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Does media reflect or create society?

As we have already tackled the question of media being such a powerful tool in today’s society in the previous semester, the one question that still remains partially unanswered is whether media reflects or creates today’s society. People are, more or less, afraid to open a can of worms and dig more deeply into that topic. With various forms of media such as newspapers, different social platforms, news, etc. being the best representation of society nowadays, we can say that media both reflects and creates society, but on the other hand, not at the same time and under the same conditions. Nevertheless, is the media more dependent on society, than society is on the media?

Michael Pupin’s statement: Newspapers love legends, because the public loves them. The public is a child which loves to listen to fairy-tales. (Pupin, M. 1923), is a perfect example of how media, in particular newspapers, and society are connected. On a daily basis we are surrounded by a firehose of falsehood when it comes information we are provided with. Differentiating between credible and uncredible sources of information became a very tough task to complete and, moreover, we, as a society, are under the impact of journalists’ sensationalism that is used in the process of writing. Eye-catching headlines included in so-called yellow journals are one of the examples how journalists succeed in creating the society we are now. People’s affection to these kinds of news is inevitable. We are stuck in a vicious circle of uncredible news talking about unimportant events.

On that note, does information that we see on Internet include diversity of opinion? Is it really free for all? Society, in order to stay true, is in need of free press. Benjamin Franklin compares newspapers in America to the court of law as well as religious court, which mainly caught my attention. The press also resembles a religious court, Franklin half-jokes, the “Spanish Court of Inquisition,” in its moral authority to force and shape belief through fear and intimidation. Like the Spanish Inquisition, the press enforces its pre-eminence by reaching into individual souls and compelling belief. (Milikh, A. 2017) In this case we can see that newspapers can shape our values and beliefs very easily without us even noticing.

On the other hand, the need for reform in the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century, made a lot of important people raise their voices against inequality and injustice. Among them were journalists who were labeled by Theodore Roosevelt as muckrakers . Their main role was to expose acts of corruption, inequality, injustice, etc. and to be, mainly, the voice of the society. On top of that, Ida Tarbell, one of the most prominent journalists who was a part of the Chautauqua movement, exposed corruption in the late 19th century in America and propagated civil religion. She was one of the most famous muckrakers of her time. Muckrakers represented a symbol of public’s voice in the late 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century.

In spite of these clashing views being completely applicable to today’s society, we can see how we can easily be led by the information which we are provided with and not even thinking about their credibility. Nevertheless, American history shows us how these views and beliefs are versatile and how they are prone to change over a certain period of time. That is why I think that media cannot exist without the contribution of the society. But, on the other hand, media can easily shape society in the way no other factor can. But the world isn’t black and white, right?

References:

1. Pupin, M. (1923). From immigrant to inventor : Pupin, Michael Idvorsky, 1858–1935 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. Source

2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2019). yellow journalism | Definition, History, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved May 25, 2021, from Source

3. Milikh, A. (2017). Franklin and the Free Press. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from Source

4. Chapters, A. (2013, June 7). 20. The Progressive Era | THE AMERICAN YAWP. The American Yawp. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from Source

5. Dong, R., Huang, T., & Jiang, J. (2012). Ida Tarbell – Beginning Journalism. The Muckrakers. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from Source

A.Š.

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