The Singing American Dream

American Idol is reaching its conclusion. After recently announcing that the 15th season will be the last one to air, this stalwart of American TV will be remembered for a host of reasons. From bad auditions to incredible artists, American Idol has seemed to produce it all. While audiences are dwindling, there is no denying that the show was a great success across many markets. What I want to ask is why and how?

American Idol Title card Licensed by Wikipedia

The answer given by this YouTube video published during the shows heyday in 2010, centers around the American dream and portrayals of success.  On a simple basis I would have to agree with this idea. It only makes sense that people want to see others be successful and have a chance to at a record deal. The video seems to harp on the idea that people love to see someone just like them go from a no body to a superstar over night. I would agree with this for the most part. While I have never watched American Idol I can imagine that it is cool to identify with some because of some likeness and the next day see them all over the place. Additionally I would like to attribute some success of American Idol to their inclusion of hilariously bad auditions. These light hearted moments not only make some people feel better about their talent but shows everyone there is nothing to be scared of but fear itself. Overall the show thrives on being motivational in many ways.

 

However, one giant challenge to this has to stem from the popularity of reality TV shows. It seems that the rise of things like keeping up with the Kardashians and the Jersey Shore that focus on how trivial arguments disputes the American dream. Indeed, I feel like Americans (and many other people around the world) love watching how crazy other’s lives are in order to make them feel better about any calamity in their life.

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The Beginning of Politcal Televison Advertisements

While all political advertisements are interesting and have a plethora of information that could analyzed, I believe that in order to get some sort of understanding of where this entire phenomenon has come from looking at one of the older advertisements available and compare it to one of the newer ones. In order to keep it somewhat scientific, I will compare two from the same party.

adlaiestevenson1900-1965
Adlai Stevenson by Warren Leffer 

Using the living room candidate website, I first looked at the election of 1952 and the campaign ran by Adlai Stevenson against Dwight Eisenhower. With his advertisement “I Love the Gov” we see a very interesting strategy being used by Stevenson. In what seems to be only one shot, a young women lays down a catchy tune about how Adlai has been successful in the state of Illinois and will translate that success to the rest of the union. What strikes me as most interesting s there is mudslinging going on even in the early age of TV political ads. Everyone today knows that ethics in campaigns runs on a very fine line but even for someone like me who may be a little too confident in his understanding of mid-20th century politics, this struck me as a shocking inclusion in the advertisement. While this ad may have blown my mind, it certainly did not do much to sway over public opinion as Eisenhower destroyed Stevenson 442-89.

 

In comparison I looked at the 2012 Barrack Obama video “47 percent”. This mudslinging advertisement is distinctly the benefactor of improved technology but regardless of that fact it holds a much somber tone then anything Stevenson ran. Obama’s campaign utilized several people of several different ethnic backgrounds, ages and sexes. The use of a diverse populace allows the viewer to think that supporters of Obama are from all walks of humanity. This is a clear strategy by the campaign as Democrat’s typically corner the market when it comes voters from different races. Overall, I find it fascinating how TV advertisements have become a giant tool in how a candidacy is ran and can be a defining part of any candidates run towards the white house.

 

 

Would you (Dan) Rather?

Passing judgment on any person is a difficult task to do. When that person is in the public sphere and subject to words being taken out of context, that judgement becomes even harder to execute. Based on this, my analysis of the Dan Rather situation needs not to be taken as the end all be all and rather one interpretation of an undoubtedly complicated situation.

Difference in Killian Memo’s between actual and Microsoft word uploaded on Wikimedia

In the run up to the 2004 election between John Kerry and George W Bush, Dan Rather on 60 minutes aired a segment about Bush’s service in the Air National Guard. During that report several documents claiming to be from the desk of Lieutenant Colonel Killian, were utilized to show how Bush was unable to complete his service. Over the next week, the authenticity of the documents were questioned online and were picked up by media outlets.  In response, CBS ran a for the record that included Killian’s secretary who confirmed that documents were in fact false but the information was not.

