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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.