Journalism and Mass Communication Volume 2, Number 1, January 2012 (Serial Number 4)
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Journalism and Mass Communication Volume 2, Number 1, January 2012 (Serial Number 4)
Contents Empirical Research A Longitudinal Study of Job Satisfaction Among Flemish Professional Journalists Annelore Deprez, Karin Raeymaeckers
Media and the Impact Media as an Identity Negotiator Among “Swedish” Children in Athens and “Japanese” in London Ulrika Sjöberg, Kaoruko Kondo
The Need for Music as a Learner’s Characteristic Affecting the Effects of Educational Films Barbara Wolf, Paul Pechan
Media Activism in Search of Truth: Questioning the Mission to Restore Sanity Claudia Schwarz, Theo Hug
African-American Women’s Perceptions of Constitutive Meanings of Good Hair Articulated in Black Hair Magazine Advertisements 279 Eletra S. Gilchrist, Courtney Thompson Triggering Body Dissatisfaction: The Role of Familiarity on Subsequent Evaluations of the Self Temple Northup
Theorecial Research Media Stakeholders’ Perspectives and Policy Integrity Oladokun Omojola
Personal Communication Freedom as a Problem and a Research Project Sergey G. Korkonosenko
Media History Polish Media 22 Years After Socio-Political Breakthrough—The Road to Professionalization and Democratization Adam Szynol
Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1, 235-249
A Longitudinal Study of Job Satisfaction Among Flemish Professional Journalists Annelore Deprez, Karin Raeymaeckers Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium The focus of this paper is on the job satisfaction among the population of professional Flemish journalists by means of two surveys conducted in 2003 (N = 1,026) and 2008 (N = 682). Both surveys focus on intrinsic and extrinsic variables linked to job satisfaction as well as on several predictors of job satisfaction such as type of contract, job function, age, and gender. The longitudinal perspective allows us to identify any evolutions or differences in satisfaction between 2003 and 2008. By taking into consideration previous mentioned predictors also the influence of external elements on job satisfaction can be researched. The 2003 and 2008 surveys suggest that the “average” Flemish professional journalist is fairly satisfied with the job content. However, we observe a slightly negative but non-significant shift occurring in 2008. The degree of job satisfaction seems to be related to the type of contract (freelance or employed on a permanent basis) and the job function. We noticed also a clear gender element in the discussion: Female journalists are not less satisfied but state to have more difficulties to combine the journalistic job with a private and family life. Keywords: job satisfaction, professional journalists, survey, longitudinal perspective
Introduction During the past decades, journalists have been confronted with a sharp change in editorial working environments and job content. By force of globalisation and technological evolutions, ever more editorial staffs have evolved into converged newsrooms and journalism has become cross-medial by definition (Meier, 2007). Journalists that work exclusively for one medium type or one medium brand are rather the exception to the general rule of multimedia-tasking. Not only the structure and the organisation of the newsroom has evolved, but also the way journalists do their job has changed during the past years. Journalists spend more of their time in the newsroom and gather less news on the scene. The internet has become one of the major sources of information. Journalists make use of websites, weblogs, social media and so on for researching and reporting (Pavlik, 2000). Also the news output has changed with the upcoming of online media platforms and the dominance of high-speed news. In other words, journalists routines and practices have evolved along (Pavlik, 2000; Deuze, 2002; Boczkowski, 2004). The question can be asked to what degree journalists’ job satisfaction has been altered as a result of these developments. It is a fact that the risk of burnout, absenteeism, cynicism, exhaustion and stress amongst journalists has increased during the past few years (Reinardy, 2007; Greenberg, Thomas, Murphy & Dandeker, 2007; Cook & Banks, 1993; Teugels, Van Hoof, Mory, & De Witte, 2009). On Annelore Deprez, Ph.D., Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University. Karin Raeymaeckers, professor, Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University.
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
the basis of these perceptions, a link between the changes in the newsroom organisation and job satisfaction seems obvious. However, to make more grounded conclusions, it is necessary to extend empirical research and support into professional satisfaction among journalists. The aim of this study is to investigate job satisfaction or the affective relationship between news workers and their job in a longitudinal setting. On the basis of a survey carried among Flemish journalists in 2003 and 2008, we will study the professional satisfaction and check any evolution. We will operationalise job satisfaction using a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors (cf. infra) and ask the journalists about their satisfaction with these aspects of their job in journalism. We then segment by age, job function, contract specifications and gender because these variables have proven to be significant in relation to job satisfaction in previous studies (Barrett, 1984; Kelly, 1989; Smucker, Whisenant, & Pedersen, 2003; Reinardy, 2007; P. Miller & R. Miller, 1995; Greenberg, Thomas, Murphy, & Dandeker, 2007).
