Commercialization of Journalism and the Inherent Ethical Term Paper

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Commercialization of Journalism and the Inherent Ethical Conflict

The concept of 'News' would appear on the surface to warrant the very

straightforward definition as being the reporting through mass media of

current events. In particular, news journalism will generally have some

type of relationship to current events, whether to serve as a channel for

explaining events, a forum for discussion such events for a context for

relating past or historical events to current scenarios. Additionally, it

is instructive to think of news journalism as necessarily reflected through

some form of mass media in which a single message source may connect to a

broad array of potential recipients. Indeed, there is a justification to

understand news in this way. However, a closer examination of some of the

core conflicts in news media today illustrate that this definition is

unsatisfactory and over-simplified at best and dangerously conducive to an

over-empowerment of the media at worst. The discussion here will

demonstrate that the intrusion of commercial interests into journalism-and

especially with the dominance of cable news programming-has created an

ethical conflict which undermines the validity of our news

In this regard, Adorno's important and prescient work, Culture

Industry provides a sensible starting point. The author speaks in detail

about the alienation, isolation and spiritual emptiness that are

collectively produced by a culture whose humanist impulses have beenBuy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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supplanted by distinctly materialist inclinations. That is a

viewpoint which bears great veracity today, at a time when many prominent

examples from our popular culture exhibit the vice which Adorno had

cautioned against. Among the most pressing consequences of a culture based

on materialist concerns rather than the pursuit of real human needs is a

diminishing sense of journalistic responsibility taken on by these primary

Term Paper on Commercialization of Journalism and the Inherent Ethical Assignment

news outlets. The fears which Adorno expressed regarding the

commercialization of social information channels as a mode to suppressing

popular recognition of political, economic and social improprieties can be

evidenced to be a strategy in effect via such 24/7 infotainment contexts as

the aforementioned CNN, MSNBC and FOXNEWS.

These sources for information are, the text observes, socially

problematic, providing a window into national and world events that is

significantly shaped by corporate gatekeepers and yet framed as reflecting

News. This is counterintuitive to a definition proposed according to core

journalistic principals relating to the social importance of vigilant

reporting. The consumption of major outlets by commercial interests such

as the value of advertising slots as a function of viewership appears to

play a major role in the content which is considered for coverage.

This means that the way that Americans receive news about their

public representatives, about important world events, about global

conflicts and about social crises is frequently conveyed through these

stations, which broadcast newsworthy events all day, everyday. But, there

is cause to believe that such stations often suffer a dilemma of

journalistic integrity, with content and images determined not necessarily

according to the true political and social implications of events and

patterns but according to the dual interests of retaining viewers and

selling advertisement space. Even more obfuscating of journalistic

objectivism, each of these cable news networks is a single fiber of a

larger conglomerate organization. CNN, as an example, is owned by the Time-

Warner empire that has a music label, a movie studio, a print magazine,

several sports franchises and countless other entertainment segments under

its corporate umbrella. A closer scrutiny of some of the primary avenues

for the receipt of 'News' allow us to examine that which is expected of our

News outlets and that which is actually delivered. In this intersection is

cause to refine our definition of news as something which conforms to a set

of definable characteristics which proceed from the principles of

journalistic objectivism. For the purposes of our discussion, Cable News

serves a unique purpose, as it appears to reflect a problematic hodgepodge

of information which both reflects and diverges from such principals of

being 'newsworthy' as objectivism, relevance and relevant impact. In

particular, the Cable News Network (CNN) is the modern model for television

News delivery, originating the model of round-the-clock coverage of

national and international news. This is a model that would influence the

approach taken by such television networks MSNBC and FOX NEWS, though very

much to the point of this discussion, each of these networks can and has

been accused of reporting according to its own political or commercial

agenda. Herein lay the most immediate challenge to accepting the broad

introductory definition to news journalism. As reported in these contexts,

there are considerable challenges to the principles as yet unaddressed,

such as objectivism, accuracy and relevance.

The result of these factors is a mounting pressure on such news

stations that mirrors in a frightening exactitude the trend which Adorno's

Culture Industry admonished about. Particularly, a shifting tide in the

nature of news as a product rather than as a social responsibility has

given it a considerable change in focus, intent and indeed, in definition.

Though it may be arguable that political events and perceptions have always

been shaped through mass-media news outlets, there has literally been a

drastic change in the commercial orientation of news outlets that

represents a dangerous precedent. Such is to note that, in the past, it

had been conventional wisdom that the local network broadcast of the news,

while a mandatory service to the public, would be a ratings slump. The

time allotted by law to the news was essentially a dead-zone for

advertising and, in this regard, not influenced in its presentation by the

competitive ratings game that tends to define other programming slots.

With the advent of cable news, this strategy would change

considerably. The principle of 24 hour-a-day news channel represented the

chance for a captive news audience that had specifically chosen this

station as its destination for the receipt of news and information. This

meant, for television programmers, two new realities. First, it had now

become necessary to create news broadcasts which could fill an entire day,

complete with niche programming and featured onscreen personalities.

Second, and more troubling in its suggestive nature, Cable News had to be

profitable in order to be justified as a corporate expenditure.

This would produce the two realities of cable news that Adorno's text

unquestionably prognosticates; the commercialization of the news

presentation; and the presentation of advertisements as news stories

themselves. Both of these conditions represent a subversion of

journalistic integrity and a means of communicating information that

literally exploits our materialist instincts as a means to diverting us

from local, national and world events of grave importance.

Certainly, we should be troubled in defining news by the manner in

which it is framed today. The tabloid magazine style of such stations as

CNN contrasts the complex demands of nuanced news items such as those

concerning the current War in Iraq. Stories are rarely ever longer than a

few minutes, with many important items concerning detailed political events

or legislative efforts often being glossed over in literally just a few

seconds. Attempting to appeal to the limited attention span of many in the

popular audience, cable news stations will often sacrifice a complete

disclosure of a news story in favor of presenting it in a package that is

concise and easy for the viewer to absorb. This approach changes the value

system of our journalism, reflecting the interest of conveying information

so as to retain members of the audience rather than to present them with

such information in an accurate and meaningful way.

Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death is an another classic indictment

of the superficiality of this approach. Using a tendency harbored by

broadcast news, Postman accuses the media of championing a style tailored

to distract viewers from the larger implications of the news featurettes

that are collaged into a nightly news program. The phrase "Now . . . this"

is a familiar one and Postman reminds the reader of why this is. He

alludes to an authoritatively voiced anchorman with perfect enunciation who

segues fluidly from one story to the next by employing the above mentioned

phrase. Essentially, the "now. . . this" is intended to imply that the

details of the preceding story needn't be recalled for use in understanding

the upcoming story. By interjecting the phrase between a story about

rising unemployment and the president's most recent European diplomatic

excursion, or between a game-winning buzzer beater and a downtown shooting,

the reporter is implying that there is no large relationship between the

stories. Moreover, we are intended to receive the details of a story,

however sparse they may be, and then surrender consideration thereof

shortly thereafter in order to receive the details of the next story. We

are not meant to mull with any great intensity over the News or its many

ins and outs. Rather, we are accustomed to hearing, accepting and staying

tuned for commercial messages.

This points to the potential the news we receive is tainted in its

definition by often obscuring its inherent biases,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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