Take Home Exam

May 12, 2010

The perspectives of Robert McChesney, Ken Auletta, Daniel Solove and Jonathan Zittrain:

Robert McChesney:

As a distinguished and knowledgeable communications professor, author, and radio host, Robert McChesney has made his opinions clear in his book The Political Economy of Media. Within this piece he discusses his concerns about the deterioration of journalism in today’s digital world. He suggests that the lines between journalism and commercialism have been blurred which, in his opinion, has developed due to a struggle for journalism fields and careers to stay afloat.

As technology has advanced, market pressures have pushed various media groups to form mergers and conglomerates that emphasize neoliberalism (the idea that social progress or success stems from economic gain).  McChesney believes that this alters the objectivity that journalists normally embrace because they will cover stories that focus on their parent companies or partners more than the actual facts and news.

He also touches on the idea that the value of journalism has decreased due to a lack of professionalism that the Internet and new media have greatly influenced. People can become journalists overnight because of the creation of outlets such as blog. This concerns McChesney because he questions the quality of the reporting and how it will affect journalism as a whole.

Ken Auletta:

Having quite a bit of insight into the world of Google, author Ken Auletta describes his experiences, concerns and perspectives on this renowned search engine and it’s connection to issues of privacy and the controversy surrounding intellectual property and open sources.

He suggests that Google has been true to their motto of  “Don’t be Evil” by protecting our information and trying to make the results of online searches more relevant and helpful.  However, the public may need to watch out for how much information they are providing, as well as be aware of how our current trust in them can easily be mistreated.

Auletta also states that the rating system Google adheres to provides people with the best sources possible and most relevant to their search. He believes that the Internet should always be free so that Google can continue to provide their efficient search engine for everyone.

Daniel Solove:

With new media and advancing technology affecting the way we document our lives, the issue of privacy and cyber bullying has become more of a concern over the years. In Daniel Solove’s book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy in the Internet, he discusses the permanency of the content that people place on the Internet and how the exposure can negatively affect an individual’s life.

With new societal norms of being more transparent, always connected and putting personal information online, Solove asks the question of whether or not it is our responsibility to be private and protect our information or the responsibility of the online service.

Jonathan Zittrain:

Harvard law professor and author of The Future of the Internet, Jonathan Zittrain delves into the idea of generative and non-generative devices and their impact on the future of collaboration within the Internet.

Since the invention of various technological pieces, anyone and everyone has the opportunity to exchange information, collaborate and add content. Computers and the Internet are probably the best examples of generative devices, and are usually appealing to majority of the population. However, they can also be considered overwhelming which makes some opt for more non-generative sources.

Locked devices, sources like the iPad that already provide the platform and all the software or information so the user can only be pushed information, are Zittrain’s main concern.  He believes that if we adopt more non-generative devices we will lose creativity and the opportunity to collaborate in the creation of information in the future.

Critiques:

Solove on Privacy:

Throughout Daniel Solove’s book, he showcases several different occurrences that have depicted the Internet’s ability to influence a person’s reputation (mainly in a negative way). He stated within the first chapter that the Internet can be a cruel historian and that the norm police can now publicly punish a person. These, unfortunately, are things that everyone has seen and some have even experienced. However, the real question is whose responsibility is it to protect an individual’s privacy?

Solove believes that it is mainly a person’s responsibility to protect their information and privacy. A person should know that whatever they do put on the Internet will not only be kept for years to come, but it will also be open to the entire world. Although I agree that a person should understand this before placing content online, I also feel that the online service or site provider should be partially responsible as well.

Occasionally there are small disclaimers but the online service usually assumes that their users understand that what they put online will be open to the public. I believe that people should not only be warned that their information is public, but also be given the chance to place privacy restrictions or sharing (copyright) restrictions on their content. Facebook is a perfect example since they have provided privacy settings for their users so if a person does not protect their information after being given the option then it was their choice.

At the same time you have to wonder whether or not the privacy feature always matters because the content is recorded no matter what and is somewhere within the millions of content stored online everyday. Someone has all the information and there’s probably other ways to get it even if it isn’t being distributed out to the public openly at the moment.

Supporting these views are journalists Christina Hernandez and Melanie D.G. Kaplan. In a recent article that discusses Google’s controversial social media outlet entitled Buzz, they interview attorney Parry Aftab who is an expert on Internet privacy issues. Aftab says, “I shake my head all the time. A lot of people want everyone to be involved in what they’re doing and see what they’re doing and they live out loud. When it comes down to the bottom line, people talk online the way they would to a journal or a diary they used to keep locked away in their underwear drawer. They don’t realize lots of people can see it. You no longer control anything you post online (Hernandez, http://www.smartplanet.com/people/blog/pure-genius/protecting-your-privacy-and-reputation-online/2480/).” She later encourages people to not only be careful of what they post but for them to seek out privacy settings that are offered by the service or other software to protect their information. By using privacy settings, the journalists believe that you are choosing to be aware of what you post and who sees it, which in turn will protect your reputation.

McChesney and Blame

The underlining message of McChesney is that capitalism is to blame for several of the issues that media, specifically journalism, is facing these days. In his opinion, journalism is losing a sense of context and objectivity due to commercialism, which is affecting the quality of journalism. He also states that citizen journalism is to be taken with a grain of salt because they do not have the same professionalism as trained journalists.

It is capitalism’s fault because he feels the journalism field is now more worried about profit and being driven by economics than the actual story. Citizen journalists are cheap or even free labor, while technology has created multitasking journalists that report on stories that favor their parent companies.

Although I do feel that the economy has obviously impacted journalism, I do feel like it isn’t all about capitalism or profit but also based on the current audience. So technically it is the audience’s fault as well. We are the ones consuming certain content and as the entertainment as news project has pointed out, we are more interested in soft news stories rather than hard-hitting news all the time. So maybe journalists just found out what we prefer and began to provide it more and more. Unfortunately, it is in my opinion that people should know the importance of real news and that journalists should know when to give us what we want and when not to. It is not just money driving the content, we have choices and the ability to regulate if we change how we consume news and how much we are given.

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