Journalistic Job Satisfaction in Various National Contexts Job satisfaction is since the 1960s and the early 1970s studied in several national and professional environments (Beam, 2006). “Satisfaction creates confidence, loyalty and ultimately improved quality in the output of the employed” (Tietjen & Myers, 1998, p. 226). It is therefore that managers and scholars became interested in studying the concept. As part of a larger sociological survey on the profiling of American journalists, professional satisfaction was introduced within journalism by Johnstone, Slawski, and Bowman (1971). However, they were the follow-up studies of Weaver, Wilhoit, Beam, Brownlee, and Voakes (1986, 1996, 2007) who carried out surveys on a decennial base that gave insights into the longitudinal evolution of job satisfaction. Studying the American population of journalists, Weaver et al. (1986, 1996, 2007) concluded that job satisfaction decreased between 1971 and 2002. Probably inspired by Weaver et al., various researchers conducted studies specifically focussing on job satisfaction, researching American (segments of) journalists as well as other national contexts (e.g., Reinardy, 2007; Stamm & Underwood, 1993; Powers, 1991; Barrett, 1984; Man Chan, Pan, & Lee, 2004; Pollard, 1995). The American studies stimulated also researchers in Flanders to focus on the profiling of journalists and on job satisfaction. In the past 30 years, Flemish professional journalists were surveyed on a regular base. However, only in 2003 the first large-scale survey questioning the total population of professional journalists was executed. Before, the surveys focussed or only on particular topics or on specific segments of professional journalists (De Bens, 1983, 1995). In 2008 the 2003 survey was repeated as journalism had undergone important evolutions (e.g., Dahlgren, 2009). In this study we focus on the recent evolution of job satisfaction of Flemish professional journalists, by confronting results from the 2003 and 2008 survey. The data of the first surveys (1983, 1995) are not considered as the researched population and topics vary. A second reason is that we are especially interested in the evolution of job satisfaction after the working environment of journalists has been changed, as a consequence of globalisation and technological evolutions, e.g., trends since 2000.
Professional Satisfaction: An Ambiguous Concept To empirically study job satisfaction has proven to be a challenge for many researchers (Pollard, 1996; Beam, 2006). Indeed, until today job satisfaction deals with conceptual confusion. This is partly due to the fact that research into professional satisfaction combines insights from several scientific disciplines and research traditions such as psychology, anthropology and sociology. Defining the concept from within this specific
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
fields of application and with a different emphasis over the course of time has made a clear operationalisation and definition of job satisfaction rather difficult. However, also, the subjectivity of the concept plays an important role (Weiss, 2002). “… job satisfaction is an attitudinal variable describing how people feel about their job…” (Beam, 2006, p. 170). This makes it even more difficult to identify specific factors that determine professional satisfaction that apply for everyone. It is, therefore, that in various empirical surveys into job satisfaction the rather general question—Overall, how satisfied are you with your present job?—is posed (e.g., Bramlett-Solomon, 1992; Weaver & Wilhoit, 1986). This way of questioning however suffers from the considerable drawback that subjective elements that steer the answer in a certain direction cannot be detected. In other words, the researcher does not gain insights in the aspects determining professional satisfaction. According to Pollard (1996), a second problem is that this way of questioning evokes positive responses. Workers are reserved to declare that they are less satisfied as people can see it for example as an admission of failure. Therefore, a second method of analysing job satisfaction is based on multiple-item scales (Powers, 1991; Stamm et al., 1993; Pollard, 1995, 1996; Man Chan, Pan, & Lee, 2004; Reinardy, 2007). Those scales identify several aspects of satisfaction such as income, recognition for the work, future prospects … Respondents can indicate how satisfied they are with each of these elements. Problem here is that the composition of a job satisfaction scale varies from study to study, due to the previous mentioned difficulties concerning the operationalisation and definition of the concept (cf. supra). As a consequence comparative research is rather limited as standards for studying job satisfaction up till now do not exist.
