Monday, February 23, 2009

The Media

Journalists from across the globe, collect, write, edit, and present news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts through the media. The code of ethics and/or canons provide journalists a framework for self-monitoring and self-correction as they pursue professional assignments.

Media, a social institution of information sharing by journalists. The tools used to store or deliver data according to the Websters Dictionary. The media does an essential task for our society by delivering pertinent information to its audience regarding social issues that are of interest, of importance and to fulfill a publics need to keep informed.

The Society of Professional Journalism follow a code of ethics, which are not rules, but are the tools to follow for ethical decision making. In the United States, private citizens are protected from slander. On the other hand, public figures have fewer privacy rights in U.S. law, where reporters are immune from a civil case if they have reported without malice on very controversial and important issues. Meaning, they can later apologize, retract anything reported and make corrections if their reporting was seen as malicious by the very public figure. In comparison, Canadian journalists have to present news with full facts on a very controversial issue.

The cartoon above is from Australia, clearly a perception from the outside, that compares the American media action on political parties and their leaders.

Media Bias, a term used to describe the real and percieved bias of journalists and producers of the mass media. Media bias has had major impact on many news recipients regarding important decisions and issues in the United States. Without fear of repercussions, the road for unethical journalism is a free for all.

How is it that we as the recipients of all news, can we perceive and comprehend the meaning behind a message? What is our response based on? Is it our history, knowledge or our social groups (peers, friends, family, etc)? Would we make better and more informed decisions if news were presented by ethical journalists? and a law that holds them accountable for slander on very important and crucial newsworth issues.

The media and its framework are an integral part of society and works with major institutions to keep it going. In a Structural Function persepective, the survival of professional journalism as we know it, is in danger due to radical changes needed for unethical journalists. Which may happen with the upcoming review on the Federal Communications Commission. Many ethical professional journalists fear, they will no longer be seen as professionals as long as the code of ethics are abused. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of their credibility. (Society of Professional Journalists ethics) - regarding the freedom of the press, first amendment The canons of American journalism (a good source for sociological insights by sociologist Michael Sudson.) The Society of Professional Journalism - 1909 The Federal Communications Commission

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Some Claim New York Post Political Cartoon has Racist Implications

Recently, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. In simple terms it means the much talked about multi-billion dollar stimulus package that Obama has championed ever since his inauguration.

The political cartoon, shown on the left, depicts two police officers gunning down a chimpanzee while uttering, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

After the cartoon's publication, many, including the civil rights activist Rev. Al. Sharpton interpret the cartoon as extremely callous and on that holds racist connotations about President Obama, depicting him as a chimpanzee because he is part African-American.

The New York Association of Black Journalists claim that the depiction of African-Americans with animals is deeply and painfully entrenched within American history. In fact, many minority groups have been associated with animals and rodents in order to de-humanize them so it becomes easier to target these groups for discrimination or worse. Take for instance, during Nazi Germani, the Jews were likened to rodents and that all rodents, because they are infecting the pure Aryan race with their vile religion and inferior genetics, should be exterminated.

The Association also claims that depictions of blacks as monkeys and chimpanzees dates back to Anglo-Saxon, Portuguese, and Spanish colonial conquest that de-humanized them in order to justify their horrific treatment of slaves.

The cartoonist claims that it has nothing to do with the President and the fact that he is part African-American. He and the New York Post claim that the recent incident of an escaped chimpanzee being shot by police officers is the reason why he used this imagery. He claimed that the chimpanzee depicts Congress and mocks its efforts to revive the economy through the stimulus.

How do you see the justifications made by the New York Post and the cartoonist versus the claims of racism by the New York Association of Black Journalists/Rev. Al Sharpton?

Are most readers likely to make the association that the artist was depicting Obama as an animal? Why?

Do you think that in present day America, some groups are still labeled in unappealing ways to justify the group's subordination/discrimination?

