Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sociology of News - Michael Schudson, 2003

This book aims to analyze news from a sociological perspective which assumes news as a cultural phenomenon (i.e., news is not a kind of social cause or social effect that is caused by something).

In general, I think his perspective makes real sense, and broadens my understanding of media-related phenomena.

However, one thing with which I am not satisfied is "too much description and narrative." Detailed introduction of an anecdotal story (or event) is, by itself, interesting and inspiring, but I think the book is too thin to cover thick description of tough realities (as Clifford Geertz said). In other words, serious students who want to study news from this perspective should go beyond the range of the book, and should seek something more. However, it is the perfect book for introductory course or a student whose aim is just to explore the related areas for fun or to overcome so-called quatitative bias.

Except the thin (and sometimes superficial) introduction, the book is well written, beautifully organized, and very informative for any readers who are not familiar with the author's endorsed perspective.

- sense-making practice of modernity ... the most important textual system in the world.
- information and commentary on contemporary affairs taken to be publicly important.
- George Moss concludes that the role of media in determining the outcome of the war was "peripheral, minor, trivial, in fact, so inconsequential it is unmeasurable."
- In Argentina, President Juan Peron is reported to have said that "with all the media in our hands we were thrown out in 1955, and with all the media against us we came back in 1973."
They are a part of culture, .... "a power, something to which social events, behaviors, institutions, or processes can be causally attributed," but "a context, something within which they can be intelligently .. described."
- Information as cause: Not plausible! The cause is always what really happened, not the message about what happened.
- Five sources of distortion are frequently cited: news is said to be typically, (1) event-oriented, (2) negative, (3) detached, (4) technical; and (5) official.
- Black Journalist Vanesa Williams asks why the killing of a white middle-class person generated more news coverage than does that of a black lower-class person. She answers, "Because the people who make decisions about what is newsworthy more readily identify with victims who look like them and live like them and are utterly frightened or outraged when bad things happened to them. The coverage reflects that fear and outrage."
- The black candidate was presented as preoccupied with self-interest, while white political actors were more often pictured as oriented to the public interest.

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