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the strategic communicator

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Month

July 2015

Sources, Credibility, and Social Media

As an expecting father I find myself drawn toward health news for pregnancy and infants, so this New York Times article about children suffering from sleep apnea caught my eye. I was happy to focus on a health piece because these types of articles have real-life impact for many readers. Now, when a child begins snoring in their sleep, parents who read this will likely want to discuss it with their pediatrician.

As I evaluated the sources I quickly came to trust them because of their titles. First, we have Barrett Treadway’s mother. Clearly, Mrs. Treadway is a subject matter expert of her daughter’s sleep habits, even admitting herself that she became aware of how severe the issue was after sharing a bed with her child. Then we have Dr. David Gozal, a pediatric sleep specialist, whose title literally refers to every aspect of this story. Not to mention he and colleagues published research in 2008 in this area in Pediatric Neurology. And finally, we have yet another medical professional with published credentials. Carole L. Marcus, a professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and her colleagues conducted research on the benefits of the positive airway pressure (PAP) machine with children.

Given the two medical professionals’ titles and their articles in peer-reviewed publications, I trust these sources whole-heartedly.

This article is a great example of journalism of verifications because focuses on a well-researched topic and answering questions. I researched Jane Brody, the author, and found that she’s an award winning columnist who has been reporting on medicine and biology for almost 50 years. Given her long history of writing in this field, I have a sense of trust with the reporter’s knowledge.

Given that it is not unusual for a doctor to wear multiple hats, I did an online check of their names to ensure they had no affiliation with a company that produces PAP machines or weight-loss products for children. Since I found no affiliations that would suggest their research had other motives, I feel confident that these sources were well-chosen for this story.

Overall, I believe article is sound and credible Brody did a good job of just gathering the facts and sticking to the story rather than add bias or his own personal opinion.

  1. Bloggers play an interesting role in the world of communications. Anyone can have a blog – and while that’s great for giving a voice to the “little guy,” it can also be very dangerous because some people truly believe that if it’s online, it’s legitimate. There are some very well-researched bloggers, who are attempting to serve a purpose or fill an information void, but it has been my experience that these are the exception to the rule. Typically, bloggers use their platform to produce poorly referenced Op-Ed pieces. Of course, as you read my blog I’ll do my best to be in the minority category! If the blogger is making a statement, it’s important to scan for a source. Whenever I’m looking at a story from a blog, if I don’t see a source and the headline or first couple sentences indicate they’re taking a stand on a subject, I’ll stop reading. I have a lot of people I work with and interact with and I can get opinions from them. If a blogger is attempting to inform or sway a topic’s discussion I want some solid reporting, not just their observations. As far as trusting non-professionals, I will say that journalism is a lot more like a trade than many professions. I don’t think it requires a four-year degree to contribute to the field of journalism, but I do think there has to be some mentoring and even some on-the-job training. A lot of the mistakes I made in my early days reporting were rectified in the newsroom after class. So, if a non-professional is passionate and learns the skills of our trade and does their best to apply them, I think they can definitely contribute trustworthy products to the industry.
  2. Social media has done to spreading information what the airplane did to transportation. It’s taken something that existed already and made it incredibly faster and, in doing so, spread messages around the world. Whenever talk of social media and its impact arises, I always think of the Arab Spring. Twitter became the world’s eyes and ears at the front-line of civilian unrest. Social media was not only responsible for sharing this information with the world, but it also helped the organizers of these events share information with the local public, and people on the street coordinate with each other. People could find out where protests were happening, where there was violence, and what was going to happen next on their phone. This real-time information led to masses converging and demonstrating against their governments.

References:
Arab Spring. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring

Brody, Jane. (2015, July 27). Snoring Children May Suffer From Sleep Apnea. Retrieved July 28, 2015, from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/27/snoring-children-may-suffer-from-sleep-apnea/?ref=health

Brody, Jane. (n.d.) Jane Brody’s Bio. Retrieved July 29, 2015 from http://janebrody.net/bio.html

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Examining Media Use and Influence

Like most internet-savvy individuals I’m online most of the day. I start each morning reading Google News on my phone as I try to wake up. If I see a topic of particular interest I’ll go to twitter and see what else is being tweeted about in regards to that issue. I’ll also scroll through reddit’s front page to see what is popular on that site. Throughout the day, I stay up to date with social networking sites Facebook and Instagram. Periodically, I scroll through my feeds to see what my family and friends are doing or what articles they are sharing. In the evening when I’m winding down for bed, I end the day just like I started – on Google News reading the headlines. When I want to grab a bite in an unknown area I open my Yelp app. I use media sites to see if there were any product alerts for things I want to purchase.

