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Lindsey Crain
Professor Frechette
Media Criticism
Reading Response 3

When the founding fathers were drafting the constitution, one of the first rights of the

American people was the right to a free press. From pamphlets to newspapers to the radio to the

newsrooms and eventually to the internet, the news media are a prominent right of the American

people. Millions of Americans receive their news daily, but is it really the same fair and free

press we grew up believing in. Ever since the Telecommunication act of 1996, lifting nearly all

ownership restrictions of television and radio, over $70 billion worth of free airwaves was given

to broadcast and cable industries (Campbell, Jensen, Gomery, Fabos, & Frechette, 2014, 109-

110). With almost all of our media being controlled by big corporations, it is easy for stories to

get skewed to their side. The news media plays a huge role in the portrayal of Women in the

media, racial fatigue, politics and the rise of fake news.

For centuries, women across the globe have been subjected to sexual harassment. Not

even 60 years have passed since sexual harassment was brought to the public with the passage of

Title VII that prohibited sex discrimination in the workplace. It also was not until 1975 when the

term sexual harassment was created by Cornell University activists (Frechette, 2017). Years have

passed and the corporate press is still controlled by men, who make up 97% of media ownership

and 64% of journalists (Bedford, Edelman, Kim, Freeman, & Davis, 2015). Having this much

male-dominated media created the male gaze theory. “The male gaze theory posits that because

men control the creation of media; the media messages are dominated by a male point of view.

The CEOs of the six companies that own 90% of media are all white males,” (Bedford et al.,
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2017). Women are objectified by the male gaze. In a Snickers commercial, we see construction

workers (actors) yelling compliments at women who are walking past them. According to Lisa

Wade,

The first thing women do is get uncomfortable, revealing how a lifetime of experience

makes them cringe at the prospect of a man yelling at them. But, as women realize

what’s going on, they’re obviously delighted. They love the idea of getting support and

respect instead of harassment from strange men (Wade, 2014).

At the end of the commercial, it turns out the men were just hungry and were not acting like

themselves. With commercials like this in our mainstream media, it is easy for sexual harassment

to become normalized. You also have these big corporations defending sexual harassment. The

New York Times investigative reporting discovered that Fox news and 21st Century had defended

Bill O’Reilly’s lengthy record of sexual harassment, totaling $13 million dollars in settlements

with several women (Frechette, 2017). In the media, it is prominently male values being shown.

Another factor we have to look at in our media is racial fatigue.

With the election of Barack Obama, there was some hope for better representation of

African Americans in the media. Unfortunately, according to a study by the Pew Research

Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “Black Americans were covered in less than 2

percent of mainstream media stories during the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency, though

African Americans comprise 12.9 percent of the U.S. population,” (Muwakkil, 2010). The

research center also noticed that when the media did give coverage to black issues, they “tended

to focus more on specific episodes than on examining how broader issues and trends affected the

lives of blacks generally,” (Muwakkil, 2010). During this report, one of the biggest stories for

African Americans was the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., with
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over 67,000 news reports on it (Muwakkil,2010) In the media, African Americans are still

portrayed through a very narrow viewpoint. Journalism in the U.S. has been evolving but not for

the better.

One of our biggest problems is the crisis of journalism, according to McChesney this

occurs “when there is corruption of journalism, decline of investigative reporting, horse race

coverage of political campaigns, degeneration of political reporting and international journalism,

collapse of local journalism and increased prevalence of news of celebrities and scandals,”

(McChesney, 2009). Since most of our media is owned by corporations they do not want their

journalists reporting on what their businesses are up to. Journalism has always struggled to

balance its role as public servant and its role as a profit-making business enterprise (Campbell et

al., 2014). One of their biggest profits is political elections. By 2012, the presidential campaigns

were spending up to $1 billion on political tv ads (Campbell et al., 2014, 118). Most of the time

politics use these adds to spread false information about the other candidates. Also, in the 2012

political election, the supreme court case, United v. the Federal Election Committee, ruled that

corporations and unions have the same political free speech as individuals (Campbell et al.,

2014, 118). This allowed businesses to use their own funds to run their own campaign ads and

donations. To run for a high official position, like the president, you need to have millions of

dollars just to get your name out there and face up against corporate America.

With the 2016 election being one of the most controversial elections, it was a piggy bank

for media. Trump was given heavy coverage compared to his opponents. Data from mediaQuant

reported that Trump was given $1.9 billion worth of news coverage while Ted Cruz received

around $300 million and Hillary Clinton receiving less than $750 million (Rutenberg, 2016). The

reason Trump got so much more coverage was due to the ratings he produced. According to Jim
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Rutenberg, a reporter for the New York Times, he met with Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, and

when asked about ratings he said, “These numbers are crazy – crazy,” (Rutenberg, 2016). CNN

was receiving 40 times what they make on an average night during debate nights according to the

Advertising Age (Rutenberg, 2016). Another topic that became popular with the 2016 election is

fake news.