Identifying Various Elements as Determinants of Journalistic Job Satisfaction For our study on job satisfaction of Flemish professional journalists we opted for the multi-item scale approach. Moreover, the used method combines elements that in earlier studies were identified as determining satisfaction within journalism (Powers, 1991; Stamm et al., 1993; Pollard, 1995, 1996; Man Chan, Pan, & Lee, 2004; Reinardy, 2007). Indeed, notwithstanding the fact that most of previous studies have operationalised job satisfaction in a different way, it is striking that the used determinants of job satisfaction almost always can be divided into two broad categories: personal antecedents and working environment factors (cf. Figure 1) (Beam, 2006). Personal antecedents include certain personality traits (such as a negativity and locus of control), individual characteristics (such as values and needs) and individual-level predictors (such as age and gender). Predominantly psychological studies have shown that people who are sensitive to negative emotions and attitudes or experience negative affectivity are less satisfied with their job (e.g., Spector, 1985; Levin & Stokes, 1989; Brief, Butcher, & Roberson, 1995; Spector & O’Connell, 1994). Job satisfaction is also the result of being able to pursue individual values, needs and goals (e.g., Locke, 1976; Kalleberg, 1977; Roberson, 2006). “… the greater the achievement of one’s values, the higher the yield of satisfaction” (Tietjen & Myers, 1998, p. 229). Job satisfaction is also dependent on several individual level predictors. The job function of news workers has for example an important influence: news supervisors judge elements of job satisfaction in another way than rank-and-file journalists (Beam, 2006). Female journalists are less satisfied with their promotional opportunities and feel restricted by family obligations (e.g., children) and their husband’s career (Smucker, Whisenant, & Pedersen, 2003; Barrett, 1984; Rush, Oukrop, & Creedon, 2004). Older journalists differ from their younger colleagues on a variable such as pay (Weaver & Wilhoit, 1996, p. 108). Also other predictors
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
such as race (Bramlett-Solomon, 1992) and job type (Reinardy, 2007; P. Miller & L. Miller, 1995; Greenberg et al., 2007) seems to have an impact on job satisfaction. Working environment factors can be divided into job-intrinsic and job-extrinsic elements (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959; Stamm & Underwood, 1993; Beam, 2006) (cf. Figure 1). Job-intrinsic factors stimulate the internal professional satisfaction and focus on the interpretation of the job in journalism. Examples include the degree of creativity, the variation in content, the abundance of contacts, the intellectual challenge, the individual freedom and the autonomy. Job-extrinsic elements stimulate the external professional satisfaction and are related more to the organisational and journalist working environment (Stamm et al., 1993; Weaver et al., 1996, 2007). Aspects such as social prestige, prestige within the professional group, social commitment, pay, working hours, job security and work pressure are illustrative of this (Barrett, 1984; Weaver et al., 1986, 1996; Smucker et al., 2003). Professional satisfaction
Working environment factors
Creativity Variation Contacts Intellectual challenge Individual freeedom Autonomy Control etc.
Prestige Social commitment Pay Working hours Job security Work pressure Work-family conflict Stress Company values and goals etc. and goals etc.
Figure 1. Indicators of professional satisfaction. Source: Beam (2006), Herzberg et al. (1959), Stamm et al. (1993).
Although each of previous mentioned studies is important to fathom job satisfaction among journalists, it is striking that very few of them have handled a longitudinal perspective. As a result conclusions about evolutions in satisfaction can hardly be made and pessimistic as well as optimistic views on job satisfaction are circulating without scientific research to confirm or to take the edge off. In this study we will therefore concentrate on a longitudinal approach to the research of job satisfaction. We will focus on both intrinsic and extrinsic factors to research job satisfaction. Based on the elements of job satisfaction that previously were studied, we identify six intrinsic and seven extrinsic elements. The following elements are retained as intrinsic variables: degree of creativity, variation in content, abundance of contacts, intellectual challenge, individual freedom and autonomy. The extrinsic aspects comprise the following variables: social prestige, prestige within the professional group, social commitment, pay, working hours, job security, and work pressure.
