All posts by Holly Dawson

University of Denver - Strategic Communication - Alpha Phi

The Ever-Changing Media

It has become clear through the course of this class that the media is constantly evolving. Media, media technologies, and the impact of media on society has changed in the past, is changing currently, and will continue to change in the future. The use of media has become more prevalent in society, bringing its influence on members of society into question. Although humans are active agents in selecting what media they consume and in their interpretations, different media forms inevitably impact individuals and the culture.

Media used to be a very diverse area of society that consisted of many companies in many different areas of media production, but over time the media has come to be dominated by just five or six large conglomerates. As time goes on, it can be expected that this concentration of ownership will continue, making the production of media more profit based than it already is. As recently as February, Comcast announced its merging with Time Warner Cable. This joining of forces of these two major cable companies is not only an example of the continued concentration of media ownership, but also demonstrates a focus on what is beneficial economically rather than on producing new and creative content. If all media producing companies continue to be owned by fewer conglomerates, content may begin to look similar and be cross promoted through various forms of media at the economic benefit of the company.

Although media in largely under the control of few and powerful corporations, the average citizen has an ever-increasing role in the production of media. More and more news outlets are allowing citizens to find their voice by providing forums in which anyone can share their opinion or story. The role of social media also allows for the rapid sharing of thoughts and stories created by nearly anyone. Because citizen journalism is a relatively new adoption into the production of information, it can be expected to grow in the future. Years from now it is possible that citizen journalism will even begin to take over traditional forms of news. This could create conflict between traditional and citizen journalists, who will have to negotiate the roles they play in society. It will also bring into question the quality of the work created by citizen journalists. Although their stories allow for the rapid spread of important ideas and can offer great insight into the most current events, can it be taken as seriously if it is not created by a “professional” journalist?

Finally, as media continues to evolve, media producing technologies will change, just as they have in the past. Some suggest that the future of media will be dominated by “mobile.” This suggests that now is just the beginning of the rise high quality smart-devices, which allow people to carry most forms of desirable media with them portably. Entering a mobile generation will have cultural impacts such as creating less personal relationships between people and changing the way they experience the world around them. The fear is that this increasing technology and people’s drive to constantly be linked to the media will create a media culture of convenience over quality in order to give the people what they want when they want it. Whether these changes are for better or for worse is yet to be determined.

 

The Bachelor: Roses, Romance, and Reality?

The Bachelor is a dating show that first aired in 2002  that displays a man’s search to find true love among twenty-five beautiful and lonely women. Many hours of my life have been devoted to The Bachelor, and I always find myself unnecessarily emotionally invested, even though the track record of the program is far from perfect. Of the seventeen seasons of The Bachelor only two have resulted in successful long-term relationships, yet somehow the drama and absurdity keep myself and the other seven million viewers coming back for more.

Historically it seems that the media, particularly television and film, has consistently presented users with images of what constitutes a successful and happy romance. These media images have created a fundamental ideology and understanding about what romance means. The Bachelor presents viewers with what seems to be a realistic depiction of the “ideal” love story; complete with fantasy dates, roses, fine wines, world travel, and of course stereotypically “beautiful” human beings.

The show’s romantic ideals and dramatic nature can be seen in this promotional clip from Season 17 of The Bachelor:

The media, The Bachelor included, is swimming with stories of heterosexual love and romance and fills viewers’ minds with the idea that a prerequisite of success and happiness is finding a soulmate of the opposite gender who you can share a passionate love with. When people do not have these things, they are  subtly told by the media that they are not living to their full potential, and may turn to concepts such as The Bachelor to create their own, probably unsuccessful, but seemingly realistic love story. People crave romantic relationships such as the ones they see in the media, especially when it is portrayed with real people in programs like The Bachelor. The reality aspect of this program makes the social constructed ideal romance seem attainable to the average person.

The Bachelor not only reinforces the concept of the ideal romance, but it also upholds many gender stereotypes, particularly for women. The women who the bachelor is vying for reinforce the commonly represented beauty ideal, as most of the women are tall and white with beautifully styled hair and an amazing wardrobe. Not to mention they are “hot” enough to run around the Bachelor mansion and go on dates around the world in their bikinis. The men on the show are also expected to be physically and socially attractive. They have chiseled muscles, greats smiles, and successful jobs. Additionally, women contestants on The Bachelor are often represented as catty, emotional, and willing  to do whatever it takes to get there man even if it makes them look slightly insane. Not quiet a fair representation of women in America, if you ask me. The women who “win” the man at the end of the show are most often expected to move to where that man lives in order to meet their lifestyle, which demonstrates the idea that men are superior to women.

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These stereotypes of women are problematic because they tell viewers that in order to find love successfully, one needs to be what is socially accepted as beautiful and feminine. It also implies that women can be defined by the man they are with. The main goal of the women on the show is to be appealing to the man that is the bachelor. On The Bachelor, the women live and breath for the man they want to win. Love becomes a competition, which brings out the worst in people and sets unrealistic relationship and gender performance standards for viewers.