After the Stoneman Douglas high school massacre on Valentine’s day in Parkland

Florida, immediately there was fake news being posted about the survivors. A group of teens

from the school made national coverage advocating for gun safety laws. Articles were popping

up left and right claiming they were crisis actors placed by the left wing to push their anti-gun

agenda. Unfortunately, this is common practice after mass shootings, even after the slaughter of

kindergarteners at Sandy Hook Elementary people were claiming online it was set up by the

government. A professor at the University of Washington, Kate Starbird, has seen a rise of

alternative websites, usually far-left or far-right, creating a new media ecosystem (Westneat,

2017). With the help of the internet, fake news can be spread rapidly. An example of this is when

Eric Tucker saw a bunch of coach buses, later deemed buses for a Tableau Software conference,

and tweeted claiming they were paid ant-trump protestors (Maheshwari, 2016). Tucker had a

mere 40 followers and did not think the tweet would gain so much momentum. It was then

posted by right-wing forums and Facebook pages and gained over 100,000 views, even Trump

tweeted about the “paid protestors” saying on November 10, 2016 “Just had a very open and

successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are

protesting. Very unfair!” (Maheshwari, 2016). When Tucker was asked if he thought Trump was

tweeting about his information Tucker said, “I don’t want to say why Trump tweeted when he

tweeted. I just don’t know and I truthfully don’t think any of us will ever know.” (Maheshwari,
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2016). One of the fastest ways for fake news to spread is through the social networking site,

Facebook.

After finding out that over 87 million peoples Facebook privacy information had been

shared, it is more important than ever to stay alert to the information we are receiving on our

Facebook news feed. According to Columbia Journalism Review, nearly 30% of fake news is

linked back to Facebook with only 8% of real news traffic (Nelson, 2017). Mark Hachman, the

senior editor of PCWorld, did a test to see how Facebook users are seeing the partisan fake news.

He created two separate Facebook accounts, one pro-Hillary and the other pro-Trump, did not

accept any friend requests, just liked suggested pages for their demographics (Hachman, 2017).

He found on the Republicans Facebook “over a little more than two days, we counted 10 such

posts in his feed that were fake, most accusing Democrats or their supporters of illegal activity,”

(Hachman, 2017). The other account saw zero fake news stories. With the rise of the internet and

the decline of journalism, it is important to always check facts on every article on the internet.

A free press is the heart of a true democracy. It allows the people to stay informed on

important issues in everyday life. Women are still underrepresented in the media and still follow

the ideas of the male gaze. African Americans are still not getting the coverage on issues that

affect them every day. Politics has turned into the rich and powerful being able to consume all

the media attention during election season. Fake news is affecting how people vote for powerful

positions. If our free press is in danger then our democracy is also in danger as well. It is up to

the well-informed citizen to find the truth and vote for the truth.
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Resources

Bedford, C., Edelman, D., Kim, E., Freeman, L., & Davis, L. (2015, May 06). Male Gaze and its

Impact on Gender Portrayals in Media - Censored Notebook. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

http://projectcensored.org/male-gaze-and-its-impact-on-gender-portrayals-in-media/

Campbell, R., Jensen, J., Gomery, D. `., Fabos, B., & Frechette, J. (2014). Media in society. Boston:

Bedford/St. Martins.

Frechette, J. (2017, May 09). Tip of the Day: The Unfair and Imbalanced Culture of Sexual

Harassment at Fox News - Censored Notebook. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

http://projectcensored.org/tip-day-unfair-imbalanced-culture-sexual-harassment-fox-news/

Hachman, M. (2017, September 07). Just how partisan is Facebook's fake news? We tested it.

Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://www.pcworld.com/article/3142412/windows/just-how-

partisan-is-facebooks-fake-news-we-tested-it.html

Maheshwari, S. (2017, December 22). How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study. Retrieved April

10, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/business/media/how-fake-news-

spreads.html

McChesney, R. (n.d.). The Political Economy of Media. Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

http://hope.journ.wwu.edu/tpilgrim/j190/MacNUBOOKch5.html

Muwakkil, S. (2010, September 28). Media Blackout In the Age of Obama. Retrieved April 10,

2018, from http://inthesetimes.com/article/6413/media_blackout_in_the_age_of_obama

Nelson, J. (2017, January 31). Is 'fake news' a fake problem? Retrieved April 10, 2018, from

https://www.cjr.org/analysis/fake-news-facebook-audience-drudge-breitbart-study.php
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Wade, L. (2014, December 27). Snickers Mocks the Idea that Men Can Respect Women. Retrieved

April 9, 2018, from https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2014/12/27/snickers-mocks-the-idea-

that-men-can-respect-women/

Westneat, D. (2017, October 31). UW professor: The information war is real, and we're losing it.

Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/uw-professor-

the-information-war-is-real-and-were-losing-it/