course, I just think it's interesting to see how surprisingly hard it is to become a good model. And another reason is that I think I can say that I greatly respect Tyra as well.
  Peek-a-boo roots are the new trend?! You've got to me kidding me.
Okay, so I was just watching E! News and the host was like "peek-a-boo roots are the newest trend: See who's doing it and how to get the look." Then they interview a stylist who says stars are sporting the look on purpose and points out celebs who are leading the trend.

Umm... are they serious? I mean what is the world coming to! A couple celebs are too lazy to get their roots touched up and we automatically assume it's the "it" thing to do?? They're probably just too lazy to get off the couch!

As much as I love celebrity gawking, this is just ridiculous... for the first time in my life I'm ashamed to be watching this show. The day I see Barbie walking around with black roots is the day I delete PerezHilton from my favorites and dump my stash of US Weeklys. Please people, don't make me do it!
Thursday, October 4, 2007
  Radiohead: Media Geniuses
Some of you may know about the band Radiohead's newest ploy to a) target the already-hurting record industry and b) promote their new album.

Radiohead's new album, In Rainbows, was originally not going to be released until 2008...or so we thought.

On Monday, Radiohead announced via their website that the new album was complete and would be released in a mere ten days. Shocker #1 was not only the new album, but the manner in which the band went about announcing it. Traditional album releases are announced on a much more widespread basis - MTV, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, NME are often the first to know.

That's not all though... The album is available solely through digital release for the time being, meaning that no CDs will go to press until at least December, according to the band.

Best of all, the digital download of the new album (available October 10th) is "free." Yes, entirely free. When checking out to get your download code, you can pay as much or as little as you'd like for the album.

Now that's revolutionary media.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
  What is our fascination with obesity?
I can't figure it out...

As of late, television has seemingly been overrun with a plethora of shows dealing with obesity. From Fat March to the Biggest Loser, every network has one.

TLC has even jumped on the bandwagon with two shows - Losing It and Big Medicine. The former is about a "fat camp" called Camp Shane and the latter is about a gastric bypass clinic in what was once America's fattest city - Houston.

Obviously, with a significant portion of our population overweight or obese, their "use" for watching such programming likely stems from wanting to change.

But for me, I really have to examine what I get out of watching a bunch of fat kids play dodgeball and sneak Snickers bars underneath their bunk. Something is intriguing about it to me, but I suppose it's as simple as purely attempting to avoid the same fate for myself.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
  My Escape
This may sound typical, assuming that almost everyone can relate, but I've recently been using TV as an escape from the world. Since I transferred to SMU my life has drastically changed. I already worked a full time job for two years before I transferred, so piling all of that on was not easy. Now that I am in the "swing of things", I sigh a breath of relief every time I realize I will get to watch TV when I get home.
You see there aren’t very many moments I can do that. I have to allot specific times for everything I need to do. It already feels like I'm a professional with a constant assistant telling me I'm late for a meeting, The maybe one time I get to lay on my bed and choose whatever I want to fill my head with on TV is amazing.
Ya ya, I know I should be spending my free time doing something more productive. It doesn't help that not one of multiple shows I record are anywhere near educating. But I feel as if I spend almost every other second worrying about how I'm spending my time, or how well I'm using it. This gets exhausting. So, TV is my ultimate escape.
I really never thought I would say that, seeing as it's kind of a common conception that people who watch a lot of TV don't really have social lives. Of course I do have one (look at me, getting all defensive), but I manage to fit TV in it.
Judge me if you want.
Monday, October 1, 2007
  Flaming with the Stars
I know I know, this is going to be difficult to admit but I watched "Dancing With the Stars" tonight. I guess it was all that discussion during class (or maybe I just wanted to know what interested Rick's mom so much).Actually, I think it had more to do with coming home and feeling "conditioned" to have something on while I ate my dinner.

I am glad I stayed tuned though, because I witnessed a moment on television that was very rare and probably wouldn't have happened 20-10 or 5 years ago. Co-host Drew Lachey told one of the studliest guys (Cameron Mathison) that "his hips looked really good." (Lachey did mention - "I know this may seem awkward"). Mathison was very quick to the punch and asked Lachey, "What are you doing afterwards?"

I considered that to be a defining moment in television history; two studly men flirting with one another knowing that 20 million people were watching them (and the majority of the audience is older viewers). This moment reflects how television projects the times, culture and socity that surrounds us. I couldn't help but think how "Joe in Idaho, Montana or Kansas" would get a kick out of that, is it possible that light-hearted moments as those could encourage tolerance?
This blog is a companion piece to CCJN4394:Media Effects taught by Dr. J. Richard Stevens at Southern Methodist University.

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