Current events interview

Trashy celebrity gossip has graced the cover of magazines, the Internet and other media outlets. Media scholar John Hartley has written that news is “the sense-making practice of modernity” and, as such, “the most important textual system in the world” (Schudson, 2003, p. 12).  While we have 24/7 news channels such as FOX News and CNN, celebrities are still gracing their presence with the up-to-date news on channels that should be devoted to important news stories worth the coverage. America is still facing a struggling economy along with other foreign countries that have had riots within the government and the people. Why would headlines about Lindsay Lohan in court and Charlie Sheen’s “tour” make the top stories on these news channels?

The media does have the right to publish stories with their own opinions about the issue. “There is no question, then, that members of the media have some autonomy and authority to depict the world according to their own ideas” (Schudson, 2003, p. 18). While the 24/7 news channels do have to entertain their audience for all hours, they tend to look at the celebrity gossip to fill in time slots when there is no breaking news or important stories at the moment. Also, with the economy, several news channels have cut reporting staff in order to cost costs. The lack of reporters getting stories has caused the networks to struggle to find newsworthy stories. As a last resort, they turn to celebrities in order to stall time. The news channels are also interested in appealing to the viewer’s interests. High ratings keep the shows on-air. At the end of the day, it is business and profit needs to be made. Because celebrity gossip taking over importance in Americans’ lives, it is creating an uninformed public.

Meet Libbi. She is a 24-year-old college student (and also my roommate) who is a full-time server.

I decided to interview Libbi, to quiz her knowledge on both celebrity and “real” news. I asked her 12 questions pertaining to recent U.S., local and international news from this week. My prediction was that she would only answer the entertainment news questions correctly. As I scrolled through the questions, I predicted that Libbi would only answer 6 questions right. Below are the questions I asked her:

1. What mansion that may have inspired a popular novel was recently torn down in NY? Great Gatsby

2. What country was the winner of the Boston Marathon from? Kenya

3.  At what age did the world’s oldest man, Walter Breuning, die? 114

4. What teen reality show couple recently filed for divorce? Leah and Corey from Teen Mom 2

5. Was the Obamas’ tax return of household income higher or lower this year than last year? Lower.

6. What country recently reelected a new president? Nigeria.
BONUS: What was the President’s name? Goodluck Jonathan

7. What wife of a famous actor recently was admitted back into rehab? Brooke Mueller

8. What famous actor was arrested for domestic violence? Nicolas Cage

9. What Syrian city did gunfire break out due to the country facing “armed insurrection”? Homs

10. What date is the royal wedding occurring? April 29th

11. What media mogul has made public statements that he will be running for President in 2012? Donald Trump.

12. What world leader has been ordered to remain in jail during the investigation of killing protesters and corruption charges? President Hosni Mubarak
BONUS: What country is he from? Egypt.

She correctly answered 8 questions, which is two more than the predicted 6 I believe she would answer right. She identified questions 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12.  All of those are entertainment-based questions, although she threw me off when she answer question #12 correct.

After telling Libbi the correct answers to the questions she missed, I asked her why she did not know the answers. “I work a lot because I support myself. It is hard when I come home from work late at night because I am really tired. I want to come home and watch mindless TV to unwind from a busy night at work,” she states. We also do not have any newspaper subscriptions to our apartment which can justify why she did not know the other questions relating to world news.

When I inform her that we do have access to the Internet in order to look at the news, she replies, “I use the Internet for social networking purposes and homework, not to look at news websites.” I asked her if she did not work so much, would she spend some of her free time educating herself on current events. She told me she wouldn’t because “[world news] doesn’t interest me. It’s boring and would rather read something entertaining about celebrities than something depressing going on in other countries that doesn’t affect me.”

-Aimee Caneva

References:

Schudson, M. (2003). The sociology of news. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

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Magazines Vs. Newspapers

Newspaper

Magazine Logos by Jim Parkinson

I often think about what makes a magazine so much more appealing than a newspaper. What is it about a magazine headline that captures a reader’s interest? And what is it about newspapers that turn people away? One reason may be that celebrity gossip magazines often prominently display headlines that are considered scandalous or shocking, some of which are far from the truth. Newspapers, on the other hand, just report the news (which could be scandalous or shocking, but often times is not).

