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Affecting how we think

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Affecting how we think

Mass communications is one of the most popular college majors in the country, which perhaps reflects a belief in the importance of communications systems in society. The communications system, consisting of radio, television, film, newspapers and magazines, effects how we think, how we feel, and how we live. Therefore, we must ask ourselves, "Is media 'mere entertainment,' or are there serious side effects of the national preoccupation with the media?"

Long-term exposure to the media has a tendency to influence the way we think about the world around us, but how? Since the printing of the first newspaper to the introduction of the Information Superhighway, society has been able to view itself objectively. The men and women who present media to us: radio personalities, news anchors, and actors included, are given the responsibility of showing us society as it is. Sometimes, it is argued, this task is not done adequately. And so, arises an issue: can objectivity and subjectivity in the media affect how we approach issues? And, more importantly, can the information presented affect the value system of a society?

The media is so pervasive it is hard to believe they do not have important effects on society. Yet, many people do not believe that the media have personally influenced them or have harmed them. However, to attempt to understand how the media may shape the attitudes of individuals, and how they may shape culture itself, requires that we stand back from our personal experiences in order to analyze the arguments presented on each side of the debate.

For example, some believe that it is very important to report serious, society-threatening news with total objectivity. If it is not reported in such a manner, an indirect inciting of the more radical audience can occur.

In the September 1996 issue of the "American Journalism Review," Sherry Ricchiardi responded to powerful reporting by Christian Amanpour on Serb atrocities in Bosnia. Some observers questioned the decency of the reporter's approach of support in coverage of these war-torn regions. Ricchiardi explained that correspondents must walk a fine line between subjectivity and objectivity in the quest to depict situations as neutrally, yet as meaningfully, as possible.

Another example of subjectivity in the media and its effect on society is easily viewed in a recent incident in Rochester, New York. When a controversial biographer visited the University of Rochester to discuss his book on Mother Teresa and present his negative views on her compassionate legacy, a local newspaper responded with counteracting religious reactions and by "furnishing nothing of substance to an inevitably hostile audience." This, in turn, created a community outrage that might not have, otherwise, occurred. In an article entitled Journalists or Defenders of Faith? John H. Summers argued that the newspaper's biased approach to the speaker's visit was not representative of a healthy democracy which "demands journalistic ...

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Keywords: does language affect how we think, what affects thinking, how has this impact my thinking

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