This isn’t a one way road though…

Media is constantly reaching out to me in a variety of ways – whether it’s seeing an interesting article someone shared on Facebook or talking with colleagues about things we heard or saw the night before. I receive weather and breaking news alerts on my phone and sometimes in my email. Not to mention, the allure of apps like Buzzfeed, which sneaks hard news onto a site otherwise dominated by quizzes or pictures of cute animals with captions. Media has the power to both educate and to persuade. If someone was exposed to a particular news outlet only, it seems to reason that they would view world events through a tinted lens. In my life I notice this with relatives who solely watch particular Fox News programming. Had they discussed the national issues with family members or read a variety of sources I think they’d hold a different view than they currently do. The encouragement of media loyalty is also a piece to the puzzle. I read an article recently that discussed how newscasters have recently become newsmakers and celebrity of sorts. (Silberman, 2015) All major networks encourage exclusivity, claiming they offer the most likable newscasters and the best coverage of issues. No matter the network, the issues or the newscasters it’s hard to believe coverage is unbiased and “the best” anything. Every network is battling for ratings, every website and blog for web hits. Everyone is human and a slant is introduced whether we want to admit it or not.

And no matter the slant, the media wields a lot of power. It’s obvious when you sit down and speak with someone who only watches Fox News or MSNBC how someone can be manipulated by the media into a particular mindset. (Arendt and Northup, 2014) Or perhaps they already had the mindset and sought out the news network to validate these feelings. So maybe these slants were initiated in reaction to public’s desire, either way it’s a sad reality for those who are unaware such things exist. The perpetuation of this cycle shows that the news isn’t unbiased; it is simply a business with the intention of gaining followers and earning profits. (Curtis, 2012)

It’s hard to view media outlets as solely business ventures when they employ such passionate individuals for their networks. Many of the hosts on 24-hour news networks aren’t unbiased and are unapologetic about their viewpoints. They have gained a following because of how they present the news and their followers have become very faithful. I don’t think fans would take a plunge off a bridge because their favorite anchor suggested they do, but I do think more subtle things take place. For example, newscasters’ coverage of a popular political issue like Medicare or social security could cause someone to vote against their best interest in an upcoming election.

But, not all media and newscasters are polarizing or attempting to sway their subscribers. I think the vast majority of media outlets are happy to provide coverage of the day’s news without allowing their biases to impact the coverage too much. One major reason for this is the rise of citizen journalism. Thanks to smartphones, and the internet, every citizen has the ability to record and share history. This can be as simple as filming a police officer interaction with someone or live tweeting from the front line of a riot in another country. In addition to citizen reporting is user-aggregated news. Sites like Digg and reddit operate on this model. Users upload the stories they find interesting and others up vote or down vote them and they rise or fall in accordance with the number of the votes they receive. In my experience, this is a game-changer for news media. Instead of being the only organization in a town or small city, people can now read news stories from around the world that are being recommended by like-minded people. This model has taken the power from the few companies that control media outlets and has put it into the hands of the user/consumer. This type of news exposure can certainly allow some to obtain a more diverse view of the world.

References:

Arendt, Florian & Northup, Temple (2015). Effects of Long-Term Exposure to News Stereotypes  on Implicit and Explicit Attitude. International Journal of Communication 9, 732–751. http://ijoc.org/index.php/ijoc/article/viewFile/2691/1325

Curtis, Anthony. (June 23, 2012). Mass Media Influence on Society. University of North Carolina at Pembroke resources for courses. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20131207222642/http://www.uncp.edu/home/acurtis/Courses/ResourcesForCourses/PDFs/Mass_Media_Influence_on_Society.pdf

Silberman, Joel. (2015, February 12). How Newscasters Have Sadly Become Bigger Than the News. Attn. Retrieved from http://www.attn.com/stories/903/brian-williams-network-news

Hello world!

Happy Monday out there in internet-world! I’m excited to be blogging for a grad school course I’m taking, but will do my best to pepper in bits of humor or anecdotes from life should someone happen across this and wish to be entertained.

Enjoy.

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