Media, Where the Content is Secondary

Guest Post by: Ricardo Anzola, student.

“What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.” – W.H. Auden

Hang Man

Game Theory album cover, by The Roots

Often we encounter situations in which the Media takes a story or piece and wraps it together in a way, invisible to the naked eye, that brings out the “most audience” or “best ratings.” Though it is safe to say this isn’t a recent occurrence. Estimating the right amount it’s a waste of both time and brain power since it’d be easier to just count when real stories are on the front page.

The Media, capitalized to emphasize it as an entity, has taken a turn for the worst in recent years. Don’t believe me? Just turn on your TV or open up the latest issue of your favorite magazine. What you’ll see is not a fully structured, well developed story. That would be “too boring,” “too dull.” No, what you’ll see is entertainment, as they like to call it, that will leave you plastered on your seat for an immeasurable amount of hours a day. What you see can be called nothing but “herding the masses,” in my opinion. Networks that used to deliver conscious and educational content have opted for the easy way out and focused on things like “The Kardashians” and “The Amazing World of Gumball” which have no point, sequence, educational content or anything that can become a significant part of everyday life. Not to mention, that this is TV alone. News reports aren’t spared either. There’s been many instances where reports have been given erroneously and without previous background checking. It is here where the problem lies.

I took part in a presentation, today, about a rape case that had too many loose ends to be considered real. The problem? It was published in the Rolling Stone magazine, a well revered magazine read by millions. Just picture this: Young woman claims to have been allegedly gang raped by frat boys, but doesn’t go to the police. When interviewed, she asked for her name to be publicized. The editor did not perform a background check and wrote an entire piece on a single testimony. One can only assume why such little interest and devotion was put into this, but my best guess is: It was done for the sake of readership. Who wouldn’t want to read about a gang rape by university students? Even more so if published in a big-time magazine. It must be true…right? Survey says….nope. Time after publication, more research was done on the case. This then brought to light that the party the defendant was raped in didn’t even happen. Now you might think that this is a case in a million, but the media does this all the time. If you want further proof, just look up the Time Magazine’s covers for the last 5 years and compare the publications in the United States versus a cover in any other part of the world. The age of information-giving is over. Now all that remains is sensationalism and the boosting of reputation at any cost. As Niccolo Machiavelli would say “the ends justifies the means.”


UVA Story Begins to Unravel: Rape. Reporting. Loyalty.

Guest Post by: Amanda T. Smith, student


Image from “Rolling Stone” magazine

Rape: Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration initiated against one or more individuals without the consent of those individuals (definition of rape, UVA website) Reporting: an account or statement describing in detail an event, situation, or the like, usually as the result of observation, inquiry, etc. Loyalty: the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations. These are the three key aspects in the UVA Gang rape case. How do they align? In this specific case a young woman named Jackie met a reporter from Rolling Stone and felt the need to let her story be told. Jackie reported that she was gang raped by members of Phi Kappa Psi, and the story was published for the world to see. Rape victims are often silenced, but in this case Stephanie Erdely cared enough to get Jackie’s story down on paper and tell the world. Finally, a rape story was being taken seriously! Rape victims all over the world were sure to have felt empowered and maybe even filled with courage to let their stories be told and bring light to the reality that rape does indeed happen. But then, no more than one month later, Rolling Stone printed a retraction. It stated, “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.” This retraction changed everything! Not only was the entire story not credible, reputations were ruined, and on a bigger scales, rape victims were now taken even less serious as there were before. The stereotypes surrounding rape victims, and the harsh ideas that they are all “liars” or “attention seekers,” were now affirmed through this retraction. So who was to blame? Jackie? Who could have most definitely experienced rape and simply exaggerated a few of the details? Or Stephanie, who through good intentions and her loyalty to empathy and compassion failed to fact check? Although her intentions might have been good, this backfired. Now, because of their retractions, rape victims everywhere are looked at to be less credible. Fraternities and all of the negative connotations associated with them, because of a poorly written story, are affirmed. The credibility of a trusted source is lessened, and a school’s name is dragged through the mud for not being more responsive and alert to these types of crimes happening on their campuses. So, what do you do? Do you believe the poor rape victim who has mustered up enough courage to tell her story and respect her wish to not contact anyone else? Or do you uphold a code and fact check all sides of every story, even if it discredits what might have been a true allegation? In this case, Stephanie Erdely chose to be loyal to her heart, but at what cost?