Citizen Journalist on NBC News

The process of gatekeeping has gone hand in hand with journalism for some time now. Because journalists are often present where events are taking place, it has become their responsibility to determine what is significant enough to be considered newsworthy. Journalists have traditionally played the critical role of hand selecting the news, but as time has passed and technology has become more advanced the public has become more involved in not only consumption, but production and distribution of news.

It seems that social media has payed a significant and defining role in the increase of citizen journalism given its ability to broadcast a message, regardless of accuracy, to millions in mere seconds. In addition to social media sites, professional news sites have begun to incorporate citizen journalism into their distribution of the news, challenging the traditional role of journalists as gatekeepers. The addition of the Citizen Journalist webpage to the NBC News website is an excellent example of the convergence of traditional and citizen journalism.

NBC News is a highly respected and widely viewed news source that has begun to incorporate citizen content production into its production of the news by allowing people from anywhere in the world to “tell their stories” through the submission of photographs and written content. To share content, all citizens need to do is send an e-mail submission to MSNBC. These submissions are then filtered by NBC and reproduced as stories on the “Citizen Journalist on NBC News” webpage.

In August 2013 NBC acquired a new citizen journalism company called Stringwire. Stringwire will allow citizen journalists to submit video footage of breaking news stories to NBC News, providing readers instant access to user generated video in the incidence of an important event anywhere in the world. Just as the photos and stories submitted to NBC are under the editorial control of the network, these videos are reviewed before being released to the public for live streaming. NBC hopes that this connection with Stringwire will help drive citizen journalism.

As of now, the content on the “Citizen Journalist on NBC News” webpage exists somewhere between significant world events such as the Middle Eastern conflict and interest based stories discussing things such as “wedding day jitters.” The majority of the articles consist of individual reactions to these various topics. Deviation from the types of stories that have traditionally been considered news toward a less serious and more opinion based focus  is a risk run by all citizen journalism websites. It seems that NBC is hoping its Partnership with Stringwire will allow for a more objective view of the world from citizen journalists, given that it will display real video footage of actual events, not just people’s opinions about them.

Although citizen journalists are able to participate in sharing their stories on the NBC news website, they maintain a role more similar to that of a gatewatcher than a gatekeeper. These citizen journalists are able to sift through the many events and happenings around the world and express their opinions about them, however publishing authority still remains with the NBC editorial staff. Many new citizen journalism websites allow anyone to post an unedited news story, allowing gatewatching to replace gatekeeping. NBC News, at least for the time being, maintains a separation between stories shared by citizens and traditional news that is carefully selected by gatekeeping journalists.

 

Regulation in Film: Ratings and Warnings

Every time we watch a movie, the first thing we see is a green screen with rating letters on it. As college students, these letters are far less significant to us than they used to be. However, when we are children, these letter, or ratings, often define what movies we can and cannot watch.

This system of rating movies based on the maturity of their themes has not always existed in the way that it does today. Initially the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) did not even allow the production of a film with indecent content, as defined by the association. As film producers began to challenge this system in the late 1960s, the MPAA was forced to change it’s format so a wider variety of movies could begin to be produced (Croteau & Hoynes 95). With this change came the rating system of films that we are familiar with today. The rating system is as follows:

G: General Audiences

PG: Parental Guidance Suggested

PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned

R: Restricted

NC-17: No one 17 and under admitted

Film content regulation is different than that of other forms of popular media because it is industry self-regulated, rather than government regulated (Croteau & Hoynes). This rating system is designed to benefit all. Movie producers have the freedom to produce whatever they choose,  with a rating to be determined by the MPAA based on the content. Ideally, parents of children are satisfied because they have a system that allows them to measure the maturity of a films themes.

Although the rating system looks great on paper, its lack of effectiveness in preventing mature media from reaching children has resulted in some criticism. The MPAA is not open to sharing who decides what defines these ratings, so it is often unclear what reviewers are focusing on. Additionally, some believe that the ratings have become more liberal over the years, allowing for a greater amount of explicit content in lower rated movies. Generally, movie theaters are not strict about enforcing these regulations, often allowing kids admittance into movies with content considered too mature for their age. Some see the MPAA as irrelevant, claiming we do not need someone regulating what we watch, while the majority believes this organization should improve upon and clarify what defines each movie rating.

While this system is generally unchanging, the dissatisfaction with its success prove that changes should be considered. MPAA ratings have the potential to be very successful if they are made more specific and objective. If the explicit content was outlined in more detail in the rating, parents would have a more clear idea of what their children are viewing. Also, movie theaters need to tighten their grip in enforcing these restrictions by not allowing underaged kids in to see films with higher ratings. Although it is difficult to completely prevent children from being exposed to mature content through film, I believe consistency and conciseness in the rating system would allow for a more uniform and helpful rating system.

 

Time Warner Inc.

