Journalism in the Digital Age

Journalism in the Digital Age I
This is the Film and TV awards season with the red carpet being used to sell dresses and shoes at the Baftas, the Grammys and the Oscars are just around the corner. The music business also likes to get involved in some mutual back slapping and this week saw the Brit Awards get in on the act. Just before the awards night, a journalist decided to tweet about the invitation he had received to attend the event. This was picked up in the Press Gazette.

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The invitation showed that there was a clear expectation that attending journalists would get involved in some promotion on behalf of the sponsors. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone studying the media as entertainment news is never ‘news’ and is always promotion in some way. It’s difficult to differentiate between the promotion of record company products (by reporting on The Arctic Monkeys winning the ‘Mastercard British album of the year’ award for example) and the promotion of the credit card paying for the journalists’ and musicians’ night out. Entertainment journalists are usually bought and paid for in some way so this protest was, to coin a phrase, #priceless.

Journalism in the Digital Age II
With job cuts and an increasing number of pages to fill, modern journalism is often (and often quite rightly) criticised for its inaccuracies, its reliance on speculation, its lack of fact-checking, its replication of PR driven copy and its simplistic approaches. Ticking many of these boxes is TMZ who either misunderstood or misrepresented (or both) what Jonathan Davis of Korn had to say about the message behind his new video for the song Spike in my Veins.

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Here’s Korn’s new video

It’s difficult to know how to read this type of journalism. The video on the website shows Davis offering an argument regarding the modern media’s role in providing ‘bread and circuses’ – devices intended to distract the population from more important matters. Hardly a new or original idea. Logically TMZ’s decision to misrepresent this idea must be down to one of the following:

  • The journalist genuinely doesn’t understand the argument and is, therefore, not the the sharpest tool in the box;
  • The journalist understood the argument but decided it was too complex and potentially troubling for TMZ’s readership. TMZ the provided a dumbed down distraction when the story should be about the use of dumbed down distractions;
  • The journalist understood the argument but aware that the song and the argument is explicitly criticising soft news outlets like TMZ, a decision was made to discredit the musician by calling him a conspiracy theorist.

Who knows where the truth lies but providing a video with the misrepresentation at least allowed the audience to hear what was actually said and hopefully some will have realised that there is a more complex point being made than reported. Davis went on to repeat some of the points made in the TMZ video and this was added to the story by other news outlets such as the NME and The Independent. However, they simply reported the TMZ take on the story with the picture editor of the The Independent seemingly doing an impression of a Mail Online editor when selecting the illustration.

Why bother investigating nuance when you can create click-bait with copy and paste?

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s@albionmill

Vacuous TV – Secrets of South America: Extreme Beauty Queens

 

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I am not in the TV station’s target audience and I can’t know if BBC3’s habit of giving ‘investigative journalism’ duties to young people increases the possibility that the target group will identify with the presenter or if the demographic (identified as being between 16 and 34) feel patronised when serious issues are dumbed down. By presenting complex stories in a highly simplistic way using a ‘too cool for school’ and often simpering style, I can’t help but feel the BBC are doing their audience a disservice. I’m sure many of the young people targeted by BBC 3 saw through the sycophancy and ignorance in Billie JD Porter’s documentary about Venezuelan beauty pageant culture, Secrets of South America: Extreme Beauty Queens. (BBC3 (5/02/14).

A fascinating and at times disturbing story was told that shows how a beauty pageant (Miss Venezuela) has now developed into a reality show where a 67 year old ex-ad executive and clothes designer mentors competitors who are competing for an opportunity to take part in the national beauty contest. They parade in front of a panel of judges led by Osmel Sousa who has worked for the pageant since the 1970s and has been the president of the Miss Venezuela Organisation for 33 years. The fact that Venezuela has won more international beauty contests than any other country means Sousa’s word has become ‘law’. The show depicts dozens of beautiful young women who are subject to the judges’ critical gaze where every part of their body is analysed and critiqued. Sousa instructs the women as to what they need to do to achieve the requisite perfection. These improvements include teeth filing, losing weight and all manner of plastic surgery procedures including breast enhancements and facial surgery. The women are also coached to walk the catwalk, pose for photographs and to ensure they avoid voicing anything other than approved opinions or ‘neutral’ thoughts.

The documentary focused on one contestant, Meyer, specifically because she came from an impoverished background and lived in one of Caracas’s most deprived and violent slum areas (Barrios). Despite the extreme nature of her family’s poverty and the personal tragedies they have had to endure (her brother was murdered), the family had spent an estimated £7000 on plastic surgery for Meyer in the hope that this would improve her chance of winning the pageant. One procedure, a slimming aid, involved sewing a patch on to her tongue so that eating solid food is too painful and this forces Meyer to adopt a liquid only diet. Disturbingly the stitches holding the patch on her tongue looked rough and not at all like the stitches you’d expect a professional surgeon to do.

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As she slowly ate soup and the discussion focused on the fact that she couldn’t kiss, I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen should Meyer’s tongue become infected. All this was incredibly disturbing in itself but the presenter appeared to have no deeper engagement on the issue beyond a voyeuristic fascination with the plastic surgery procedure.

Similarly, Porter’s engagement with the pageant itself showed her being comfortable with the parading of bodies and the desire for success and fame. In her first encounter with Sousa, Porter fudged it at first by being ‘star struck’ – despite the fact that she had not encountered his ‘stardom’ before. Being told he was famous and influential was enough to make her red faced and tongue-tied apparently. She arranged to interview the impresario more formally and allowed herself to be made ‘Osmel ready’ beforehand – to have her face painted and her hair curled so she would be acceptable in the eyes of Sousa. She, like the women in the pageant, was desperate to receive Sousa’s approval and so her interview did nothing more than reinforce his world view. She sat whilst he critiqued her look (she needs her teeth fixed, her moles removed and should be blonde according to Sousa) and she seemed to think she found the ‘secret of his success’ when he declared he’d been surrounded by ugly women growing up. ‘So that was it. You were angry’ she declared somewhat sympathetically. Porter mentioned some of the feminist protests against beauty pageants and Sousa dismissed ‘feminists’ as ‘Ugly Betties’ causing the most incongruous statement of the programme when Porter declared herself to be one (a feminist, not an Ugly Betty).

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This did cause Sousa to raise an eyebrow (metaphorically of course- see above) as he didn’t think she looked like one. Porter did voice the concern that maybe women ‘shouldn’t have to be beautiful to be respected’ but only at the end of the programme did she raise the question (by quoting Spiderman though sadly) about the undue influence Sousa has. He brushed the question off saying he doesn’t think about it and we were left with an image of Sousa ‘improving’ Porter and her accepting this with a smile and a kiss. At no point did she challenge the morality of encouraging young women to spend money they can ill afford on surgery they don’t need – all based on the incredibly narrow version of beauty (the successful women contestants look frighteningly similar) constructed by an elderly man. Not once did she consider that the one person who is guaranteed financial success in all this is of course, Sousa.

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Given her history as a trust-fund party girl, a commentator for Vice magazine, a hipster model and a presenter on C4’s programme, The Joy of Teen Sex, she was clearly in her comfort zone when focusing on the pageant. There were, however, some very odd moments in the documentary when she gave an indication of her lack of geo-political knowledge. In her introduction she described the recently (at the time of filming) deceased Hugo Chavez as a ‘self-styled Robin Hood who took from the rich and gave to the poor, calling it a socialist revolution’. I would have been interested to know what she would have called it… but she left it at implied criticism before concentrating on looking at the women desperate to be selected in the competition. Later she voiced further arguments that were specifically critical of the Venezuelan government in passing – providing a casual, naturalised point of view that simplified the economic and political position of Venezuela down to pro-capitalist farmers criticising government agricultural policies, and pro and anti-government arguments around distribution of products in shops.

Concerned about the violent culture in the barrios Porter visited a hospital to look at the wounds of young people caught up in street violence where poverty is raised as its main cause but when speaking to the ‘family liaison’ police officers involved in a scheme to try to reduce violence in the slums, she reduces the discussion to how much people love the pageant. She mentioned the poverty she has witnessed and the oil wealth of the nation but managed to completely de-politicise the beauty contest itself (aside from when she makes the leap from comments that its huge success means less people are on the streets when it’s being broadcast to the pageant’s role in ‘fighting crime’). ‘Money, fame and a chance to travel the world’ are on offer to the successful contestants but the pageant’s impact on young women and the poor families they come from is ignored other than in the most simplistic ways. There was even a claim that ‘all the women’ involved in the pageant have successful careers – the documentary itself shows this is not true but does not consider the long-term impact of failing to make it through to the finals or win the competition.

