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Social Capital in Media

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Social Capital in Media

Media Literacy and Me

A year ago I would have said that the media had not engaged me in the democratic process in the slightest; in fact if anything it alienated me. I felt as if what I was being told was being manipulated in a way that was meant to grab my attention. My whole life I've felt as if I were sensitive to advertisements and the tricks used to grab attention and what demographic they're trying to reach. Television news is no exception, for years it has done nothing but alienated me from the democratic process with its A.D.D. type news coverage that only covers tiny pieces of a story and never seems to include any real in depth reporting. For a long time, almost two years, it seemed I had almost completely stopped watching, reading, or listening to the news. This was mainly due to a period I was going through of not knowing what or who to trust for news. I was never getting the complete story, nor did I seem to be learning anything new besides the same old fears and story lines. The news night after night was nothing but a game show where you spun the wheel and you were going to get the same kind of story, framed and presented in a similar way as the night before, but with different characters in a different or similar location. The lack of a thought process to follow the news was overly apparent along with the fact that it was presented in a way to incite reaction more than thought. My media literacy at the time was very low, but as Dewey said it was partly my fault as being a member of the public, but it was also the fault of the visual media for taking an approach that pushed me away from participating in the larger national debate. The news media is no longer pushing me away because I personally feel that I have found a way to interact with American journalism that I believe is practicing true Social Responsibility theory. Commercialism and the threat of the financial markets have demolished what the news industry could be, real research with educated journalist who report more in depth stories at every turn of the page or channel, while also using the resources that are available in what is now being called the Fifth Estate (blogosphere). Instead what we have is an increase in polarized and politicized news for niche markets that compartmentalizes the debate in the world outside of the news room. The kind of journalism we see today, that feeds off of stereotypes and ideological differences, is the kind of journalism which is diminishing the social capital that we can have in the U.S.

This doesn't mean all is lost, just that the industry needs to find new sources of revenue to insulate itself from the controlling power that is the free market. Same goes for the public. We as a people and culture need to change our expectations of the news industry and ourselves; while also educating ourselves willingly on the subjects we care about from sources that aren't just agreeing with us or inciting emotions. It's no accident the news industry is what it is today, it has done millions of dollars in research and marketing just to capture our attention based on our most simplest of passions, but they took the wrong approach morally. The media needs to have a social revolution of social responsibility realizing they are not encouraging a true conversation with real facts. We can't have these news stations such as Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, or any others, catering to ideologies of one side of the isle. All of these stations get millions of viewers that would not dare watch any other news station because of the comfort level created with this niche news delivery. Stories like Balloon Boy or people entering into the White House undisclosed to get a TV show are not news, when our domestic political agenda is in dire need of attention and a serious watchdog. Hannity, Beck, Maddow, Obermann, and the many others are just players playing a role for their specific viewers. This is just junkie journalism meant to give the public its next fix, creating ignorance over true and real debate. Tocqueville expressed that the press influences public opinion but does not necessarily create it. I agree to a degree and say that his views of then do not go far enough in today's world. The press might not create opinion per se, but what it can do is amplify and distort public opinion in a way that addresses and peddles fear. Glenn Beck only a few weeks ago was telling his viewers to abandon the churches they participated in if they ever used words like "social justice" in church or on its website. This is a direct influence on social capital, creating a few people who did try to abandon their churches or groups trying to stray away anything to do with the mythical "socialism" most people couldn't define themselves.

Now that I read the paper I finally feel as if I am a part of a real conversation, with real facts, and

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