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
How Satisfied Are Flemish Journalists With the Intrinsic and Extrinsic Aspects of Their Job? Method The data for the longitudinal analysis are collected using two surveys, drawn up by the Center for Journalism Studies (University of Ghent) in cooperation with the Flemish Association of Journalists—Vlaamse Vereniging van Journalisten (VVJ) VVJ/AVBB. The surveys intend to get a picture as complete as possible of the Flemish professional journalist. This means that not only questions about professional satisfaction have been included, but also questions relating to the use of sources, education, ideology, etc.. The questions about professional satisfaction are identical in both surveys which permits a comparison of 2003 and 2008. Furthermore, questions have been asked with answers on a scale of one to five (very dissatisfied to very satisfied) to indicate to what degree respondents are satisfied with the intrinsic and extrinsic job factors: degree of creativity, variation in content, abundance of contacts, intellectual challenge, individual freedom, autonomy, social prestige, prestige within the professional group, social commitment, pay, working hours, job security, and work pressure. The first survey was sent to all 2,257 active Flemish professional journalists by post in 2003. Journalists could also fill out the questionnaire online if they wished. We opted to invite all the journalists to participate rather than involve a random sample of the population of professional journalists in Flanders in the study. In the end, 1,026 journalists participated in the study, which is a response rate of 45.5%. In 2008 all the professional journalists—2,230 in total—were once again asked to participate in the study. Also this time the questionnaire could be filled out on paper or online. Almost 31% of the journalists participated in the study, which means 682 in absolute terms. Research Hypotheses In this study we primarily want to determine how satisfied the Flemish journalist is in and with his profession. We suspect that as a result of changes in the editorial environment and journalism practice (cf. supra) the journalist is less satisfied than was previously the case. We assume in other words that the average professional satisfaction in 2003 will be higher than in 2008. In addition, we suspect that especially the satisfaction with the intrinsic aspects of a job in journalism is falling in 2008. We also suppose that job satisfaction varies along several individual level predictors as there are the social statute, medium, job function, gender, and age (cf. Barrett, 1984; Kelly, 1989; Smucker, Whisenant, & Pedersen, 2003; Reinardy, 2007; Miller et al., 1995; Greenberg et al., 2007). Certain elements such as individual freedom, autonomy, variation in content and abundance of contacts will probably be assessed differently by freelancers than by wage-earning journalists (e.g., Weaver et al., 2007). We also assume that journalists with a responsible function are more satisfied with the pay, the intellectual challenge and the individual freedom. On the other hand, they will perhaps be less satisfied with aspects such as work pressure and working hours (e.g., Jenkins, 1994; Pokrywczynski & Crowley, 1997; Akhavan-Majid, 1998; Greenberg et al., 2007). We also expect differences between journalists who work for the press, radio and television. Television and radio journalists view deadlines for example differently to their colleagues from the written press which can have an influence on job satisfaction (DeFleur, 1992; Pollard, 1995). Furthermore, we assume that male and female journalists judge the elements of job satisfaction differently. Female professional journalists will probably perceive the combination of work and family life as being more difficult (e.g., Barrett,
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
1984; Mottaz, 1986; Kelly, 1989; Jenkins, 1994; Miller & Miller, 1995; Smucker, Whisenant, & Pedersen, 2003; Weaver et al., 2007). And finally we expect also some discrepancies in satisfaction between older and younger journalists (e.g., Janson & Martin, 1982; Pollard, 1995; Pokrywczynski & Crowley, 1997). We are defining the following hypotheses: Hypothesis 1: The Flemish journalist’s professional satisfaction is higher in 2003 than in 2008. Hypothesis 2: The average scores for the intrinsic elements of professional satisfaction will reduce between 2003 and 2008. The scores for the extrinsic elements will remain practically the same. Hypothesis 3: The professional satisfaction of journalists depends on their statute (a), job function (b), the media sector they work in (c), gender (d), and age (e). Results General professional satisfaction amongst Flemish journalists. As indicated above, the professional satisfaction amongst journalists is affected by several elements. Both the interpretation with regard to the content of the job and the appreciation of the work delivered, amongst other things translated into societal and social prestige, promotion, and pay determine whether a journalist is satisfied with his profession or not. Table 1 shows the professional satisfaction of the Flemish journalist and also shows the shifts between 2003 and 2008. Table 1 Professional Satisfaction With Regard to Job-Intrinsic and Job-Extrinsic Factors N N Average Average Shift 2003 2008 for 2003 for 2008 Creativity 1,015 667 3.94 3.89 -0.05 Variation (in content) 1,015 666 4.18 4.18 ---Abundance of contacts (*) 1,018 670 4.16 4.06 -0.10 Intellectual challenge 1,018 670 3.97 3.90 -0.07 Individual freedom 1,017 670 3.99 3.93 -0.06 Individual autonomy 1,003 645 4.16 4.09 -0.07 Social prestige (*) 1,013 671 4.07 3.76 -0.31 Prestige within the professional group (*) 1,015 667 3.74 3.60 -0.14 Social/societal commitment 1,008 664 3.62 3.58 -0.04 Working hours 1,017 668 3.20 3.27 +0.07 Work pressure 1,013 667 2.90 2.99 +0.09 Job security (*) 1,017 666 3.31 3.56 +0.25 Promotion prospects 1,007 656 3.18 3.07 -0.11 Pay 1,012 664 3.36 3.33 -0.03 Note. The average scores of the elements that are an indicator for professional satisfaction (very dissatisfied ► very satisfied) - * = p < 0.05.