Porter seemed to find it ‘cute’ when talking to pre-teens attending a Saturday class in order to learn how to do their make up and walk ‘correctly’. These young girls are already inculcated into perceiving that their value comes from how well they confirm to these ideas of beauty but Porter simply joined them on the catwalk. When watching a model collapse on TV because of the severity of her diet, Porter could do nothing but express admiration for Sousa, the pageant and the joys of trash TV. Porter is involved in nothing than the worst point and look ‘journalism’. She explains her position here but fundamentally what came across in this documentary was her own values about fashion, beauty, fame and (whether she knew it or not) consumerism and capitalist values.

Bring back Stacey Dooley please. At least she has some emotional depth and empathy with the subjects of her documentaries. When faced with a crying pageant-hopeful Porter’s observation that Sousa may be making some people ‘sad’ felt shallow, forced and lacked any sense of real human engagement. It may not have helped that she was clearly reading her questions and was shown being placed in specific situations but Porter’s documentary told us more about her than her subjects and she proved not to have anything of interest to say.

Further Reading

A Critique of Sousa in the New York Times

Billie JD Porter’s Self-Created Public Persona

s@albionmill

American Horror Story: Coven – An Overview

For this long time horror fan, American Horror Story has been a breath of fresh air. The genre has been struggling for a long, long time as horror fans soon get comfortable with the shock, schlock and special effects used to generate the scare we’re all looking for. The genre has slid into cliché many times in its history: too many lumbering monsters in the 1940s, too many heaving cleavages in the 1950s, too much repetition of stalk and slash in the 1980s and too much industrialised torture/too many remakes and re-visionings of classics in the 2000s. Horror regularly needs innovators to breathe new life into the genre. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk did just that with American Horror Story in 2011.

AMERICAN HORROR STORY: Airing on FX

The first season took advantage of the revitalisation of adult drama on cable television and provided the audience with a story that was disturbing and genuinely unsettling. Setting Murder House in bright and sunny Los Angeles and weaving in stories from L.A.’s history, as well as America’s recent past, the show took a new approach to horror’s role in dealing with the fears and concerns of the producing culture. There was a confidence in Murder House that allowed it to deal with adult topics in adult ways – even though at times this got the programme into trouble with commentators of many political persuasions. Its frank depiction of sex and sexual relationships had the potential to shock and when it dealt with difficult topics, such as the attempt to depict how ‘the male gaze’ objectifies women and reduces their power allowed it to be criticised for creating sexualised and objectified representations.

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The American horror stories dealt with in Murder House included family relationships and reproduction, fidelity and trust, problem teens, home invasion, recreational drugs and school shootings, as well as illegal abortions, gay marriage and the failure of psychoanalysis. It packed a lot in and it did so with style, panache and the nerve to present controversial topics and images head on.

The second season packed in even more. Set in the 1960s it showed a culture moving away from long standing traditions in organised religion (the Catholic Church) to be replaced by a reliance on the ‘religion’ of psychoanalysis (the lead male in Murder House was a psychoanalyst – no coincidence surely). Asylum dealt with attitudes to homosexuality and gave us serial killers, exorcism, Nazi doctors, aliens and Anne Frank! It ended by bringing us up to date and critiqued the modern media and its use of sensationalised, human interest stories and, like the first season unpicked elements of the contemporary culture and showed that this is where horror is located.

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Combine the approach with some truly innovative direction, wonderful performances and deeply disturbing story lines, American Horror Story is busy revitalising the horror genre by giving it back to the grown-ups and not being afraid to delve into subjects that remain taboo in most mainstream drama.

Coven started well with its modern setting tied closely to a horrific aspect of American history. Kathy Bates, Angela Basset and Jessica Lange pitched their performances brilliantly managing to balance elements of emotional realism with some of the most outrageous, ridiculously camp costumes, dialogue and situations. This season, like previous ones, touched on topics rarely dealt with in other media texts: sexual abuse, incest, date rape and religious mania were all on the agenda. The first half of the season dealt with the potentially destructive nature of maternal relationships. Mothers were central and they were generally problematic but they too had their issues. This season’s most radical representation was that of ageing, disease and (natural) death. Amongst the magic, ghosts, torture and trips to hell, the core of the story has been an elderly woman railing against the indignities of age and the imminent decay that comes with her cancer diagnosis. Fiona was never a sympathetic character but her pointless railing against her own unavoidable decline and demise allowed her story to be tinged with tragedy. Her unrelenting fight against death isolated her from her child and her legacy but spoke of the way older women are often dismissed as it is perceived that they cannot offer youth, beauty and vitality. The beauty industry relies on women fearing the onset of ‘visible signs of ageing’ to sell its ‘cures’ and Fiona personified the response to being replaced by the young and beautiful. As a ‘younger model’ prepared to replace her as the Supreme, Fiona could feel herself becoming invisible and irrelevant and so she was prepared to do anything to become immortal.

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Sadly, this season seemed to get distracted by its multiple story-lines and themes. An early idea was to bring the coven into conflict with Voodoo culture as a metaphor for America’s problematic history (and present) with race relations. Delphine acted as a representative of a particular attitude and a set of values that, whilst updated to fit modern sensibilities, still exists in some form in the US… the war on drugs and the US penal system are both often argued to be racially divisive. There is a black man in the White House (however appalling Delphine finds that idea) but there are more black men than white in US prisons. Aside from the shooting in the salon and its visual juxtaposition with Delphine ‘learning a lesson’ from the civil rights movement, the racial issue was raised but not fully explored. Similarly, the evangelical Christian neighbour could have led to an interesting discussion about dominant belief systems and the marginalisation of any alternative belief systems (including the non-acceptance of non-religious belief) but the story line fizzled out and was absorbed into the ‘abusive mother’ theme. Even the male witch hunters, the shady organisation of men who felt the need to control women who threatened their power, was a plot point that was hurriedly dispensed with.

Visually there is no more beautiful (if often in a grotesque way) and challenging show. American Horror Story is prepared to be creative in its presentation of scenes, images, locations and gore. It doesn’t shy away from taboo subjects and themes. All three seasons have been radical in the way they have presented women, women’s relationships and feminine themes – motherhood, birth, sexuality, ageing… all topics you’d be hard pressed to see discussed with such visceral frankness anywhere else. American Horror Story is a long way from perfect but I for one am looking forward to being entertained, frustrated, shocked and appalled by season 4…. and my money’s on American Horror Story: Red Scare… Cold War paranoia, Roswell, communist witch-hunts and mad scientists!!

s@albionmill

More of my thoughts on American Horror Story can be found in Media Magazine.

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American Horror Story Series 3: Episode 13 – Seven Wonders

Thirteen weeks in and the final episode of the third season of American Horror Story opened with a music video. Stevie Nicks walked us through Miss Robichaux’s academy whilst the girls prepare for the test of the Seven Wonders. It’s all been leading to this and tonight we will discover who gets to be the new Supreme.

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The Seven Wonders
Myrtle creates a ‘last supper’ of caviar, blinis and champagne, reminding the girls that for one of them this marks the end of their anonymity and for the others it could quite literally be their last meal. Cordelia tells the girls to put aside childish things as they prepare to ‘kick ass’ in the trials they are about to undertake.

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The test begins with telekineses and the witches make it look easy by moving candles across a table. Misty seems to struggle at first but, like all the others, she passes the test.

In a test of concilium (mind control), Misty makes Queenie slap herself so Queenie returns the favour by making Misty pull at her own hair. Revisiting her continued objectification of Kyle, Madison makes Kyle kiss her and then lick her shoe whilst Zoe is forced to slap herself.

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Kyle is treated like a puppet ye again as Zoe wrenches Kyle him away from Madison. The young lovers kiss until Madison controls him again making him throttle Zoe. Cordelia has to intervene to stop the girls’ tug-of-war over Kyle.

Next is descensum, travelling to hell and back. Queenie is first to return after finding herself back in the chicken shop.

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As they return we learn that Madison’s hell was being in a network musical (but not in the lead role) whereas Zoe’s was the repeated break up of her relationship with Kyle. Misty however, seems stuck in a loop back in school where she is bringing a dissection frog back to life in a biology class. Her hell is to be forced to kill the frog and then bring it back to life over and over again. She cannot escape her hell and, although Cordelia wants to help her, Myrtle says Misty must make her own way back. At dawn she is still trapped and so Misty is the first casualty of the test. Her body disintegrates into dust in Cordelia’s arms.

The girls let off some steam in a game of transmutation ‘tag’. Despite Cordelia’s warnings, they get carried away and Zoe transmutes, impaling herself on a cast iron gate. Moving quickly into vitalum vitalis (the ability to give and take life force), Queenie tries to bring Zoe back to life but fails and is immediately out of the running.

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Madison could save Zoe but she chooses to end the tests and show she has the right to be called the Supreme by killing a fly and bringing it back to life. The coven, it seems, has a new Supreme. Madison thinks Fiona had the right idea in leaving the coven behind and demands that the witches ‘either crown me or kiss my arse’.