***Remember that the chimpanzee is not labeled as "Obama" or "The President" or any other drawn clues that the cartoonist actually meant to depict the President in this way***

Time to dump analog and jump on the digital train (sorry poor and rural people)

The conversion from analog TV to digital is big news for the whole nation. If you haven't heard the story, it sums up like this: Four years ago, congress decided to convert all of the over-the-air (rabbit-ears) TV stations in the country to digital on February 17th, 2009, today. The TV stations will be able to spend less money on sustaining power for analog signals, and the "airspace" will be able to be used for emergency channels and new high-speed wireless networks.

However, the big transfer is being delayed. A fund that was created a few years ago to help supply people with digital cable boxes if they did not already have them no longer has any money in it (who knew?). Also, it turns out that millions of Americans still aren't prepared. So congress hurriedly passed another bill saying that stations could switch on February 17th if they wanted to, but REALLY everyone has to get it done in June.

Now... some people paying attention to the details have noticed that this whole ordeal is hardest on poor families (mostly minorities). Also, the details coincide with corporate investments. Verizon will make lots of money from the switch, but, aha, AT&T will make MORE money from the delay.

Now, do you think this plan and its delays are really based on the situations of the consumers? Most of the news articles cite consumer-based reasons (not enough money to give people discounts on cable converter boxes, not enough people are properly educated). However, there are far more Americans unprepared for the switch than the proposed minimum when the plan for the change was first developed. And yet it pushes onward. And what about the activities of the congress members and corporations involved? It is very difficult to find articles about them. What is it that makes people pay less attention to these things, and more likely to not believe them when they hear them, if that is the case? Is this whole thing going to affect you?

Here are some articles... The Associated Press article:
An article about the effect on minorities:
And one about corporate activities:
(Image of antique TV (and old-fashioned solution for poor reception) borrowed from:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gun panic

Sociologist Stanley Cohen theorized about "moral panics", and I think that Fairbanks might be in one right at this moment. The US House of Representatives introduced a bill that would strengthen existing gun control laws. The bill would require vendors at gun shows to conduct background checks like retail stores are currently required to do. The bill would also require gun owners to update their permits when they move. These two items seems reasonable to some Americans. In fact, I would predict that the majority of urban Americans would find these new restrictions to be reasonable. But not Alaskans.

Alaskans have a unique relationship to their guns. Perhaps it's because there are so many hunters here. Or perhaps it's because there are so many military folks here, both current members and retired. Or perhaps it's because of our frontier collective identity. In any case, as soon as anything is ever mentioned that hints "gun control", a significant portion of Alaskans freak out. Cohen would say it's a moral panic.

A moral panic can be said to exist when there is no logical or rational reason for so many people to be so worried about a social phenomenon. Back in the 1980s, a moral panic about kidnapped and exploited white children led to the famous milk carton pictures asking, "have you seen me?" In the 1970s, a moral panic broke out when white middle class college students started smoking marijuana. There are so many moral panics going on now that I've lost count. But this gun issue... now here's a moral panic that is unfolding right around us!

What do you think? You can read about it here: There was also an earlier thread that was a response to a letter to the editor (referred to as a LTTE in blog talk). You can see that one here:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gender identity

Unruly Ones,
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner covered a school board meeting earlier this week that I find sociologically fascinating. The school board is considering amending its anti-discrimination and harassment policies to include gender identity. The article is interesting in itself, and certainly the issue of anti-discrimination policies in schools is of sociological interest to me. But what I have found to be even MORE interesting is the ensuring online discussion!

Many of the posters do not seem to have read the article. The article clearly describes what gender is, and differentiates it from sexuality. Yet a plurality of the posts seem to confuse the two issues. As sociologists, we understand that sexuality is not the same as gender identity. Why do you think so many people misunderstand gender? Or maybe another question might be this: why do so many people fail to read a news article before expressing their opinion on its contents? Or do you think that people DID read the article, but missed the descriptions of the difference between sexuality and gender identity? Do lay persons find gender harder than sexuality to understand? In any case, it's an interesting discussion. Post your sociological responses to my questions on this blog by clicking on Comments, below.

Here is the article. The forum discussion follows: