We spend a ton of our lives in the company of the mass media. Surfing the web. Watching television. Listening to the radio in our cars. Reading books (yes, some of us still do that). And yet most of us aren’t particularly media literate.


“Media literacy” is different from “literacy.” If you are literate, that simply means you’re able to read. If simple usage was the only standard for media literacy, then every beer-swilling mook who plops himself down in front of an evening’s worth of sports and porn would be media literate.


No. If your brain is going to survive the massive media onslaught that is the 21st century, you’re going to need to learn to do more than just mindlessly consume. Through education and practice, you must develop the ability to think critically about what you read, watch and listen to. It isn’t enough to respond to America’s Funniest Home Videos with “heh heh, that soccer ball hit that guy in the man area.” You have to think about what you’re seeing. Who produced it? What channel is it on? Why does this channel run this kind of programming? Why is it on at this particular time on this particular day? Who are the advertisers sponsoring the show, and what made them pick this particular program? What makes a soccer ball to the man area so all-fired hilarious?


That’s critical thinking. That’s media literacy. This form of mental self-preservation is as essential to your well-being as agriculture and self-defense were to our ancestors.



Law – What Legal Rules Govern the Medium?


As already noted, in the United States the government has only a limited power to control the content of the media. This limitation is imposed by the First Amendment of our Constitution, which prevents Congress from making laws “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That controls big issues such as the government’s ability – or lack of same – to prevent publication before it occurs.


However, the First Amendment isn’t an impenetrable force field against all government restriction on the media. Whenever someone files a lawsuit against media professionals, courts have to decide if Constitutional or other protections safeguard the speech in question. The rules they’ve come up with can be tricky (just the way lawyers like it), but we’ll cover them thoroughly enough to give you an idea of what the media can and can’t be successfully sued for.


Even in the United States, the government does have some ability to regulate the media in some limited contexts, such as over-the-air radio and television broadcasts. So we’ll have a look at those as well.



Ethics – What Ethical Rules Govern the Medium?


You’ve heard the criticisms already. “The media are immoral. They’re bad for America. They’re out to corrupt our kids. All they care about is money, and they don’t give a crap if what they do hurts people.” Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not.


You aren’t required to give up your membership in the human race just because you become a media professional. So we’ll take a careful look at some of the ethical decisions media pros have to make, and you can think about how you might react if you were in their shoes.


At most colleges you can find a course on Ethics in the PHIL part of the catalog. At their worst, these are stuffy presentations of ancient texts robbed of any useful context. Personally, I prefer philosophy in the real world to philosophy in an ivory tower. So we’ll consider some important philosophers as we go, but we’ll always be careful to apply their thinking to practical situations rather than merely memorizing them in the abstract.


Industry self-regulation stands on the edge between ethics and law. Technically the rules industries apply to themselves aren’t laws, so we’ll consider them as matters of ethics. However, in their operation and effect they have a lot in common with regulations imposed by the government. And in the United States, where we’ve placed strict limitations on the government’s ability to control the media, industry self-regulation is often the biggest limitation on content.



Careers – How You Can Make Money in the Medium


One of the most consistent gripes teachers get from students goes something like “I didn’t learn anything worthwhile in this class. How is any of this supposed to help me get a job?” Well, I’d hate for you to walk away from the Media Survival Guide without at least a few helpful career pointers.


We’ll start with job opportunities in the corporate world, simply because such positions are at least a little more likely to come with a steady paycheck and health insurance. Our discussion will include not only entry-level positions you’ll be after right out of college but also how you move up the ladder and where you might eventually end up.


But the world is more than big corporations. So we’ll also take a look at the do-it-yourself job market. Whether you want to try freelance work for established companies or start an entirely new business on your own, opportunities abound (depending, of course, on what exactly you want to do).


I’ll also find you some advice from people currently working in the media about how to get started, including everything from what skills you need to acquire to what you should include on your résumé.



The Industry – How the Medium Makes Money


In a free market economy such as ours, not much gets done that doesn’t make money in one way or another. And the media are certainly no exception to that rule. So we’ll take a look at exactly how each medium turns a profit, with an eye on future trends and how they’ll affect corporate bottom lines.


We’ll also at least dabble in the question of who owns what. This is a tricky issue, because mega-corporations trade companies the way kids used to trade baseball cards. Monitoring exactly which corporation owns what media company is a full-time job that I admit I can’t keep up with. But we’ll at least get a “lay of the land” for the holdings of the major media players.



Technology – How the Medium Does What It Does


If you’re the sort of person who likes to take things apart to see how they work, you’re going to love our technology discussions. We’ll start by learning how each medium moved through the three stages in the creation of new media technology.


In the Innovation (or Nerd) Stage, people in white coats working in labs or tech nerds working in their garages come up with something new that does something better than the way we used to do it.


In the Development (or Marketing) Stage, somebody with money says to herself, “Hey, look at what those nerds are doing! I’ll bet people would buy that if it was marketed well.” Some new technologies never make it past this stage, failing to catch on with the public or losing the battle to a competitor.


Those that survive reach the Acceptance (or Mass Medium) Stage. At this point enough consumers buy the new thing to make it worthwhile for companies to market media for it. It may have taken awhile to get people to buy CD players, but once the price went down a bit and enough people bought them, record companies started manufacturing CDs in the millions.


Beyond tech history, we’ll also take a look at how current state-of-the-art technology works. You won’t leave this guide with the knowledge required to build your own digital movie camera, but you will at least understand how a digital movie camera works (and why they’re an improvement in many ways on older movie cameras that use film).


Then we’ll move beyond theory to look at how technology actually works in the workplace. The devices we use to create media dictate the workflow procedures we use to do our jobs.



History – How The Medium Developed Over Time


As Bob Marley once observed, “If you know your history, then you will know where I’m coming from.” The media are the way they are because of how they developed from their points of origin to today. In some cases, entire media (such as the Internet) have sprung up within the last decade or two. In other cases (such as books), the media have been around for centuries.


Many textbooks take a lengthy, narrative approach to history. They give you long, tedious paragraph after paragraph throwing names and dates at you and expecting you to sort it all out for yourself.


The Media Survival Guide, on the other hand, focuses on key moments and key players. For example, you won’t be asked to read 40 pages on the entire history of the recording industry. Instead you’ll learn about specific moments that made important changes in the medium, such as when Emile Berliner invented the first commercially-successful record player or when CDs replaced LPs in the 1980s.


You’ll also learn about individuals whose work made a difference in the media we’re studying. But this won’t be biography for biography’s sake. For example, when you learn about John R. Brinkley you won’t be memorizing his name on a list of radio station owners from the 1920s and 1930s. You’ll learn about what he did and how his actions influenced what you hear on the radio today.


Our study of history will also emphasize social importance. In other words, you’ll learn not only about how specific media developed but also how that development influenced the history of society as a whole. And how social history in turn helped shape the media.



Topic Areas


In order to think critically – to become literate – about a particular medium, you need to understand six things about it:


  • How it developed over time
  • How its technology works
  • How it makes money
  • How you can make money with it
  • What ethical rules govern it
  • What legal rules govern it


Thus for each medium we study, the Media Survival Guide includes a section on each of these six topics. As we go, we’ll find that the subjects sometimes blend together. For example, in order to understand how current technology works, sometimes we have to back-track a little and learn about its historical development.





Yes, that’s right. You personally play two crucial roles in the mass media world:


  • You’re a media consumer
  • You’re a media creator (at least potentially)


First, you’re a media consumer. How you spend your money has a strong influence on the marketplace of ideas. When you pay to get into a movie, your ticket money influences the studio’s willingness to make another movie of that kind, starring that actor or created by that director. When you download a song from iTunes, you improve the singer’s chances of scoring another recording contract.


In some media your influence is less direct. For example, your favorite radio station doesn’t base its programming on your listening habits directly but rather on what their research shows people like you like to listen to.


You also “vote” with the dollars you don’t spend on the media. Buy a ticket to a baseball game rather than a movie, and the movie industry loses money.


Sure, movie studio executives don’t lie awake at night if you as an individual decide not to pay to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster. But if enough “yous” spend your money a particular way, even the largest corporations take note. As you have nearly absolute control over your own behavior and nearly no direct control over most other people’s actions, we’ll make more progress if we focus on your relationship with the media and let others do the same for themselves.


Second, you have the potential to be a media creator. Rather than just passively consuming media content created by other people, you can create it yourself for others to consume.


Obviously this is part of your plan if you want a career in the media industry. Whether your ambition is acting, singing, writing, photography or any of the hundreds of other media careers, ultimately you’d like to get paid enough to make a living at it. However, depending on the medium, you may be able to get at least a start as a media creator using only the resources easily available to you right now.