So what can we take away from the actions of Dan Rather and his interview with Killian’s secretary? Based off what we learned in class, we see that sometimes a journalist can falsify crucial information in order to get the perfect story. It seems to me that Rather is in that boat. Rather has been noted as having a strong liberal bias and without questioning his ethical composition, anyone in that situation could have been suspect to taking documents that may have been falsified in order to strengthen his story. However, what seems to be most likely to me is that an anonymous source gave him the true information, as confirmed by Kilian’s secretary, and in an effort to legitimize it either the source itself or whoever was working with Rather decided to create a document. In application it seems to me that if it was Rather who helped create the document he is guilty of unethical journalistic actions whilst attempting to bolster a political position. Regardless of what someone believes when you are in the positon of someone like Dan Rather you can not utilize a questionable document for any reason.

Kony 2012 and the Basis Of Online Virality

Kony 2012 has to be one of the most interesting internet phenomenon that I have seen in my social media life. Within a matter of days Invisible Children and the infamous Joseph Kony were transcended from the small time and political, to every Facebook wall in the country and finally all came crashing down in a myriad of controversy. This video along with others show the power that viral campaigning and sympathetic messages can have over a large swath of the population.  In order to understand this power, an in depth look into the Kony2012 video will show us a lot.

“Stop Kony 2012 poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stop_Kony_2012_poster.png#/media/File:Stop_Kony_2012_poster.png

For starters the video comes out in a way that attempts to show that we the people of the modern age have the power to accomplish what we want to do. That is if we come together. From what it seems like at the beginning, the video will only touch upon on the power of social media. Similar to many motivational videos that I see sporadically on Facebook, it would call for people to change the way they think about an issue and then stand up for it. It is only after making the personal connection to a young boy that Kony comes into the picture. I see this move as something that is very deliberately done. This strategy acts as way to bridge the gap between us, in the developed world, and them in the removed developing world. Statistics and numbers could show us the magnitude of the problem but leaves out an emotional connection that will undoubtedly attach us to the problem. Additionally, when the video shows us numbers they do it by showing us people, not an illustration, which is another emotional appeal.

While Kony is a problem for those in East Africa and specifically Uganda, an ultimately too simplistic view is cast. The video gives the viewer this notion that Kony is the largest problem in the country and that in a way he is the dominant figure. Additionally, it makes it seem that these kidnappings and killings are so common that if you go to Uganda you may be remised if you don’t see one. This view is one that is seen as fundamentally false by the New York Times. More recently, Kony has been put into the fringes of the country with his army dwindling and him personally being in hiding. So the dramatization, including children crying, of the problem may help the video become more viral but does not paint a full picture.

So with all the motivation in the early part and the emotional appeals in the middle, the Kony 2012 video

“Invisible Children Official Logo” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Invisible_Children_Official_Logo.jpg#/media/File:Invisible_Children_Official_Logo.jpg

makes the call to action in only a way this generation would be able to. It calls for people to share the video and become part of the group that will raise awareness for Kony. These actions by people don’t just make them viewers anymore, it makes them into produsers in the realm of social media. The issue of Kony is one that is bad and a lot of people have been killed, but it needs to be remembered that with some convincing images and a saddened tone, the wrong organization may be put into the spotlight.

How Technology is Changing How We Act

It wouldn’t be surprising to say like many people born in this generation Video Games played a big part in my life when I was younger. In elementary school coming home and turning on the PlayStation to play some game with brother was all the release from the “stress” of the day that I needed. As time progressed and I got older, videogames became a social tool that helped me stay in touch with friends all across the globe. So, it does not take me by surprise that video games can act as a useful tool in a variety of aspects.

Things happen fast in Hockey “Ice Hockey sharks ducks” by Elliot – http://www.flickr.com/photos/pointnshoot/1426010816/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons –

For instance Daphne Bavelier in her talk about Your brain on Video Games mentions that gamers have an improved attention. While for me this attention boost does not mean that I can sit in a lecture and be attentive for the entire class period; I certainly have the ability to decipher multiple moving objects from the other more easily than someone who is older and does not play games.  A great example of this may be when I am watching sports with my father. Watching Hockey involves not only tracking 10 players but trying to see a 3 inch puck travel at speeds up to 100 miles an hour. I have asked my dad about a play and we have a noticeable difference in the ability of deciphering what occurred.