Loyalty: A Vital Ethical Concept in the Creation and Consumption of Media

Guest Post by: Ashley Argall, student

As a second semester senior at Marquette, I have successfully completed two philosophy classes during my time here. However, until a week ago, I had never heard of the philosophical concept of Loyalty. For that reason alone, I am glad I have made it through the first two weeks of my Media Ethics class this semester.

Loyalty, in the context of ethics, is the idea that every time a person makes a decision in life, he or she is essentially answering the question: “To whom or to what will I be loyal?”

There are, truly, thousands of ways to exemplify this concept, because it applies to every single decision we make every day – from small things, like, “Will I brush my teeth this morning?” to bigger things, like, “Which job offer will I accept?”

In the first example, if I decide to go ahead brush my teeth in the morning, I have decided to be loyal to my health, my dentist, the people with which I will talk that day (so I don’t bombard them with bad breath), etc. If the answer is no, I may have decided to be loyal to sleeping in 2 minutes longer, getting to class on time, or saving water.

When it comes to making ethical decisions, the concept of loyalty plays an even bigger, and oftentimes more complicated, role. In the world of communications, ethical decisions are a constant occurrence. These decisions do not come without consequence. Journalists, advertisers, and public relations professionals have an incredible amount of influence over the values and beliefs of the society in which they work. Therefore, ethical decisions made within the realm of mass communications are powerful.

DecisionsI truly believe that anyone considering a job in mass communications should be aware of the ethical concept of Loyalty. If all communications professionals understood that every time they and their coworkers made decisions, they were being loyal to one thing over another, they could become more attuned to actions within their company that may be stemming from unethical motives. As stated previously, when a mass communications organization is driven by unethical loyalties, the consequence is a negative effect on society as a whole.

Here’s an example to illustrate. A journalist who is unaware of the concept of Loyalty will not have thought consciously ahead of time about where he believes his loyalties as a journalist should lie. One example of a good loyalty for a journalist to have is a loyalty to society as a whole by creating balanced, accurate stories. If the journalist had not consciously established this loyalty to balanced reporting for himself ahead of time, he could easily become wrapped up in creating a story that simply attracts the most attention. In other words, his loyalty in that situation would unknowingly lean more toward his own personal success and profit, as opposed to creating a news story that is most beneficial for society. Had he been able to consciously see where to which causes his actions were being loyal in that situation, he may have reported his story differently…. and in an arguably better way.

Communications professionals are not the only ones who need to understand the concept of Loyalty. It is also an extremely important concept for media consumers (i.e. everyone) to understand. Media consumers who have a solid idea of where media outlets’ loyalties potentially could lie will have a better ability to analyze the media messages coming at them and detect ones that may be unethically motivated.

Educated media creators and media consumers are both vital to the formation of an ethically sound society.

Mindfulness Shared

A student from last semester sent me a note after returning from a two-week service trip to South Africa. Prior to my class he had no knowledge of mindfulness. He described how on this trip he practiced mindfulness, intertwining it with his normal day-to-day activities. “I noticed myself also utilizing mindfulness in a new culture. I wanted to share that with you because the things you are teaching are making an impact on students’ lives’ – not only in Milwaukee, but across the globe.” He also sent a link to an article in Time about Nine Ways to Practice Mindfulness and succeed professionally. Thought I’d share it.

  • Forgive and forget

Don’t get sucked into drama. Let it go and move on to important things.

  • Breathe before you blast

When angry breathe before you respond to anyone, in any way.

  • Stop judging

Mistakes help us all learn. Harping brings you and others down.

  • Follow your heart

Choose your work with intention. When it doesn’t fit move on.

  • Still your mind daily

Carve out time each morning to still your mind. Make it a habit.

  • Salute your enemies

Bow to the divine within your enemies. You may have fewer of them.

  • Take victory in stride

Don’t get attached to your success, you’ll be less able to cope with defeat.

  • Sleep more

It’s the best form of mediation.

  • Enjoy the journey

Life is short. Enjoy what you do and you’ll do it better.