News Broadcasting as A Medium

Erika Back

Comparative Studies

Midterm Paper

11 March 2015

News Broadcasting as a Medium

For the purpose of this essay a medium can be understood as any apparatus or system which engages the senses and through which information, emotion, or sentiment can be developed or transferred. News broadcasting, when analyzed as a medium, can be described as a system that engages audio and visual senses and which transfers information and often emotions and sentiments. For example, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) has been airing broadcasts relating to a recent and ongoing incident involving the crash of a military helicopter carrying eleven service members of the United States military.[1] As this event occurred overnight NBC broadcasted this for the first time the morning after the incident and again on its nightly news broadcast. Additionally throughout the day updated information and other related videos have been added to the U.S. News section of their website archiving the situation for interested parties to access at any time present or future. This article is both informative and emotional. It contains information on similar incidents from the past, but also emphasizes the tragic nature by stating the many political figures, like Barack Obama, have offered sympathies to the families and colleagues of these service members.[2] These aspects of this piece highlight perfectly the dimensions of news broadcasting as a medium.

News broadcasts are unique when compared to other methods of retrieving information regarding current events in that they appeal to more than one of the basic senses humans possess. A newspaper, for example, may cover many of the same topics as a news broadcast but it only stimulates a person’s sense of sight. The radio, another potential source of receiving some of the same information, only engages one’s sense of hearing. Only a news broadcast has the capability of allowing one to hear a reporter speak on an incident at the same time images can be seen. Like newspapers and radios a news broadcast covers a broad variety of subject matters, which include topics of interest such as criminal activities, current events, locally, nationally, and internationally, the goings on with prominent figures (celebrities or government officials), the weather, and even human interest stories. Another unique aspect of a news broadcast is the ability for users to gain access to updates instantly throughout the day without needing to be constantly tuned in. Newspapers are published once daily and articles are locked in by a deadline occurring before printing. Any updates after the deadline won’t be shared until the next edition of the paper. A radio talk show is fleeting. If one isn’t tuned in at the time an update is given it could be hours before the topic is approached again, if it comes around again at all. As with NBC’s piece cited above the story was updated by two different authors and other content, such as photographs of helicopter shrapnel littering a Florida beach, was also included as the day progressed and information was released.

So is anything missing from NBC’s story? For now, the names of the eleven servicemen are not included in the story. In fact the only information given about any of these men is that seven of them are Marines and four are Army. Many other details are known to the public. Where? The Florida panhandle, as confirmed by interviews of locals given to the Associated Press. When? March 10th, 2015 during an overnight training exercise. Why? Potentially because of complications from bad weather. Who? Essentially, unknown. So why has the media withheld this information from the public? Simply, because the media does not as of yet have this information. What is the purpose of evaluating the information of significant? It relates to the ethical issues involved with news broadcasting, very similar to those associated with journalists. Military personnel are viewed by society as heroic figures, modern day white knights. Thus, this story is as much a human interest piece as it is national news. If the media had the names of these eleven men they could accomplish humanizing the story because they would have access to new information about the people involved in addition to the information about the helicopter, the weather, and the search efforts. “Eleven men” does not paint a picture as well as individual biographies on the eleven men. This fact, that humans are curious and have long been enraptured by stories of tragedy, creates the need for ethical discussions in relation to the content of news broadcasts. Essentially, how much information is too much information, what information is not news, but actually personal or private, and how do these professionals stay within acceptable ethical boundaries.

In an article about suicide and the media Stephen J.A. Ward writes, “Minimize harm is the proper principle, not ‘do not harm.’”[3] This is contradictory to society’s perception of a journalist’s responsibility to the victims they encounter. Society perceives reporters as vultures vying for a story and exploiting and harassing grieving families. When asked, society believes that, like a doctor, a reporter should do no harm to those they are using as sources or portraying the public. Why then does Ward, a prominent figure in North American journalistic ethics, argue for an approach that instead says to minimize harm? “They [suicides] challenge journalists to explore the economic and social factors that may help to induce suicidal behavior”[4] Ward argues that suicide is a social issue and thus it is news worthy and it is appropriate to explore in the public sphere. He argues that uncomfortable situations are meaningful and should be discussed in this manner as a manner of alleviating such conceptions. Ward cites Immanuel Kant, a philosopher from the late 1700’s, when defining ethics as “do not treat others only as a means to an end.”[5] Here, Ward acknowledges that interviewees and other subjects of reporters are a means to an end. They are a means of doing their job which is a service we as a society find valuable. However, this is not the only function of the subjects. Respect, Ward claims, is a vital aspect of journalistic ethics. If the subject is respected, compassion has been given, and their interests not harmed then exploitation has not occurred. This includes reporting only factual information, following proper guidelines for interviewing trauma victims (for example, guidelines from the Dart Center for journalism and trauma), and avoiding sensationalism.[6] These principles coincide with those of Bill Kovach and Tom Rosentiel in their book, The Elements of Journalism.