When we compare elements of creativity, variation in content, abundance of contacts, intellectual challenge, individual freedom, and individual autonomy, we see scores that in 2003 varied between 3.94 and 4.16 and in 2008 between 3.89 and 4.18. In other words, journalists are satisfied to very satisfied with the essential aspects of their job. Above all the satisfaction with regard to the variation in content and the abundance of contacts is noticeable. What is also noticeable is the high scores for job autonomy (4.16 and 4.09), a variable that in the literature (amongst others Weaver et al., 1986, 1996, 1998, 2007) is considered to be very decisive for the general professional satisfaction. If we compare the results of 2003 with those of 2008, we can
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see a slightly negative shift occurring. Although journalists in the 2008 survey still indicate that they are satisfied to very satisfied with the intrinsic aspects, the average scores are still slightly lower than in 2003. However, only the difference for the “abundance of contacts” factor is significant. The average scores with regard to the extrinsic factors of social prestige, prestige within the professional group, social commitment, pay, working hours, job security, promotion prospects and work pressure vary in 2003 between 2.90 and 4.07 and in 2008 between 2.99 and 3.76. In general, these scores are slightly lower than the ones for the intrinsic factors. The Flemish journalist is primarily less delighted with the work pressure. The scores of 2.90 (2003) and 2.99 (2008) emphasise that journalists tend to be neutral regarding the work pressure which is inherent to their job. A variable which also scores lower than thought compared to other extrinsic factors is promotion prospects. The scores of 3.18 (2003) and 3.07 (2008) after all clearly indicate that journalists tend to be neutral regarding their promotion prospects. Satisfaction with the working hours (3.20 and 3.27 respectively) and pay (3.36 and 3.33) is also fairly average. If we consider the working hours, we observe that more than four fifths of the journalists (80.2% in 2003 and 81.8 % in 2008) indicate that they work over 38 hours a week. Both in 2003 and in 2008 the majority regularly (55.0% and 46.1% respectively) or always (15.5% and 29.4% respectively) had to continue working in the evening. Two thirds (57.3% in 2003 and 59.2% in 2008) of the journalists even indicated that they regularly had to work during the weekend. So as far as the working hours are concerned, we can state that the Flemish journalist has to be very flexible and has more working hours compared to certain other professional groups. What is more, it is clear that between 2003 and 2008 the situation has not improved. On the contrary, journalists have to work for an ever-increasing number of working hours. The Flemish journalist is not really satisfied with the pay either. Table 2 shows that in 2003 half the journalists earned €750 to €1,749 net per month (52.0%). One third (31.1%) of the journalists earned €1,750 to €2,249 per month. Only a minority (17.0%) earned €2,250 to €3,000. In 2008 we see that a quarter (27.5%) of the journalists earns €750 to €1,749 net per month. Another quarter (24.3%) earns €1,750 to €1,999 per month, but almost half (43.3%) earns €2,000 to €3,000. It should be noted that only a small minority (15.8%) earns more than €2,500, however, in 2003 this figure was even lower (9.3%). Generally speaking, we can state that the number of journalists that are paid up to €1,749 decreased between 2003 and 2008 whilst the number of journalists with net pay of €1,750 of higher has increased. Although in 2008 the journalist earns a decent amount of money and the pay has risen significantly between 2003 and 2008, most journalists are still less satisfied with their income. Perhaps the explanation can be found in the ratio of pay to working hours. As indicated above, journalists have to work more than an average number of working hours for their pay. Although we have observed various significant shifts and also established that a number of elements achieve a lower average score for satisfaction, it is noticeable that not a single intrinsic or extrinsic element scores really low. With averages that in 2003 varied between 2.90 and 4.18 and in 2008 varied between 2.99 and 4.18, we can state that generally speaking the Flemish professional journalist is fairly satisfied with the various aspects of his job. This applies for both the survey years 2003 and 2008. The minimal significant differences in other words refute hypothesis 1 and hypothesis 2. However, this does not mean that no variations can be discerned in the assessments of the various journalists. Below, we segment the research population by social statute, job function, media sector, age, and gender and we establish how the satisfaction is.