Time Warner Inc. is a massive global media conglomerate with holdings in various forms of media ranging from cable television to entertainment magazines. Time Warner recognizes the scale of their collaboration and maintains the goal of distributing high-quality media content to people worldwide. Home Box Office (HBO), Turner Broadcasting System, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Time Inc. constitute this enterprise, creating products in television, film and publishing.

Ownership Map: Time Warner’s influence spans all aspects of popular media today. This ownership map displays some of the significant products and companies (the list seems endless) that are holdings of Time Warner Inc. For a more complete ownership map click HERE.

Home Box Office (HBO-Cable)

  • Cinemax
  • Cinemax On Demand
  • HBO
  • HBO2
  • HBO Comedy
  • HBO Family
  • HBO Go
  • HBO Home Entertainment
  • HBO On Demand
  • HBO Signature
  • HBO Zone
  • MAX

Turner Broadcasting System (Television and Web)

  • Adult Swim
  • Amo El Cine
  • Boomerang
  • Cartoonito
  • Cartoon Network
  • Cartoon Network Too
  • CNN/U.S.
  • CNN.com
  • CNNRadio
  • Glitz*
  • HTV
  • HLN
  • I-SAT
  • Much Music
  • NASCAR.com
  • Peachtree TV
  • PGA.com
  • Pogo
  • TBS
  • TheSmokingGun.com
  • TNT HD
  • Tooncast
  • Toonami
  • truTV
  • Turner Classic Movies
  • Turner Network Television
  • Turner Sports
  • Joint Ventures
  • BOING
  • Q-TV
  • WB
  • Warner Channel

Warner Bros. Entertainment (Film)

  • DC Entertainment
  • DC Comics
  • DC Universe
  • DCUniverseOnline.com
  • MAD Magazine
  • Vertigo
  • Flixster
  • New Line Cinema
  • Warner Bros. Pictures
  • Warner Bros. Television Group
  • Warner Bros. Animation
  • The CW Television Network
  • Studio 2.0
  • Telepictures Productions
  • Warner Bros. Television
  • Warner Horizon Television
  • Warner Bros. Theatre Venture

Time Inc. (Print)

  • Coastal Living
  • Cooking Light
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Essence
  • Fortune
  • Golf Magazine
  • Health
  • InStyle
  • Money
  • People
  • Real Simple
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Sports Illustrated Kids
  • Southern Living
  • Sunset
  • Time U.S.
  • FanNation.com
  • LIFE.com
  • MyRecipes.com
  • ELLE
  • InStyle
  • Life and Style
  • Homes & Gardens
  • Horse & Hound
  • Marie Claire

Time Warner Investments Group

  • Adaptly
  • Adify
  • Admeld
  • Arroyo
  • Bigband Networks
  • Bluefin Labs
  • BroadLogic
  • Conviva
  • CrowdStar
  • Dynamic Signal
  • Double Fusion
  • Everyday Health
  • Exent
  • Gaia Online
  • GetGlue
  • GoldPocket
  • Glu Mobile
  • Kosmix
  • Maker Studios
  • MediaVast
  • Meebo
  • N2 Broadband
  • Nuvo TV
  • PlanetOut Inc.
  • PlaySpan
  • ScanScout
  • Simulmedia
  • SkyStream Networks
  • Tremor Video
  • Trion Worlds
  • Tumri
  • Turbine
  • Vindigo
  • Visible World

Time Warner seems to be constantly changing, however continues to maintain its power in the world of media. Time Warner Inc., formerly AOL Time Warner, was created when Warner Communications, Inc. and Time Inc. joined forces. As Time Warner has grown, so have the companies within it, some gaining enough influence to spin-off into their own independent companies. AOL, Warner Music Group, and Time Warner Cable all used to be owned by Time Warner Inc. but are now self-sufficient. Time Inc., the publisher of many popular magazines, will become an independent company later this year (Wikipedia).

Time Warner Inc. was both vertically and horizontally integrated when it was first established. It owned companies that produced various forms of media, but also several aspects of production of a single media product. For example, Time Warner owned the means to cable television (Time Warner Cable) as well as the cable channels themselves (HBO). As companies have dispersed and separated from Time Warner, this conglomerate has become primarily horizontally integrated, focusing on television, film, and magazine publishing. Time Warner has proven that it can withstand internal changes, demonstrating that its role as one of the major media corporations both in the United States and globally has longevity.

Time Warner employed nearly 34,000 people as of December 2012 and had a 2012 revenue of around 28.7 billion dollars. The size and scale of this corporation blows me away, but I am not surprised that it has had success given the nature of its products. It is clear that entertainment sells, and entertaining the masses through multiple means is a priority for Time Warner Inc. Movies, magazines, and cable television are amusing, often informative, and are ways in which people fill their time. I know that I have supported Time Warner through my love of People magazine and HBO movies. Time Warner Inc. has taken notice of what components of media consumers enjoy and used this information to create an incredibly successful, dominant, and influential corporation through the synergy of a diverse conglomeration of products and companies.