Even if you don’t plan to make a living in a media career, you’ll still want an understanding of the people who do the work in mass communication. If you know what they do and why they do it, you’ll have a better understanding of why the media are the way they are.


Further, you may already be a mass communicator without knowing it. If you have a blog or use social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, those are all at least potentially forms of mass communication.



The Government


In the United States we have a longstanding tradition of distrust of government, stemming back to the 18th century when we had to have a revolution to get rid of a bad ruler in England. Even today we still somehow just don’t deal well with being told what to do, even if democracy does give us some control over our “bosses.”


That unease has shaped the relationship between the government and the media in this country. Every chapter has a section on media and the law, so we’ll have plenty of chances to examine this relationship in greater detail.


And in our examinations of the media in other countries, we’ll see that elsewhere in the world some governments have a great deal more control over their media than ours does.





Unless you live under a rock – and a really big one at that – you’ve already heard that large corporations control everything. In the media world that’s true enough, at least for the parts of the infoscape that involve large sums of money. But that’s relevant and it isn’t.


You need to understand what corporations are, because that will help you understand why they do what they do. By legal definition, a for-profit corporation exists for the purpose of making money. So by asking “how will this corporation make the most money in this situation?” you will drastically improve your chances of predicting their behavior.


For example, product standardization and product differentiation are extremely important marketing tools. They guide many corporate decisions about what the company will and won’t spend money on. These principles give rise to genres, which we’ll encounter in several of the media we study (especially music and movies).



The Three Players


Just as the media have four functions, the media “game” has three “players.”


  • Corporations
  • The Government
  • You


These players control the media, determining what kinds of products the industry produces. The amount of influence each player exerts varies over time and from place to place, depending on several factors we’ll consider as we explore.





Of the four functions, socialization is the hardest to pin down. It doesn’t have as many obvious career paths as the other three functions. While many businesses want to do some combination of information, entertainment and persuasion, there isn’t as much obvious money in establishing social norms.


Further, concrete examples are harder to come by. Start at the low end of the radio dial, surf to the high side, and you’ll almost certainly encounter at least one voice trying to inform you about current events, one trying to entertain you with a song and one trying to get you to buy something. Radio stations that devote air time to openly and deliberately trying to define your role in society are fewer and farther between.


Nonetheless, this function is arguably the most important of the four. Audiences turn to the media primarily for information and entertainment. Advertisers pay for the media in hope that consumers will purchase their products as a result. But the socialization function of the media helps shape us as individuals, as communities, as nations and as a world.





From the audience’s perspective, persuasion is the least desirable of the four functions. Who wants to imagine himself a brainwashed “puppet” of the media? Yet from the point of view of media owners and their employees, the ability to persuade is often stock in trade. If advertising doesn’t persuade consumers to buy products, then companies won’t pay to advertise. And with no advertising dollars coming in, the media must either shut down or find some other way to pay the bills.


Persuasion also goes beyond obvious cases such as advertising. The media are one of the most effective ways to persuade people to adopt particular points of view, positions ranging from stances on political issues to larger decisions about ethics and morality.





One of our most ancient emotional desires is for entertainment. As the first humans gathered around their fires at night, they told stories to one another. This “tell me a story” desire has shaped our communication for as long as we’ve been able to communicate.


However, “entertainment” takes more skill than mere “communication.” Think about the last time you heard a five-year-old try to tell a joke three or four times before he finally gets the punch line right. The information was communicated, but it wasn’t as funny as if a professional comedian had told the same joke.


So entertainment isn’t always as easy as it looks. We’ll examine some of the “tricks of the trade” in order to better understand this important media function.





Information is the most basic reason for us to communicate. When thoughts such as “look out for the cave bear” passed from one individual to another, they helped us stay alive. Even after thousands of years of living in civilized society, exchange of information – “look out for tornados headed this way” – still helps keep us safe. Indeed, as noted at the beginning of this chapter, the time we live in is often called the Age of Information.


Traditionally, “information” and “journalism” are closely related topics. Though the relationship between the two has become more complicated in recent years, journalists still make an excellent starting point for our consideration of the importance of informative communication.



The Media's Four Functions


Everything and everyone in society has a function. Schools and teachers educate students. Hospitals and doctors heal the sick. Lawyers do whatever they do.


The media have a part to play as well. Four parts, in fact:


  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • Persuasion
  • Socialization


To be sure, some media are stronger in some areas than in others. Traditionally movies have been more about entertainment than anything else. And some critics (myself included) think that some of the journalism industry’s current financial problems are due in part to increased emphasis on entertainment at the expense of the newspaper’s traditional emphasis on information.