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Table 2 Evolution in the Pay of the Flemish Journalist (P < 0.01) < €750 > €750 €1,000 €1,250 €1,500 €1,750 €2,000 €2,250 €2,500 €2,750 €3,000
2003 2.3% 2.0% 6.8% 18.8% 22.1% 17.2% 13.9% 7.7% 4.8% 1.2% 3.3% N = 1,007
2008 1.4% 1.2% 2.6% 7.3% 15.0% 24.3% 19.6% 12.9% 6.2% 4.6% 5.0% N = 659
Shift -1.2% -0.8% -4.2% -11.5% -7.1% +7.1% +5.7% +5.2% +1.4% +3.4% +1.7%
Are freelancers just as satisfied as journalists who are on a payroll? The survey shows that both in 2003 and in 2008, the majority of Flemish professional journalists worked on a payroll. Only one fifth (21.2% and 18.6% respectively) of the respondents work as freelancers. Freelancers have less to hold on to with regard to remuneration, social statute, reimbursement of expenses, insurance, and copyright (VVJ, November 18, 2005). The 2003 figures show that only 46.3% of the freelance journalists are (very) satisfied with their statute. One third (31.7%) even explicitly indicates that they are (very) dissatisfied. About one fifth (22.0%) of the journalists adopts a neutral position. However, if we consider the results of the 2008 survey, we observe a significant shift in satisfaction. The majority of the freelancers (69.4%) state that they are satisfied to very satisfied with their statute. A very small minority (13.0%) indicates that they are dissatisfied and about one fifth (17.7%) is neutral. In other words, freelance journalists’ satisfaction with their statute increased between 2003 and 2008. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that in 2008 freelancers received more pay for the same number of working hours. In 2003 only 33.0% earned more than €2,000 net per month. In 2008 this has increased to 49.6%. This higher pay is connected with the average age of the freelance journalist. In 2003 almost three quarters (74.7%) of the freelancers are younger than the average, and in 2008 this is only 56.0%. So in 2008 freelance journalists on average are older than in 2003 and have a higher income accordingly. However, the fact that freelancers above all in 2008 are less bothered about their freelance statute as such does not mean that they are as satisfied with every aspect of the profession as the journalists on a payroll. It is clear that certain disadvantages that are connected with a job in journalism worries the freelancers more. Thus Table 3 points out a number of very clear differences between professional journalists on a payroll and freelance professional journalists in Flanders. The most noticeable figures in Table 3 relate to the assessment of the individual autonomy, the job security, the variation in content and the abundance of contacts. For these elements significant differences are observed between freelancers and journalists on a payroll both in 2003 and in 2008. While the assessment of the variation in content and the abundance of contacts is more positive amongst the freelance journalists, the opposite is true with regard to the factor of job security. What is slightly remarkable is that in 2003 freelancers were less satisfied than their fellow journalists with their autonomy. In 2008 the situation has reversed and freelancers indicate that they are more satisfied with the job autonomy.