One might also blame that lack of knowledge or understanding on the reader’s part as to why they would chose to read a magazine over a newspaper. It can be hard to find a newspaper article about Libya interesting, when you don’t know anything about Libya. 

So, after thinking about it for a bit, I went out to find my co-worker Kristy. I see Kristy sitting with a celebrity magazine during her lunch break on a daily basis, so I thought she would be a perfect person to ask about why magazines are so appealing.

“Magazines are just way more interesting to me than newspapers are,” she said. “I don’t know why, but there’s just something about knowing what all my favorite celebrities are doing that makes me happy. It doesn’t make me happy to know what’s going on in foreign countries. That information isn’t really of any use to me. I guess that sounds bad, but it’s true.”

“Reading about Brad and Angelina or the crazy things that the cast of the Jersey Shore does is way more interesting to me than reading about the California budget crisis,” Kristy noted.

“But why do you think that is?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she responded. And after thinking for a minute, she said, “Honestly, newspapers are depressing. Everything is so negative. Look at all the stuff that happened in Japan. It’s just so sad! Why would anyone want to read that kind of stuff when they can read all the fun stuff about celebrities?”

“I know it sounds bad, but I bet a lot of people in my age group feel the same way as me,” Kristy continued. “How many people know what exactly President Obama is doing right now? I would guess very few. You know what I mean?”

To be honest, I don’t know what she means. Newspapers have information in them that affect us in more ways than I could possibly list. Yes, you need to know about the California budget problems, because it affects you. Yes, you need to know what’s happening in Japan because it affects your fellow man. Yes, you should know about what the president of the United States is doing because he represents you. 

I’m aware that you can’t know everything about everything, but at least you can try to be as educated about what’s going on in the news as possible. It’s not that hard, and in the end I’ll bet that it’s a lot more beneficial than knowing everything there is to know about the cast of the Jersey Shore.

-Amy Block

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Celebrity reality shows: Why do we care?

Over the past several years, celebrity reality shows have increased on television due to their popularity. Now, it seems like any celebrity can have their personal and public lives followed around with cameras for weeks to document every detail of their every day life. MTV first introduced The Real World in 1992, which depicted the lives of seven strangers living in a house to document how they all live together and get along. Shortly after the airing of The Real World, the first celebrity reality show was introduced. The Osbournes set the standards for many other celebrities to document their rock star lifestyle. Soon, other celebrities such as Anna Nicole Smith, Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie had reality shows on television. At first, it was interesting to see how famous celebrities live their daily lives. It provided mindless entertainment to watch celebrities we like and to relate to them. Soon after, it seemed like every celebrity had their own television show! PEW Research says Reality TV shows are, by a wide margin, the least popular trend tested in the poll; 63% say these shows have been a change for the worse (Pew Research Center).

Why do people care about reality shows? Reiss’ (2004) sensitivity theory suggests that individuals prefer to watch shows that arouse the joys most important to them. “People who are strongly motivated to socialize, for example, should be especially interested in shows that portray groups, fun, or friendship. Those strongly motivated by vengeance should be especially interested in television programs with aggressive content” (Reiss & Wiltz, 2004, p. 370). People are attracted to watch people that they can relate to.

Why do celebrities feel the need to have own their reality shows? The media exposure has the potential relaunch careers. Kim and Kourtney Take New York show the Kardashian sisters opening up a brand new store in New York. The reality show is exposing their store in order to promote business and attention. Aubrey O’Day, formerly from the band Danity Kane, has recently launched a reality show of her own in order to relaunch her singing and acting career. Tabloids exposed negative press about Aubrey, which allowed for her reality show to reach out to her fans and the viewers to give her a second chance.

We care about celebrity reality shows because it is mindless entertainment after our hard day’s work, which allows us to escape from reality. The dramatic story lines and plots entice us enough to watch the next episode even though there are other educational television programs we could be watching. Showing previews after each reality show has to top the latest episode in order to attract a larger audience. Are they trying to attach us to our own emotional needs? By displaying their materialistic items and famous lifestyle and flaunting it to their fans and viewers? What do you think?

-Aimee Caneva

References

Pew Research Center (2009, Dec. 21). Current Decade Rates as Worst in 50 Years: Internet, Cell Phones Are Changes for the Better. Retrieved from http://people-press.org/2009/12/21/current-decade-rates-as-worst-in-50-years/2/

Reiss, S., & Wiltz, J. (2004). Why people watch reality TV. Media Psychology, 6(4), 363-379

Posted in celebrity, reality shows, television | Leave a comment

Not Interested…

Nothing Interesting in Here

Last weekend I sat down with two of my friends to discuss how often they read newspapers or the news in general. The responses I got were really not all that surprising, and at this point, I would guess that these two girls represent a large portion of college students in the United States.

“Newspapers are so boring! I honestly don’t think that I’ve gotten past the front page of a newspaper in the last five years. It’s hard to be interested in stuff that I have no idea about,” said my friend Michelle.

“Okay,” I responded, “but how do you expect to learn anything about what is in the newspaper if you don’t take the time to read it?”

“Well, I don’t know! I guess the truth is that I just don’t care,” Michelle stated, with a hint of frustration in her voice.

Michelle, like me, is a student at Fresno State. She is a 24-year-old senior majoring in business, and, like a lot of our fellow classmates, she does not read the newspaper.

“I know I should care,” Michelle said. “But I really just don’t, and I couldn’t tell you why.

“Well, you should care,” responded Michelle’s roommate Sara. “How are you supposed to know what’s going on in the world if you don’t read the news?”

“I don’t know, I guess if I hear about something that sounds important I’ll look it up on the internet. Like when the earthquake and tsunami happened in Japan, I found out about it on Facebook, and then went online to read more about it.”

“Facebook? Are you being serious? You found out about that from Facebook? I can’t believe that you just admitted to that!” Sara responded.

“Well, where do you get your news from then?” Michelle asked.

“I get news alerts on my phone when something really important happens. I check the internet about twice a day to see if I missed anything. I will admit that I mostly only read the headlines unless something really catches my eye, but I think that’s still pretty good compared to most people my age,” Sara said. “I only recently started staying up-to-date on news because of a class that I took last semester. My teacher made us take weekly current events quizzes, so if I wanted to pass, I had to read the news.”

“At first it was irritating,” Sara continued, “But then it just became part of my everyday routine, sort of like checking my email. I do not read the newspaper though. Why pay to read the newspaper when I can get the same news for free on the internet?”

I don’t believe that these answers are unique to these two girls.  As I mentioned earlier, these girls represent most college students.

I did a study fora class in which I asked participants which of the following they were more interested in: celebrities or politicians. An overwhelimg 73 percent of respondents admitted to being more interested in celebrities.

“I don’t know what the mass media companies can do to make people like me more interested,” said Michelle. “At this point, I would guess that most of our generation is kind of a lost cause.”

That statement may sound a little too harsh, but is she right?

-Amy Block

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Political mockery within the media

The way current events are portrayed on entertainment television can shape public opinion in many different ways. Television shows like Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and South Park have shown reenactments , skits or have relayed world news through sarcasm and humor. So, why do some prefer to watch these entertaining shows to learn about current events around the world rather than tuning into 24/7 news channels or reading the newspaper? A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reveals that 21% of 18- to 29-year-olds regularly turn to satirical public affairs television to obtain information about presidential politics (Bauer, 2004). While it is easier to tune into late-night television to recap on the day’s news, are we at risk for a biased opinion while tuning into these shows? The comedy news, at times on purpose and at others not, became a news outlet for viewers, especially younger ones, and became influential on the political scene (Shales & Miller, 2002).

Pew Research Center poll conducted in late 2003 and early 2004 found that one fourth of all respondents—and half of the respondents between the ages of 18 and 29—said that they ‘‘regularly’’ or ‘‘sometimes’’ learned about presidential campaigns from comedy shows such as The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live (which includes its own regular mock news segment, ‘‘Weekend Update’’) (Brewer & Marquardt, 2007, p. 250).