The Elements of Journalism outlines “ten elements common to good journalism”[7] These include being truthful, following a process of verification, and engaging a sense of personal ethics. However this list also expands on the subject in a new direction. Highlighted above is the media portrayed negatively. However, if the service provided had no only negative contributions it would no longer be provided. Kovach and Rosentiel consider the positive aspects of journalist investigation. Reporters often investigate public and government officials, locally and nationally. Considering the constant presence of the media in the lives of these public officials helps contribute to society’s confidence in some amount of government transparency. Kovach and Rosentiel claim that the journalist has a unique ability to watch dog those with power and has with that power comes the responsibility of representing all walks of life. For example, not ignoring the injustices of the underprivileged. With this ability comes the added challenge of reporting and expressing while also allowing the civilians engaging in the report to evaluate and conclude on their own terms. This is ultimately the purpose of news broadcasting as a medium.

[1] Vinograd, C., & Miklaszewski, J. (2015, March 11). Military Helicopter Crashes in Florida; Eleven Feared Dead. Retrieved March 11, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ward, S. (2009, January 1). Covering Suicide:Do Journalists Exploit Tragedy. Retrieved March 9, 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Kovach, B. & Rosentiel, T. “The Elements of Journalism”. 3rd Edition. 2014.

What if I don’t want to be tethered together?

In Alone Together by Sherry Turkle there is a chapter titled “Tethered Together” which looks at the links we, as people, establish with the help of technology. However, it goes beyond this look and further evaluates what the effects of this technologically established links are and mean in our lives. One of the relationships she evaluates in this chapter is that of the parent and the child. Her claim is that because of recent developments in technology, such as cell phones and their overwhelming presence in our lives, the feeling of freedom gained from the device is an illusion.

Many preteens are given a cell phone in acknowledgement of their growing independence from the family. As children grow older they spend more time outside of the family unit as they participate in extracurricular activities at their school or with their friends over weekends. Parent and child agree that ownership of a cell phone is consent to explore those new relationships and activities more freely. However, Turkle argues this is not what occurs. She argues that ultimately this device restricts the freedom sought. Cell phones create a portable link between parent and child that in theory is operational around the clock. Thus, Turkle cites admissions from parents that cell phone create additional worry when the device goes unanswered. The children, obligated to answer whenever the device may ring, is left unable to transition into independence. Thus a link that is often severed as children actually continues through their teenage years and then into their young adult lives. During class discussion many of us recognized this feeling of being tethered together as a legitimate aspect of our lives.

At least this is true in the United States. Is it inevitable? I don’t think so. Nearly eighteen months ago I was introduced through mutual friends to a Chinese student also attending the Ohio State University. Through frequent contact Lynn and I have become good friends and roommates. Since our friendship has begun Lynn is constantly fascinated by American relationships with their parents. I spoke (and still do) with both of my parents on a daily basis, often at the same time via text message, and also on the phone. Lynn, at the time a second year Computer Science Engineering major, speaks with her parents about once a month via her iPhone or maybe a Chinese version of the Skype application. She spent this past summer traveling Europe for one month, spent an additional three weeks in Africa on a service trip, and then joined my family for a vacation in Virginia Beach. At no point during her decision making process did Lynn consider consulting her parents about her plans. She planned her summer, booked her tickets, and by her account, had an amazing summer. If Lynn didn’t have the time or was otherwise occupied, her parents were satisfied with her saying as much. She tells me this is typical of Chinese families. Though the Chinese have access to the same technologies as us, why do they use it so much differently than what Americans are reporting for themselves?

Some may find they don’t want to only speak to their parents during brief spells between their adventures. The question is, how does everyone find that balance for themselves and then make peace with their families over that balance?

1. Lynn Li

The iPhone Is an Archive

In Ann Cvetkovich’s “Archive of Feelings” she discusses the extreme level of difficulty associated with archiving the feelings associated with the trauma felt by the lesbian community. This is because there are not enough words in the extensive English language, or any language, or all languages combined to adequately describe such personal experiences and emotions. However, if Cvetkovich had access to this community’s iPhone could she make great progress with such an archive?

The iPhone as an archive is an extensive concept. Firstly, it archives your words. Your text messages date back for as long as one has had the device. Possibly longer than that as Apple now allows for text messages to be backed up to the Cloud and then transferred across devices. So now messages can be catalogued as far back as one’s first iPhone. This is a drastic change from cell phones dating back ten years ago that could only store fifty text messages. Not even fifty messages per person. Just fifty text messages and then they were deleted and replaced. So including text messaging, how many other ways are there for an iPhone to archive our words? Potentially countless. Apps such as Kik, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are primarily catalogues of thought that one chooses to share with a community of friends or interested others. Also the potential to receive e-mail on your iPhone is endless. A user can have every account sent directly to the iPhone. One can read, respond, create and even attach documents and images from their phone. Checking e-mail isn’t as tedious when they come straight to the user wherever they may be. Though these apps primarily deal with words, there are also photos and video posted to such archives.