Myrtle and Cordelia see Madison’s ascension as the end of the coven and Myrtle clearly thought that either Misty or Zoe would be the next Supreme. She now believes they have overlooked the fact that Cordelia could be the Supreme – Cordelia, she says, has royal blood. Myrtle encourages her to try to complete the test much to Madison’s annoyance. Cordelia undertakes all the tests (including pyrokinesis) without any hesitation – even having a bit of fun with the mind control section of the test by making Queenie dance!

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She returns from hell just in time having found out her hell is to be refused the approval she seeks from Fiona and getting ‘bitch slapped for it’ for eternity. Something that Cordelia notes is ‘not exactly new’.

Madison has not completed the divination task but as Cordelia is successful she has to try and this is where she fails. She has to accept she is not the next Supreme. Livid at having the power she wanted denied, she says she intends to go to Hollywood and threatens the coven with exposure saying she intends to expose them on TMZ. Kyle holds her responsible for Zoe’s death (or at least not bringing her back when she could). Filled with rage and grief, he chokes her as Cordelia breaths life back into Zoe in the greenhouse. Madison is now dead and the spirit of Spalding turns up in time to dispose of Madison’s body – or so he says. He had taken Madison’s body before to be part of his doll’s tea party. The implication could be that this (along with playing Lisle in The Sound of Music) is Madison’s somewhat disturbing fate.

In the completion of the final task, Cordelia becomes the Supreme and her eyes are immediately restored.

A New Beginning
In a quick leap forward we find Cordelia being interviewed on TV about her announcement ‘a month ago’ about the existence of the coven. She offers a safe haven for all potential witches and urges them to contact her. Myrtle insists that Cordelia has to shoulder her responsibilities and she, (Myrtle) should be burnt at the stake as a punishment for the killing of council members Pembleton and Quentin (episode 9).

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This, she says, is needed to allow Cordelia to be able to start a new era for the coven; free of the stain of the crimes of the older generation. In a visual return to episode 5’s first execution of Myrtle Snow, the coven returns to the desert and Cordelia sets Myrtle on fire. Myrtle goes out with one final fashion-based declaration of ‘Balenciaga’.

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Back at the school, Cordelia senses a presence and she finds her mother is back and is not dead after all. Fiona tricked the coven into revealing the identity of the next Supreme. She persuaded the Axeman to accept a false memory of killing Fiona – which of course drove him to the coven where the witches killed him (episode 12) and believed she had been fed to the alligators. Fiona has been in Paris and her original intention was to return to kill the new Supreme once she was identified. All Fiona wanted was to regain her power and life-force. She tells Cordelia how motherhood forced her to live with her own mortality but that she had always loved her daughter – just not necessarily in the way Cordelia wanted her to. Fiona’s cancer has advanced and she is close to death and in her final moments she and Cordelia hug and go some way to reconcile their problematic relationship. Cordelia refuses to end Fiona’s suffering and encourages her to accept her fate rather than continue to fight against it. Fiona dies in her daughter’s arms…

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… only to ‘awaken’ in a rural hell. Cocks crow and dogs bark outside and the urban and urbane ex-Supreme realises she is doomed to exist in a ‘knotty pine’ shack with the Axeman for all eternity. To add to her hell she wakes up every morning shocked to find out where she is and to discover she is powerless and is unable to escape. She sees Papa Legba observing this hell of her own making and laughing at her distress.

… and finally

AHS313-00334 Cordelia asks Zoe and Queenie to be her advisors and together they welcome the many girls that have responded to Cordelia’s offer of a home as lines of black clad girls have come to see if they can be part of the coven. Cordelia welcomes them with a speech that speaks of a recognition of the past and hope for the future. A new Supreme is in charge and a new era begins.

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Asides

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  • The gathering of the goth/pilgrim girls at the school and Cordelia’s last speech was reminiscent of the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where ‘potentials’ gathered to learn the craft of slaying. Buffy’s finale shared magical power between them all rather than maintaining a ‘chosen one’. American Horror Story: Coven reinforces the notion that inherited power is absolute. A sign of the times perhaps??
  • Kyle has replaced Spalding as ‘the help’ – what Spalding is doing with Madison’s body and Marie’s stolen baby is not revealed. That’s probably for the best.
  • What happened to Bastien – having his head cut off should not have been the end given he was immortal… and what was the significance of his and Queenie’s encounter in the greenhouse?

