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Reliability of the Media

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Essay title: Reliability of the Media

Reliability of the Media

Growing up in America today means being exposed to numerous half truths. These are readily found on the television, newspapers, radio, and movies. The truth is hardly ever told in its complete form. Take for instance the local news broadcast, we watch it and take it for truth. We tend to give credibility to these newscasters based on the fact that they are representing major broadcast stations. These stations are supposed to be reliable and credible sources of information. In reality the facts are rarely ever told in complete form to the public. Bits and pieces of collected information is dressed up and edited to create a “news item”. Many times a station has to retract statements due to over-embellishment. The whole point in their doing this is to maintain an audience. Movie directors are masters of this technique. Movies based on historical events usually rely heavily on dramatization. It is the job of a movie director to gain and maintain the interest of the audience. As an audience we tend to take what we view as truth. Sometimes the dramatization is so extreme that the fictionalization masks the reality.

The movie “Mississippi Burning” is an example of this type of media process. As an audience we are led to believe that the story is based on real life and that these actual events happened exactly the way it was portrayed, when in fact there are great differences in the movie and what really happened. Some of the events were changed, people were portrayed differently, and heroes existed when there were none. I will attempt to show

how these inaccurate portrayals of actual events can lead to misconceptions that affect our way of viewing things we do not understand.

In the movie “Mississippi Burning” we see a dramatized version of a non-fiction event that occurred in Mississippi in 1964. The event that occurred in June of 1964 was the slaying of three civil rights activists. During the summer of 1964, what is now known as “Mississippi Freedom Summer”, a group of volunteers went to Mississippi determined to break the back of segregation (Pitts). Three of these volunteers ended up being arrested then released later that day. They were stopped again on a deserted road by the same deputy sheriff who had arrested them earlier, this time accompanied by a party of Ku Klux Klansmen. They were murdered in cold blood, transported to an earthen dam several miles away and buried with a bulldozer (King). The FBI conducted a lengthy investigation that eventually led to the discovery of the bodies. These are the facts that the movie is based on.

There is no denial that this event took place in 1964, but how it took place is not depicted accurately in the movie. The movie took place in Jessup County, which is a fictional location. The details on the investigation were greatly exaggerated. The movie director, Alan Parker, even stated in an interview, ''I'm trying to reach an entire generation who knows nothing of that historical event, to cause them to react to it viscerally, emotionally, because of the racism that's around them now. And that's enough of a reason, a justification, for the fictionalizing.'' (King). The movie was based hugely on the FBI’s investigation. The movie did not focus on the three slain workers, but rather, on the details that surrounded the investigation into their disappearance (Price).

More dramatizations take place with the portrayal of the people in the movie. While the director captures the essence of the elements existing at the time, he does not elaborate on the specifics of reality. The sheriff in the movie was portrayed as a guilty party to the murders. The sheriff

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