But every medium performs all four of these functions to some extent. Take this text, for example. The primary purpose of a “text” is to provide you with information. However, long experience in and out of the classroom has convinced me that if I don’t do at least something to keep you entertained, I’ll hurt my chances of informing you. And I admit I’m also trying to persuade you to take a greater interest in making yourself media literate. As for socialization, the facts and opinions you pick up from the Media Survival Guide should help you to understand the world around you a bit better and form your own opinions about your role in it.





Having divided the media up into chunks for easier study, we must now join them together. In the 21st century, the single biggest trend in the media industries is the blurring of distinctions between them. Newspapers on the Web, complete with radio-style audio and television-style video. Books that can be downloaded and read on mobile devices. Movies that resemble videogames. Videogames that play like movies. Think about it just a little and you’ll be able to come up with a list of your own.


These trends are particularly important for anyone who wants to participate actively in media production. Back in the 20th century, training for a media career required selection of a specialty. A student studying newspaper reporting probably wouldn’t learn much about television production, and vice versa.


But now thanks in part to improvements in technology, a single individual working on a news story can produce a written version for print and the Web, an audio podcast and a video. And that of course is just one example of the more complex job market that will await aspiring media professionals in the years to come.



Print Media


The three print media are older than any of the rest (indeed, books were around for centuries before any of the non-print media were thought up). All three have undergone changes in recent years, but at least so far all of them are still part of the infoscape.


Before the printed word, mass media didn’t exist. Thus we’ll pay a little extra attention to the birth of books in the 15th century, as it can still teach us a lot about why the media are the way they are in the 21st century. We’ll also study the current state of the art. Think nobody reads books anymore? Think again.


The newspaper business is an industry in transition. At the dawn of the 20th century, they were one of the biggest, most profitable industries in America. Of course back then they had little competition for the attention of the media-hungry public. The dawn of the 21st century was a much different place, and newspapers found themselves scrambling for a dwindling share of their audience’s time, attention and money.


Without a doubt, this corner of the publishing world is not what it used to be. But when we take a closer look at newspapers, we’ll see that they still have an important – if less grand – role to play.


Magazines have a lot to teach us about the relationship between media and consumers. In the second half of the 20th century the industry, in the face of pressure from television, stopped targeting general audiences and started focusing on specialized sets of the overall market. This “segmentation” strategy was so successful that now it’s the rule rather than the exception in the world of mass media. But is it still keeping magazines alive?



Audio Media


Audio media are the only forms of mass communication that don’t require you to look at them while you’re consuming them. Thus they’re also probably the only forms of mass communication your boss will let you consume while you’re at work (unless you’re on your break or you have a really nice boss).


Recorded music is a relatively new (first developed in the 19th century) medium that takes advantage of one of the oldest of human pursuits. It’s also an industry in a state of change thanks to new technology that has rendered older delivery formats obsolete. Yet the beat goes on.


Radio is important not only to keep you entertained while you’re driving but also for your understanding of mass media evolution. It was the first medium to communicate with an audience with no visible connection to the source, and because it used the “public airwaves” to deliver its message, it developed a little differently than most of the other media.



Visual Media


Visual media employ motion pictures, images that create the illusion of motion. This kind of mass communication was first pioneered by the movie industry to create films that could be watched by theaters full of people. Our consideration of the topic will also include watch-at-home movies (streaming services, BluRay discs and the like), though this does tend to blur the lines between movies and …


Television brings moving pictures into our homes directly from an outside source (such as an over-the-air broadcast, cable wire or satellite dish). If you’re a typical member of American society, this is the medium you have the most experience with.



Digital Media


Of the major media, this one’s the hardest to define. After all, digital technology is in your radio, in your television, in your car, in your phone, pretty much everywhere. But what we’re talking about more specifically here is mass communication that requires a device that can do a significant amount of thinking for itself rather than merely amplifying a signal or unscrambling a message.


Because this would be a huge topic if we tried to tackle it all at once, I’m going to break it down into three parts:


  • The Web
  • Social media
  • Gaming


The most common and obvious of these media is the World Wide Web, a vast system of information sources linked together by a computer network called the Internet. If you’re reading these words on the Media Survival Guide site, then you already know at least a little about what the Web is and how it works.


