Module 3 Module 3 Module 3 Module 3
Module 3 Presentation Readings Assignments

Go on to Part 5 - Current Trends in Mass Communications
Go back to Part 3 - The Nature of Mass Communications

The 5 Main Roles of Mass Communication in Society

Page 1 of 4

1) Surveillance - This isn't snooping but refers to the news and information role of the media

2) Interpretation

3) Linkage

4) Establishing Values

5) Entertainment

1) Surveillance

The news and information sharing role of the media. Two of the more common kinds are:

Warning Surveillance
"Hurricane Warning"
"Smoking causes cancer!"
"Terrorist Attack Immanent"

Atlantic coast infra-red photo
Naples Daily News "Hurricane 2008"

Instrumental Surveillance
Helpful tips for everyday living

Lard Information Council

Consequences of Relying on Mass Communications for Surveillance

1) Errors
Speed kills accuracy. The faster news is reported, the fewer gatekeepers check it, the more chance of error.

The "New York Post" extra on the right happened for a simple reason. The "Post" relied on an "inside tip" for their headline.

The rush to get the "news" out first and the "never-ending news cycle," which we'll study in detail in Module 4, continue to lead the news media down the path to errors.

The pirouettes are amazing, says Brokaw, who was analyzing the campaign on MSNBC. The utter confidence with which everyone had been wrong 20 minutes earlier, they have the same utter confidence about what produced this surprise. It's intellectually dishonest."

Click here to read "In Picking the Victors, Media Get Another Drubbing."
Click for larger image
©New York Post

"Jeffrey T. Kuhner, whose Web site published the first anonymous smear of the 2008 presidential race, is hardly the only editor who will not reveal his reporters’ sources. What sets him apart is that he will not even disclose the names of his reporters.
The controversy started with a quickly discredited Jan. 17 article on the Insight Web site asserting that the presidential campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was preparing an accusation that her rival, Senator Barack Obama, had covered up a brief period he had spent in an Islamic religious school in Indonesia when he was 6."

Click here to read "Feeding Frenzy for a Big Story".

2) Credibility
Who do you believe? Walter Cronkite was "the most trusted news man in America." But how about now? Do you trust the "O'Reily Factor" The "National Inquirer"? How much credibility does "The New York Post" have with its readers now?

"There was one detail the audience didn't know: Kodak paid Mr. Oppenheim to mention the photo album, according to the company and Mr. Oppenheim. Neither Mr. Oppenheim nor KVUE disclosed the relationship to viewers. During the segment, Mr. Oppenheim praised products from other companies, including: Atari Inc., Microsoft Corp., Mattel Inc., Leapfrog Enterprises Inc. and RadioShack Corp. All paid for the privilege, Mr. Oppenheim says."

Click here to read "How Companies Pay TV Experts."

"The spot, bought by a public-relations company instead of an ad agency, is the latest twist in the morphing of news and public relations. As the media world assesses new ground rules, producer Medialink Worldwide says "branded journalism" is the best way to advertise in a splintered market. Instead of sending out video news releases in hopes that stations and cable networks will air them, PR firms are actually creating the newscast, then buying spots on networks the way a Madison Avenue firm would. If viewers were confused before, they'll certainly have a hard time discerning news updates from mini-infomercials now."

Click here to read "The Art of Manufactured News".

3) Anxiety
Is that hurricane REALLY going to hit? Do cell phones REALLY cause brain cancer? Am I going to catch anthrax? Will the terrorists attack tomorrow?

The front page on the right, from the "Los Angeles Daily News", has two major "scare" headlines featuring the words "crash" and "toxins". The major photo story is about a tragic crime.

The Module 2 reading, "The Other Parent" painted a dire picture of childhood. The media bombards us with warnings of "video game addicts" and "rampant drug use and sexual behavior" among teens.

But the reality is different from the media hype. The "2008 Index of Child Well-Being." notes "Our age-specific composite well-being indices show that improvements in child and youth well-being across the 12 years from 1994 to 2006 have benefited the infancy/early childhood and middle childhood ages as well as the adolescent ages. The composite well-being indices for the three groups follow very similar trends."

"Among the indicators studied, there are several that show improving or 'good news' trends from 1994 to 2006, including declining infant and early childhood mortality rates, declining prevalence of blood lead poisoning, declining rates of mothers who smoke during pregnancy, increasing enrollments of children ages 4-6 in full-day kindergarten, increasing scores on mathematics and reading tests, declining rates of 6th graders who fear attack or harm in school or on the trip to and from school, and increases in rates of participation in school-related extracurricular lessons."

LA Daily News
Click for larger image
©Los Angeles Daily News
4) False Hope
Can AIDS be cured by magnets?
Is the kidnap victim alive?
Is the recession over?
Can I be cured by this treatment I read in the news?

In May, the New York Times reported "Within a year, if all goes well, the first cancer patient will be injected with two new drugs that can eradicate any type of cancer, with no obvious side effects and no drug resistance - in mice."

The report cautioned that high hopes for cancer cures have gone unfulfilled many times. But it also quoted the Nobel laureate James (Double Helix) Watson as saying that the scientist running the research "is going to cure cancer in two years." The article ran in May of 1998.

5) Inflated Status
Only really important people or events are covered in the media. And the media only covers really important people or events.

In the front page to the right, which is the more important story - the bruises or the possible attack?

"Television journalism has a propensity to get into a competition to be first with the obvious. In the wake of 60 Minutes demonstrating that a television news program can be profitable, there has been, over the past 25 years, an enormous amount of pressure for television news to make money. You don't make money, for the most part, by covering subjects like the economy, race relations, politics or foreign policy. You're more inclined to make money by covering stories like the stain on Monica Lewinsky's dress, or the O.J. Simpson story or the tiny tot beauty queen who was murdered."

"Those kinds of stories get a ton of coverage ... The essence of journalism has to do with sorting out that which is important from that which is not. We tend to focus on the trivial and ignore the important."
-Ted Koppel, interviewed by Mort Silverstein on "Television in America: An Autobiography."

Click here to read "The Downward Spiral of Television News."

The 5 Main Roles of Mass Communication in Society

Page 1 of 4
This is an official FGCU web page. Revised 01/01/2011
©2011, Terry Dugas

All media, Copyright, respective owners. Media used within copyright Fair Use guidelines as outlined by the University of Texas, Stanford University, and others.
Florida Gulf Coast University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.