Saturday Night Live

Weekend Update segment, featured on Saturday Night Live, provides television satire focusing on politics and current events. Rather than just relaying the news with the standard newscast format, a Weekend Update provides humor and sarcasm along with providing Americans with a newsroom setting. This format provides viewers to know what is happening in the world, while also making fun of it. The ultimate goal of “Saturday Night Live” is to make its viewers laugh a lot while learning and thinking at least a little. If it were not possible to do both, “my life would be meaningless, wouldn’t it?” Michaels said in 2003. (Reincheld, 2006).

Determining the audience’s knowledge level was important, Sargent said, because the basic information about a story needed to be known to be able to tell a joke about the subject. “You don’t want to have to explain your premise every time you do a story; so you try to pick things that you think most people know, are aware of the facts or the basis of the story at least,” he said (Reincheld, 2006). The stories that Weekend Update uses, the viewers have some idea of, that way the joke will be funny and receive laughs.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Daily Show provides viewers with satirical element of political news. Jon Stewart, the host of The Daily Show, refers to his show as a “fake news program” (Brewer & Marquardt, 2007, p. 249). While Stewart refers to his television program as fake, it is more of a mockery than anything. Stewart, like Weekend Update, relays the news to the viewers.  He presents the material in a different manner so that people can enjoy the news while enjoying a laugh. Stewart famously titled the 2000 presidential election campaign as “Indecision 2000” and called the Iraq War situation “Mess-O-Potamia” (Brewer & Marquardt, 2007, p.  249).

This television news program may be considered biased because of Stewart’s political affiliation. He is making his own jokes and opinions, which can be swaying the viewer’s stance on the issues being discussed. Although, some viewers may tune into the program to receive a recap of the day’s news while providing some humor late-night.

South Park

I have always enjoyed animated satire, whether it would be Family Guy or American Dad. South Park has been around on television for years while making fun of celebrities and current scandals. While It has the same satirical humor as Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, this show is in animation form which can give it a more elementary feel. In 1999, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker released an animated musical called South Park- Bigger, Longer and Uncut. The premise of this film portrays Saddam Hussein as Satan’s lover while using him to dominate the world. While the film seems childish, it does lie with deeper issues of homosexuality and politics. Reviews of the movie brought interesting viewpoints from very different people. Barry Fagin claims that “South Park is loaded with moral content, teaching . . . that it is good to mock celebrities, ridiculous beliefs, and hypocrisy,” and Stephanie Zacharek approves this “movie about freedom of speech and of expression, about courage in the face of oppression”(Gardiner, 2005, p. 51). While some observed this show is for entertainment purposes and freedom of speech, some religious groups took offense by slamming the movie. Christianity Today says the film is “desperate to disgust and alienate viewers”  and the Christian ChildCare Action Project Ministry reports it is “INCREDIBLY dangerous,” an “extraordinarily vulgar, vile, and repugnant movie” that has earned their most unacceptable rating for “potential for destructive influence” (Gardiner, 2005, p. 51).

Should we enjoy South Park’s content and take it as humor or are there any underlying issues that need to be addressed?

All in all, after reading about these three entertainment shows, there are similarities between them. All of them mock celebrities and current events, mostly political. Do we have to provide entertainment for viewers to care about the news? Or are there other ways in which we can have Americans become interested in the news without the use of entertaining television?

-Aimee Caneva

References:

Bauer, D. (2004, March 1). And now the news: For many young viewers, it’s Jon Stewart. Associated Press.

Brewer, P. R., & Marquardt, E. (2007). Mock news and democracy: Analyzing The Daily Show. Atlantic Journal of Communication, 15(4), 249-267. doi:10.1080/15456870701465315

Holbert, R., Lambe, J. L., Dudo, A. D., & Carlton, K. A. (2007). Primacy effects of The Daily Show and national TV news wiewing: Young viewers, political gratifications, and internal political self-efficacy. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 51(1), 20-38. doi:10.1080/08838150701308002

Gardiner, J. (2005). Why Saddam is gay: Masculinity politics in South Park—Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. Quarterly Review of Film & Video, 22(1), 51-62. doi:10.1080/10509200590449958

Reincheld, A. (2006). “Saturday Night Live” and Weekend Update. Journalism History, 31(4), 190-197.