Watching sports is not the only difference the digital world and interactive media has on me. Technology has become my aide throughout every activity that I take a part of, from waking up to walking to studying for classes, some screen is there. In that end I can not remember the last time I have gone more than full day without looking at some sort of interactive medium. To that end I echo the statement that the blog on Abha Deshwar promotes, “Leisure time on the Internet is less about pursuing a singular interest than allowing it to be flooded by other, unrelated interests”. My “free” time has become so much less about enjoying myself and has been become about the outside inconsequential world which should remain unconnected to me.

The Time Transcending Medium

Photography might be one of the most powerful methods of storytelling that exists. I guess that’s why the very corny line of “a picture is worth a thousand words” exists. Until very recently, and the advent of digital photo manipulation, a photo was the most definite way to verify the events of an occurrence. The final nature of a photograph leaves an ingrained impression into the mind of the beholder in a much more impactful way then reading some piece of information can.

“Partly disassembled Lumix digital camera” by Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA – http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124348109@N01/475694442. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

What was done by Julia Moore with her daughter Emma is a perfect example of how powerful photographs can be. The message of a women can be so much more than a princess or what is generally “accepted” is incredibly powerful and can be done in a variety of ways. An essay or an op-ed written by Moore about her daughter’s foray into looking past typical childhood aspirations could have had an immense impact on how many view gender roles. But I think that instead of going down a road that has been travelled before and attempting to appeal to the masses, Moore was using the power of photography to convey a deeply personal and lasting message to her daughter. These photos have the potential to stay with Emma for an eternity and guide her through her coming of age.

In my opinion, photography is the only medium that could have such a captivating effect on Emma. Photos have the ability to transcend time and capture a moment in the purest fashion. This ability to deliver emotions and feelings in such an effective way is one of the reasons I think humans have a general fascination with the medium and the art form. Thus has led to the popularity of Instagram. Selfies, in general, and the various apps that promote them, are the perfect delivery method for the emotions that photos have. Overall, photography does the job that many mediums cannot and should lead to a bright future for Emma.

The Perfect Storm and How Mass Communications Changed Mass Confusion.

The panic radio broadcast as described in the PBS War of the Worlds documentary capitalized on the perfect storm of public anxiety and acting talent to create one of the most influential and telling radio broadcasts that U.S and the world had ever seen. The documentary seems to harp on the events of the past decade, the 1930’s, as allowing the messages of the Orson Wells’ broadcast to have the wide ranging impact that it ended up having. The documentary also mentions that the event was influential in showing how effective a propaganda campaign can be, when done effective. This thought of effectiveness had me questioning whether an event of this magnitude could occur today and if so, to what degree.

“WOTW-NYT-headline” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:WOTW-NYT-headline.jpg#/media/File:WOTW-NYT-headline.jpg

Back in the days that Wells’ had his broadcast, the two mainstream forms of media were print and radio, with radio being the only one that any sort of immediate reporting. Now a days we have the internet (from news websites to social media), radio, and television which are all practically instantaneous forms of communication. This diversification of sources would change the sheer amount of effort required to create any hysteria that could possibly mimic Wells’ event. It would be necessary to have a team in each realm of the media, reporting consistent and direct messages. Crucially though, the hysteria would only last as long as it takes to type a question into google.

The instant nature of the Internet has led to a society in which any query can be answered thoroughly in a matter of seconds. The ability to corroborate an experience of propaganda takes one post to a forum. The internet has changed the way we as a people take in information as reality or fallacy. These changes are why we see such little internet access in countries effected by propaganda. On this end, a modern day production of War of the Worlds would not only require a giant effort, it would be put to bed hours, if not minutes, after going on air. Overall, it is extremely fascinating to see a work of art, a play, to take off in the way it did with the War of the Worlds.  While I don’t believe any such event could occur in modern day society, it would certainly be impressive for such a feat to be undertaken.