Technically, social media is a subset of the Web, including sites such as Twitter and Facebook that people use to communicate with groups of “friends” or “followers.” Social media blurs the line between mass communication and interpersonal communication. If a celebrity “tweets” something, millions of people read it. However, I use Twitter only to pass notes to my wife or myself. So I have an interpersonal-sized audience on Twitter (though I follow several people and groups with much larger audiences than mine, and in my defense I have a larger group of friends on Facebook).


Social media are also a relatively recent phenomenon, making it trickier to say for certain what it will be and how it will work in the future.


Gaming, on the other hand, has been around for awhile. In this section we’re going to consider a wide range of interactive media from console gaming systems to MMRP environments online. Of all the media we’ll study, gaming is the most interactive, requiring you to constantly supply input rather than just sitting back and passively experiencing it.



Mass Communication: The Media


Interpersonal communication and public speaking are fairly straightforward tasks. Mass communication, on the other hand, can be a little trickier.


We have to start with a medium, a thing that allows us to transfer our thoughts over time and distance to large numbers of people (hence the “mass”). For example, the authors of the Gospels have been mass communicating with people all over the world for nearly 2000 years through the medium of books. As you drive to work, odds are that somebody miles away from you communicates to you and a few thousand other people through the medium of radio. And right now as you look at this, I’m mass communicating to you and everyone else who reads these words via the Web.


In the Survival Guide, we’re going to deal with eight media of mass communication divided into four categories:


  • Computer media (one medium that includes the Web, social media and gaming)
  • Visual media (movies and television)
  • Audio media (recordings and radio)
  • Print media (books, newspapers and magazines)


Thanks to media convergence, the borders between the “Big Eight” are a bit fuzzy. For example, I read newspapers online via the Web rather than subscribing to the old-fashioned “dead tree” printed version. However, in general these divisions will help us break the media down into bite-sized chunks so we can chew them one at a time.



Communication: Ideas in Motion


Simply put for our purposes, communication is the act of taking an idea in one person’s brain and transferring it to another. Here’s a quick, concrete example:


One Thursday several years ago, my wife was going to the store. “Do you have anything to add to the shopping list?” she asked. I looked it over. Milk. Eggs. Veggies. The usual suspects. However, I had a craving for Pop Tarts. Specifically Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts, which of course are the best kind. So I jotted “BSC Pop Tarts” on the bottom of the list.


When Amy got back from the store, she looked a little cross with me. “I hope you have enough Pop Tarts,” she said.


I looked in the bag. She bought Blueberry Pop Tarts, Strawberry Pop Tarts and Cherry Pop Tarts.


So sometimes “close enough” isn’t close enough when it comes to the motion of a thought from one person’s head to another.


The grocery list was a particular form of idea transfer called interpersonal communication, which generally takes place between two individuals (my wife and I) in a particular place (our kitchen) at a particular time (Thursday). Another form is public speaking, like when a professor stands in front of a class and delivers a lecture.


However, the type of idea transfer we’re concerned about in this Survival Guide is mass communication.



The Age of Information


As you may already have learned in another class, many historians like to divide human history into ages. In the ancient world, civilization moved from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, each change heralded by new technology that improved people’s ability to grow crops and kill enemies.


Your great grandparents (give or take a great or two depending on how old you are) were born in the Industrial Age, an era characterized by the growth of factories that mass-produced goods.


You, however, live in the Information Age. Though we still buy things made in factories, grow crops and kill enemies, we also generate an immense amount of information. Creation of facts, opinions, thoughts of all kinds is the primary job of an ever-increasing number of people.


And in order for it to be any good to anyone – and thus get people to pay for it – information has to be communicated.





At the end of each chapter, the Media Survival Guide includes support materials such as glossary terms, photo credits and the like. These pages are more for reference than for reading, but they’re there if you need them.


Whew! That’s a lot to start with. But if you’ve read the whole introduction, you’ve got a better idea of what this guide is all about. If at any point in the chapters to come you start to feel lost, consider referring back to the introductory materials. They’ll help bring you mindful of why whatever we’re doing happens to be important.


Please enjoy the rest of the Media Survival Guide. If you have feedback, please let me know.

Global Media


The majority of the Survival Guide is devoted to study of media in the United States. Our target audience lives here, and readers who are using this guide to prepare for a media career will most likely be looking for a job here as well.


However, the U.S. media market doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Thanks to the ease with which data flows across borders, it’s now possible to consume media from other countries with an ease undreamed of in years past.