Photography on an iPhone is a part of almost all of the apps discussed so far, but it also has its own forums such as Instagram and SnapChat. However, thanks to the gallery and the potential for extensive storage photographs and videos can be stored even if they aren’t shared with a community of viewers. This gallery now has functions such as time stamping, facial identification, location pinpointing, and extensive options for editing. These features highlight the popularity of the camera on an iPhone. No longer does the average person carry an expensive, bulky digital camera around every day. However, the iPhone is conveniently stored in one’s back pocket and its camera is becoming more sophisticated all of the time.

Location is a third archive an iPhone keeps for its user. When a user seeks directions the primary application used to provide routes stores this information in its history. Weathers apps uses GPS to determine a user’s location to provide updated weather and alerts. Its interesting to note that since September 11th, 2001 a phone’s internal GPS cannot be turned off[1]. This is done for emergency purposes as phones are often means of locating people in emergencies. However, all of the uses of GPS must seek user permission, though many of us do not hesitate to allow it, including apps specifically designed to aid users in emergencies. Some apps, such as Watch Over Me send the user’s GPS location to preselected contacts if a user doesn’t indicate their safety by a designated time. This insures prompt action if, for example, a woman is attacked walking home at night, while archiving those times we feel unsafe.

This type of application leads us back to Ann Cvetkovich’s “Archive of Feelings”. The women she was discussing left little to no records of their trauma and when they were able to communicate Cvetkovich notes the incompleteness of the archive. However, if Cvetkovich had access to these women’s iPhones, how much more details could she have made her archives? Access to the thoughts described numerous ways: social medias, blogs, text messages. There could be images of the trauma, even if the trauma isn’t physical. Photography is an art and a form of personal expression and trauma demands to be expressed. The ability to locate where others are feeling the same trauma or recall where one was traumatized. There may be no words extensive enough for Cvetkovich’s archives, but give her an iPhone and perhaps watch the progress.

[1] Federal Communications Commision

Artifact Politics – X-ray

An x-ray machine is a piece of equipment that uses electromagnetic radiation to produce images unlike those seen by visible light. The images produced by an x-ray can penetrate the external layers of an object (or a person) and produce a digital image of its contents.

Let’s consider x-ray as a medical technology, as this is a vital use of this technology. A patient with a suspected broken bone will be given an x-ray of the area in question, for example an arm. The x-ray machine is positioned in a way that the arm is between it and the x-ray detector. The differing density of the body’s tissue from the bones allows for the contrast of dark and light on an x-ray. The white images, or bones, are more susceptible to absorption of radiation and thus brighter. The image produced provides one’s doctor with an exact image of the break in question[1]. This prevents further trauma to a patient. A doctor repairing a break surgically will have advance knowledge of the situation with their patient. This saves the doctor tremendous amounts of time while also saving the patient unnecessary medical procedures and scarring.

This technology is interesting because in itself it is not a political object. The x-ray machine does not care about the subject’s race or religion. It does not even care if the subject is human. It can just as easily evaluate pets and handbags.

All political dimensions of this technology are induced by man. First, the cost of this technology is extremely high. The smallest most portable machine begin at six hundred dollar per month and to outright own an x-ray machine with the capacity to provide for a hospital starts around 70,000 dollars and climbs[2]. Not to mention the salaries of the specialized x-ray technicians necessary to operate the machine and the price to have a doctor read the image. Thus, affordability is in question. Anytime this is so, access to such a technology is almost definitely limited. Anytime a technology with the ability to provide much needed assistance to the less fortunate is restricted based on price there are politics involved. It starts with authoritarian injustice. Many believe that all people are equal and their lives are of equal importance. Except when one cannot afford such a procedure and another can.

This is one of only many reasons that technologies like the x-ray machine progress. They have become smaller and cheaper to allow for greater use. Medical Non-Profit Organizations raise funds that provide smaller clinics and developing countries such machines. This type of progress allows such authoritarianism surrounding this technology to slowly dissipate. However this is not the only way such a technology can progress.

At airports around the world x-rays have progressed in the opposite direction as they are now used to scan the carryon bags of boarding passengers at airports. This technology is helpful in preventing violent crimes like those occurring on September 11, 2001 in New York City from repeating. They prevent many potentially violent or harmful object from traveling in hopes of protecting the lives of those on the plane and those below. However, this comes with an invasion of personal belongings by a government agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The authoritarian nature of this invasion is balanced against the people’s democratic rights, but overall, the authoritarian nature of the technology prevails.

[1] National Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Bioengineering

[2] Absolute Medical Equipment