Just News and Some Montonous Voices

When I was young teenager, car rides to school were always accommodated by some sort radio programming. Whether it was traffic, sports, or music, the radio always seemed to take the drab out of one of the most monotonous activities of the day. One of the channels that I could not bear with in that early adolescent stage was National Public Radio (NPR). Whether it was the programming itself, or tone of the reporters that turned me off from the station is not known but I simply could not listen to it morning after morning. As I have grown older and found my actual interests in the world, NPR has become one of most valued resources in finding just reporting on both the extremely local and global levels.

Public Domain, Courtesy of Wikimedia

In this past week of listening to NPR and particular All Things Considered, one of my favorite shows in general, I have noticed a certain trend in how their programming is laid out. In many of the daily shows of ATC they have intertwined important national news stories with a local and more personal flavor. For instance, on Wednesday September 9th, ATC reported on a story regarding the increasing trend of students choosing to go community colleges instead of 4 year colleges through the eyes of a student attending Montgomery College. Even though I go to a University, I did take classes at Montgomery College and profiling students that I may have taken classes with certainly got me thinking about my decision. That Wednesdays show then went on to broaden its focus to international issues. This opening to global horizons did not change the personal connection that NPR, and ATC in particular, seems to strive for.

Public Domain, Courtesy of NPR News.

The first part of the talk on refugees focused mostly on policy and the recent statements of the European Commissioner. This political segment was followed up by focusing on a specific Austrian town that has opened its doors to refugees but has come upon hard times as resources to help everyone are dwindling. Several interviews with the citizens of the town lead to a much more relatable and memorable story.

I have found this formula of focusing on important national news in a relatable fashion extremely refreshing and ultimately informative. While I have been listening to NPR for quite a while, there seems to be a negative trend in my listening habits as college life has taken over. But through this assignment, I think that maybe instead of jamming out to some fresh music on my way class, NPR will be in my ears.

Understanding Media Literacy in an Ever Developing World.

On a base level, media literacy seems like one of those concepts that a school would try to teach its students because it sounds catchy and has a certain appeal to it, something only to appease the board of directors. In application, media literacy could be one of the most powerful tools with which a populace can monitor its government and happenings around the state.

CCTV Headquarters. Source from Wikimedia under creative commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CCTV_Headquarters#/media/File:Beijingskyscraperpic5_crop_rotate_lighten.jpg by user: Cmglee)

For example, China is notorious for its tight control over the internet and media within its borders. From skimping on details to not allowing various subjects to be discussed online, China tries its hardest to keep a grasp on what is said and read. This is broadly promoted by China’s state-run media service. This agency is responsible for providing all sorts of news to the millions. The news it runs is noted as being biased and not telling the full story. Media literacy in China could allow the populace to see when there is censorship due to the populace’s ability to see beyond the words spoken and images shown. State-controlled media is effectively propaganda but only can hold so much weight to an individual who utilizes media outside of the grasp of the state. This media literacy of the digital age, including crowdsourced media, like Twitter, could prove to be a substantial threat to all forms of state- run reporting.

Kony 2012 poster (fair use taken from http://www.kony2012.com/get_the_kit.html)

Media literacy becomes extremely important when it comes to things like viral videos and the understanding of the messages behind it. One of the most famous examples of media literacy leading to deeper analysis of an idea, came from the “Kony 2012” video from invisible children. I saw many of my friends change their Facebook profile pictures and share the video from YouTube. All seemed well at invisible children as millions of dollars poured in, however some media literate citizens found some key facts about the organization. These facts, deluged from their ability to see past intended messages and analyze key components, helped people reconsider their donations and support for an organization that was not as many clean as many thought it was. Overall, media literacy can change how people interact with their governments and how various campaigns seemingly for social justice are viewed.

An Introduction.

Welcome to my blog.

That’s me on the left. (personal photo)

My name is M Greenberg and I am currently studying International Business and Finance at the University of Maryland. I love anything international, from food, sports, and culture to conflict, relations, and disasters. Practically, if it happens in the world and someone saw it, I want to know about it. Because of that focus I spend a lot of my free time reading the BBC and browsing the corners of the web for some sort of unbiased reporting. Outside of international musings, indie music keeps me going and smiling.  I hope this blog and the Journalism 150 class as a whole can help me bolster my knowledge on how mass communications work and apply those findings to my daily life and further studies within Business.