Shales, T. & Miller, A. (2002).  Live from New York: An uncensored history of Saturday Night Live. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Posted in politics, South Park, The Daily Show, Weekend Update | Leave a comment

Do celebrities deserve the right of privacy?

As I browse the shelves of grocery stores and look at all the different celebrity magazines, I often wonder do celebrities deserve the right to privacy? Sure, they chose to star in movies and television shows, but did they also sign up to have every moment of their personal and public life to be documented to the rest of the world?

Privacy “can be invaded through extensive or exhausting monitoring and cataloging of acts normally disconnected and anonymous. We often engage in our daily activities in public expecting to be just a face in the crowd…we run into hundreds of strangers everyday and don’t expect them to know who we are or to care about what we do” (Solove, 2007, p. 165).

How much privacy do public figures deserve?
Countless magazine covers and stories have exploited celebrities on their weddings and birth of their children. As much as celebrities complain about the news coverage of their personal lives, should we feel sorry for them for letting them not lead a normal life? When celebrities such as the Kardashians, Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson sell their wedding and baby photos to the magazines for a ridiculous amount of money, they are exploiting themselves to the press. Why should we feel sorry for them when they are knowingly letting the world into their personal lives?

“As our expectations of privacy decrease, our expectations for receiving more information—our expectations about what is public—increase. Everything becomes fair game for our voyeuristic viewing pleasure” (McNamara, 2009, p. 9). Once the celebrities have opened their lives to the public, we expect to know more about them.

McNamara makes a good point in which high-profile couples have had private weddings under private homes or venues where security is tight. Some choose to have their weddings at a “publicly accessible space” (Staeheli and Mitchell, 2008). “Celebrities can secure various public and semi-public locations such as hotels, as controlled stages for events to play out. These stages are important for the construction and exposure of the celebrity image” (McNamara, 2009, p. 20).

In conclusion, we want to feel bad for the celebrities that cannot lead a normal, private life because of the constant paparazzi, although most of them do it to themselves. These celebrities do not have to sell themselves out whenever they have a child or get married. They have enough money and fame to hire security for their personal lives. I cannot help but to not feel bad when they made the public interested in them.

-Aimee Caneva

References:

McNamara, K. (2009). Publicising private lives: Celebrities, image control and the reconfiguration of public space. Social & Cultural Geography, 10(1), 9-23. doi:10.1080/14649360802553178

Solove, D. (2007). The future of reputation: Gossip, rumor, and privacy on the Internet. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Staeheli, L. & Mitchell, D. (2007). The people’s property?: Power, politics, and the public. New York: Routledge.

Posted in celebrity, Celebrity Gossip, celebrity magazine, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Magazine & Newspaper Sales

My Dad and I have had this bet since high school...  $100 paid anytime one of us gets our name in the Wall Street Journal.  Pay up, sucka!   (ps:  Stolen from Nick Felton, who's the superstar of this article)

For many years, newspaper and magazine publishers have been faced with the reality of falling circulation numbers, and 2010 was no different for most publishers.

According to numbers released in October 2010 from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the average daily circulation for newspapers fell 5 percent during the time period of April through September. That latest drop was actually an improvement from the previous period of October 2009 through April 2010 during which the daily circulation fell 8.7 percent. Of the top 25 biggest newspapers, The Wall Street Journal and The Dallas Morning News were the only two to post a gain.

As for magazines, they are suffering as well. During the first half of 2010, newsstand sales dropped 5.6 percent according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. However, total circulation was only down 2.3 percent from the previous period. It wasn’t all bad news for magazine sales though. House Beautiful was up 34.6 percent from the last year, More was up 16.3 percent, and People Stylewatch was up 15 percent.

Falling newspaper and magazine circulation is bad for business in many ways. When the numbers fall, so do the companies who once used to advertise with them. It’s an unfortunate effect that adds to the already bleak reality.

As their newspaper and magazine circulation numbers continue to decline, media companies are looking for ways to keep up with their biggest enemy, the Internet. Consumers don’t really feel the need to buy a newspaper or magazine from the store or a newsstand if they can get the same information from the internet, not only quicker, but for free as well. Media companies will need to adapt to the technology and their competitors if they would like to continue to sell magazines and newspapers.

– Amy Block

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