September 12, 2005

Welcome to the Media Concepts Blog

Welcome to the Media Concepts blog, created today. The title "media concepts" reflects my long-held view that the media are the most important influences on our lives.

Whether or not you agree, hopefully this will inspire some debate. For example, many might say that religion is the most important influence on peoples' lives. However, if that is true, it is probably because religion has become a worldwide influence due to the media. Didn't we learn in jr. high that the invention of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th Century spread the Bible throughout the world for the first time, and that, in turn, the Bible was the first mass marketed media product that created demand for more printing presses and their products? Well, tv and the Internet obviously increase that influence exponentially. I believe that the media are the opiate of the masses. I have seen this influence in my professional career, which has been spent entirely in the media. I was at the new Cable News Network (CNN) in the early and mid 1980's, both at its Atlanta headquarters and in its New York bureau, located in the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. CNN became the Gutenberg printing press of its day, and spawned an entire industry of 24-hour cable news channels that, depending on one's viewpoint, have been a godsend or a curse, or both. At CNN, I worked on the original "Crossfire" program featuring conservative curmudgeon Pat Buchanan and liberal lion Tom Braden (author of the autobiographical "Eight is Enough"). "Crossfire," which was only recently cancelled after more than 20 years on the air and numerous personnel changes, helped spawn the "food fight format" of cable news that is so prevalent today on programs such as "Hardball," "The Capital Gang," "The Beltway Boys" and others. After CNN, I spent nearly the past 2 decades as an attorney in the communications field, specializing in television and cable, and being directly involved in the shaping of the rules and laws that govern how the media are used to inform and entertain. I am now looking for a new professional challenge, but I'm sure it will be in the media as well.

Of course, those media-related rules and laws, as well as the rules, laws and policies that govern our safety, security and economic well-being, are crafted by parties who are, or who are pressured by, powerful interests who often have narrow, selfish, and even dangerous motives. But that will have to be the subject of another post. Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by!


At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Matt:
Interesting and well writen. However, I believe media does not really shape opinion, since most of us hold views and bias from youth, persons of influence and other experiences, and these are only reinforced, not changed by media. This is because we listen, read and watch only those media which are slanted towards our bias. So a liberal, for example, will be exposed to only liberal media and will not be convinced nor swayed from his predispositions.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Thanks for the response. Interesting comment re viewing media that simply reinforces or informs what we already believe. I think people do attempt to do that, and have some success now with those very cable channels that I have worked with for so many years. The Faux News Channel is perhaps the best example of where to get something that is obviously not fair or balanced. The religious networks (using the media in that powerful combo I mentioned earlier) are another place to do so. But if media does not shape opinion, and we hold our views from youth, where did we get them in our youth? There are lots of advertisers spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year betting that people can indeed be influenced by media messages. Many of these advertisers try like hell to sell cereal, candy and toys, often in the same box, to kids. Then they try to sell much more expensive toys, like cars, to adults. Can these advertisers all be wrong? And what happens when people living in poverty are repeatedly exposed to this mass advertising for consumer goods, many of which they will never be able to afford? Do they covet them? Do they become angry? Very angry? Disaffected? Do they take any actions (for example rioting? looting? worse? as a result?) It's certainly something I've thought about, which is related to what I've written already, and would be a good topic for another post.

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opinions are formed in youth by our parents, role models, schools, teachers,friends etc. Advertising has only a tactical and short term impact; Barbie dolls, cars, clothes etc; not a long term strategic efect. Rioting and looting are the result of cultural deficiencies; broken families, no value or ethical standards and behavior rules ever imposed; mistaken role models (rappers for example). Most peopple suffering from poverty and deprivation do not riot nor loot.
(And the "faux" network is no different from the NY Times or CNN.)

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous DWG said...

If "Opinions are formed in youth by our parents, role models, schools, teachers,friends etc." as H. hypothesizes, how can I have come from blue-collar-but-very-right-wing parents, but end up, against their will, a white-collar-liberal? For that matter, how did my parents, whose parents are on one side working class immigrants and on the other midwestern liberals end up the way they did?

On the other hand, there has been precious little media influence in my life suggesting that I should consume less, conserve more, and seek the betterment of those who are not like me. Nevertheless, that's where I end up.

Something tells me that the recipe for the soup that is the human spirit has many more ingredients than parentage and media.

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Matt said...

H, it appears your views are out of the mainstream. None other than bleeding heart liberal George W. Bush said yesterday that fighting poverty is key to ending terrorism. This was reported in the washington post (title of article says it all: At U.N., Bush Links War on Terrorism to Anti-Poverty Efforts) and everywhere else, I'm sure. Terrorism is the ultimate extension of the disaffection I was talking about, and was what I had in mind, if that wasn't apparent on the surface.

At 7:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Washington Post is not the greatest source for reading about GWB's UN speech. I listened to it firsthand. The headline should have been: GWB says "First clean up your act here at the UN, guys, and then better all get together and fight terrorism, the greatest scourge of our times".
Until the world gets the real reason for terrorism (radical Islamic fundamentalists for the most part), who are out to destroy our way of life and impose theirs, we have a tough road ahead.
Frankly, altho I thought GWB gave a good Katrina speech last nite, I was dissapointed to hear about throwing more money away in the hope of fighting poverty. I do not think he really believed that, but had to say it for political reasons.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Matt said...

Here are the relevant excerpts from Bush's speech, as printed on the White House web site:

"The United Nations was born in the hope that survived a world war -- the hope of a world moving toward justice, escaping old patterns of conflict and fear. The founding members resolved that the peace of the world must never again be destroyed by the will and wickedness of any man. We created the United Nations Security Council, so that, unlike the League of Nations, our deliberations would be more than talk, our resolutions would be more than wishes. After generations of deceitful dictators and broken treaties and squandered lives, we dedicated ourselves to standards of human dignity shared by all, and to a system of security defended by all.

Today, these standards, and this security, are challenged. Our commitment to human dignity is challenged by persistent poverty and raging disease. The suffering is great, and our responsibilities are clear. The United States is joining with the world to supply aid where it reaches people and lifts up lives, to extend trade and the prosperity it brings, and to bring medical care where it is desperately needed."

"As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. (Applause.) This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning."

That sounds like the Democrats' agenda. So did his speech last night, which I agree with you consisted of "throwing more money" (your term)to aid the region hit by Katrina. If I had merely read the speech and didn't know who had given it, I might have thought it was LBJ. I guess the era of big government is back. If Bush didn't really believe that, but had to say it for "political reasons", what does that say about his character, his values, his competence and his leadership? The GOP controls all branches of government, including both houses of congress. If Bush can't say and fight for what he believes now, for Pete's sake, when can he?

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous DWG said...

Yeah, I thought one of the things for which Clinton was hated, and for which Kerry was villified, by the Bushites, was that they supposedly did things for¨"political reasons" even if they didn´t believe in them. So, if Bush does it too, shouldn´t the same crew come down on him? Or did they now realize that "political reasons" is another way to say "the will of the people"?


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