Quote of the Week
Madison (after failing the test of the Seven Wonders): ‘I’m going back to Hollywood where people are normal.’

s@albionmill

Free A Level Media Resources

Free trial resources available from AlbionMill…

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  • The X Factor analysed using media concepts and postmodern theory
  • Crispello - the launch of a new chocolate bar targeting a gender specific audience

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‘Reading’ the News: A Life Skill

Sandwiched between a breathless report on the unions and the Labour party and a smirking commentary on everyday sexism, Newsnight hosted a slightly meta discussion on the news this week. Launching a new book, News: A User’s Manual, the author Alain de Botton discussed his observations with former New Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell, BBC journalist Samira Ahmed and the show’s host Jeremy Paxman. His argument about news sounds interesting, if not necessarily wholly original. Probably nothing to do with the author, but it’s a shame someone thought it was a good idea to present a summary of de Botton’s thesis in the style of an Adam Curtis documentary! Sadly, the Newsnight video didn’t do much to enhance de Botton’s position – but it did act to remind that Curtis does montage, tongue-in-cheek humour and serious cultural analysis brilliantly.

Compare for yourself. The Adam Curtis film was first broadcast during Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe in 2009 (which in itself is worth a watch).

Alain de Botton

Adam Curtis

What was odd about the debate was that none of the speakers seemed to know that Media Studies exists as a subject in schools. De Botton says that ‘no one ever teaches us to take in the news’ so he might be interested to learn that Media Studies teachers exist. (He should be interested as they are likely to be a significant market for his book!)

Newsnight Debate

I have been teaching Media Studies so long I have almost become immune to the regular mocking and dismissing of the subject I teach at the hands of the news media. Media Studies is used as ‘proof positive’ when evidence is needed that education is in a state of decline or is said to be responsible for young people turning their back on ‘proper’ subjects – potentially creating a society bereft of engineers and physicists as young people are lured towards it as an ‘easy option’! I’ve grown a thick skin over the years but do regularly get annoyed at how casually the hard work and skills of my students can be dismissed by people who have no idea what the subject demands of them… but Newsnight this week did something new this week. Instead of mocking Media Studies, it just pretended it didn’t exist.

I completely agree with de Botton’s argument that the News and more generally the media is a massively influential part of contemporary culture. Being able to read the media – to recognise the way news is shaped and produced as a product and how that shaping sets the agenda for debate, reinforces values and both selects and rejects content to meet its own institutional agenda, should be seen as an essential skill and, yes, should be taught in schools. But this is, of course, what Media Studies has been doing for years at GCSE, A Level and degree level. To hear Alistair Campbell say that there is now a ‘need for an education about the modern media’ was heartening. (It would be great if he would be prepared to champion the subject.) De Botton however, claims that this is not going on – he seems totally unaware of the subject. Media Studies won’t be on the curriculum in Harrow and Eton of course, but in classrooms up and down the country thousands of young people are becoming more media literate – despite Media Studies often being an underfunded and under-regarded subject.

To be fair Media Studies can sometimes be its own worst enemy. It asks a lot of its students, Success in the A Level requires academic analysis skills, conceptual/theoretical understanding, fluent written communication, technical skills and creativity. The marking criteria for the A Level includes ‘independence’ (the ‘critical detachment’ that Ahmed says is an important when accessing the media) and so A Level Media Students have to do more than memorise, they have to understand a range of concepts, theories and contextual issues. In addition, they have to demonstrate a broad media knowledge. I’ve seen brilliantly academic students lose valuable marks because they have poor practical/creative skills and wonderfully creative students missing out on high grades because they are not good at writing essays. Getting a high grade in the subject is no mean feat – it indicates that the student is an excellent all-rounder. Media Studies as a subject also struggles because specifications and assessments cannot always keep up with the speed of technological and institutional change and recent changes have made traditional approaches to the subject feel less relevant. Even the way we define ‘media’ has been in a state of flux for over a decade. The right questions are being raised and Jeremy Paxman and Samira Ahmed’s defensive responses helped support de Botton’s arguments but this also indicates why Media Studies will never get good press. A culture capable of critical analysis of the media isn’t exactly what ‘the media’ wants or needs.

One media personality who is prepared to defend the subject is David Aaronovitch who is interviewed in this free sample of Media Magazine – details of how to download can be found here.

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My own article in the edition this interview comes from (issue 44) considers the future of the subject in an ever changing media landscape.

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s@albionmill