The media in other countries also have a lot to teach us about our own. By contrasting what they’re doing with what we’re doing, we can understand some of the benefits and drawbacks of our systems. Totalitarian regimes in particular tend to spawn media products that are heavy-handed bits of nationalism but often at the same time subtly subversive. And if nothing else, if someone in another country is doing something great that hasn’t been done in the United States, then perhaps it’s time we tried it here as well.



Sex & Violence


Just about everybody is squeamish about something. Personally, my “something” is maggots. Can’t stand ‘em. Anytime I encounter them (which thankfully isn’t often), all I can think about is getting rid of them as quickly as possible.


As a society, our “somethings” are sex and violence. We’re particularly squeamish about anything sexual. A movie can dump gallons of blood onto the screen without jeopardizing a PG-13 rating, but any nudity beyond a brief glimpse of a bare butt tends to be an instant ticket to an R.


Which is not to say that violence isn’t a tricky topic as well. Particularly in media aimed at kids, industry self-regulation has traditionally placed sharp limits on the amount and kind of violence that can be portrayed.


So as we go, we’ll devote some thought to the definitions of “sex” and “violence” and how their presence in the media affects audience members



Class & Culture


Two young people meet and fall in love. But their families don’t get along, so they keep their relationship secret. The drama ends tragically with the deaths of both star-crossed lovers.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (set in Southern California but using the original script). High School Musical (minus the deaths, of course). Such Tweet Sorrow (a version of the play produced in part by the Royal Shakespeare Company and staged as a series of messages on Twitter, also making use of YouTube for pictures and video).


So the same story can be told in many different ways. Some versions (Shakespeare) would traditionally be considered “high culture,” while others (Disney) are more “lowbrow.” Such distinctions help determine how media critics respond to them as well as whether or not certain audience members will spend money to see them.


Cultural distinctions are often closely tied to social class. Members of the upper classes tend to listen to different music than members of the lower classes, and our dwindling middle class tends to find itself somewhere in between the two. Class differences are also often enforced based on religion and other matters tied closely to upbringing.


Thus media bias that reflects differences of class and culture can teach us a lot about our social roles.





Gender discrimination is as old as society itself (though no two societies deal with the problem in exactly the same way). Such an ancient prejudice is naturally hard to get rid of. So it lingers in many ways that wouldn’t be acceptable for any other kind of prejudice. If the movie industry’s Academy Awards for acting were divided into “white” and “non-white” categories, protesters would burn the auditorium down. But few people give a second thought to the “actor” and “actress” distinctions. Further, some kinds of Oscars (particularly for directing) that aren’t segregated by gender almost always go to men.


As a society we’re also still coming to grips with sexual orientation issues. In recent years we’ve seen a ton of argument about whether same-sex couples should have the same marriage rights traditionally given to opposite-sex couples, and at this point the debate appears far from over. This unease is also reflected in society’s mirror, the media





Here’s a topic that makes just about everyone uncomfortable. A century and a half have passed since the Civil War, but still the long-term effects of the age of slavery linger. To be sure, we’ve made some progress. Racially segregated classrooms are a thing of the past (unless the whole school is segregated, that is). But if true integration is our goal, we still have a long way to go. A trip down the radio dial or to a movie theater will bear this out.


Nor are the colors of racial problems limited to black and white. If there’s a way to determine how people differ based on the color of their skin or the nation of their ancestors, that difference can be used as a basis for discrimination.


The media play a big role in the reinforcement of stereotypes. Indeed, portrayal of ethnic groups can turn into an awful spiral of discrimination, in which the media mirror prejudices about how members of a group behave and that portrayal then teaches group members that that’s how they’re expected to act.


In order to get past such discriminatory depictions, we need to pay careful attention to how the media deal with racial issues. The topic isn’t always a lot of fun to talk about, but the work is rewarding as well as important.



Media Influence Case Studies


The media play a powerful role in our society, and thus they have a strong ability to influence social values. Thus if our brains are to survive, we have to carefully consider how they influence us. The Media Survival Guide tackles this issue by breaking it down into five areas:


  • Race
  • Gender
  • Class and culture
  • Sex and violence
  • The global marketplace


We’ll examine each area using case studies, examples of the impact the media have in real people’s lives. And as we study these problems, often we’ll find that they’re interconnected. A problem of racism in the music industry may prove to be connected not only to racism in other media but to class and culture discrimination as well.