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Table 3 Average Scores for Satisfaction Subdivided by Social Statute (on a Scale of 1 to 5) On payroll Freelance On payroll Variation (in content) Freelance On payroll Abundance of contacts Freelance On payroll Intellectual challenge Freelance On payroll Individual freedom Freelance On payroll Individual autonomy Freelance On payroll Social prestige Freelance Prestige within the professional On payroll group Freelance On payroll Social/societal commitment Freelance On payroll Working hours Freelance On payroll Work pressure Freelance On payroll Job security Freelance On payroll Promotion prospects Freelance On payroll Pay Freelance Creativity
N 2003 788 215 789 214 790 216 791 215 791 214 787 204 786 215 787 216 782 214 790 215 787 214 791 214 783 212 787 213
N 2008 531 123 531 122 531 124 533 123 531 124 525 110 533 124 531 123 529 124 532 123 530 124 532 123 532 111 531 119
Average 2003 3.91 (*) 4.06 (*) 4.15 (*) 4.31 (*) 4.12 (*) 4.31 (*) 3.97 3.95 3.97 4.04 4.19 (*) 4.04 (*) 4.09 4.00 3.75 3.67 3.64 3.54 3.21 3.17 2.88 2.93 3.58 (*) 2.32 (*) 3.23 (*) 3.00 (*) 3.43 (*) 3.10 (*)
Average 2008 3.87 3.96 4.16 (*) 4.31 (*) 4.01 (*) 4.23 (*) 3.89 3.92 3.87 4.19 3.97 (*) 4.70 (*) 3.78 (*) 3.65 (*) 3.60 3.57 3.58 3.52 3.27 3.24 2.97 3.02 3.76 (*) 2.71 (*) 3.03 3.30 3.24 3.78
Shift -0.04 -0.10 +0.01 ----0.11 (*) -0.08 -0.08 -0.03 -0.10 (*) +0.15 -0.22 (*) +0.66 -0.31 (*) -0.35 (*) -0.15 (*) -0.10 -0.06 -0.02 +0.06 +0.07 +0.09 +0.09 +0.18 (*) +0.39 (*) +0.80 (*) +0.30 -0.19 (*) +0.68
Note.* The figures marked with an asterisk differ significantly at level p < 0.05.
Compared with journalists who are on a payroll, freelancers are more satisfied with the variation and abundance of contacts in their job (cf. Table 3). These results are partly connected with the individual character of the statute. After all, it is the case that freelance journalists are often given different assignments by various news organisations. Perhaps that variation not only leads to more variation in content, but also requires an extensive network of contacts to fit the various stories in. Whilst the satisfaction with the (job-intrinsic) aspects variation in content and abundance of contacts is higher amongst the freelance journalists than amongst those on a payroll, the opposite applies for the (job-extrinsic) factors social prestige and job security. Expressed in terms of percentages, in 2003 68.6% and in 2008 40.7% of the freelancers tend to be dissatisfied to very dissatisfied with the job security that accompanies the job. According to the VVJ, the freelancers’ longing for more job security is priority number one. The professional association feels that freelancers are entitled to “a minimum amount of job security and decent working conditions by means of a standard cooperation agreement”(VVJ, 2008). Significant differences that we observe in 2003 with regard to creativity, promotion prospects and pay no longer occur in 2008. What is noticeable is that in 2008 freelance journalists indicate that they are more satisfied with their pay and promotion prospects. Perhaps this can once again be explained by the freelancers’
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
age (cf. supra). In 2008 we see yet another significant difference with regard to the element of social prestige. Although the figures are fairly positive, Table 3 shows that the journalist on a payroll is slightly more satisfied about this aspect of the job. With their assessment, freelancers indicate that they see their social statute as being less compared to their colleagues on a payroll. In other words we can largely confirm hypothesis 3a: The degree of professional satisfaction is indeed determined by the social statute of the journalist. However, not only the differences between freelance journalists but also those on a payroll are noticeable. What is maybe even more noticeable than the discrepancies are the factors for which the satisfaction does not significantly differ between both groups. Although for example the workload—measured on the basis of a few parameters of the list—is higher for freelance journalists then for journalists on payroll, they are not significantly less satisfied with their working hours and the work pressure in journalism. Do the job function and media sector determine the degree of professional satisfaction? If we divide the professional group into journalists with managerial and non-managerial functions, we can once again see a few significant differences with regard to the job satisfaction. Table 4
Average Scores for Satisfaction Subdivided by Job Function (on a Scale of 1 to 5) Function Managerial Non-managerial Managerial Variation (in content) Non-managerial Managerial Abundance of contacts Non-managerial Managerial Intellectual challenge Non-managerial Managerial Individual freedom Non-managerial Managerial Individual autonomy Non-managerial Managerial Social prestige Non-managerial Prestige within the Managerial professional group Non-managerial Managerial Social/societal commitment Non-managerial Managerial Working hours Non-managerial Managerial Work pressure Non-managerial Managerial Job security Non-managerial Managerial Promotion prospects Non-managerial Loon Managerial Non-managerial Creativity
N 2003 189 815 191 813 191 816 191 817 191 816 189 803 190 812 189 816 189 808 191 815 190 813 191 815 188 808 188 813
N 2008 135 518 136 516 135 521 135 521 136 520 130 504 136 521 136 517 136 515 136 518 136 517 136 516 133 509 135 515
Average 2003 4.00 3.93 4.20 4.17 4.13 4.17 4.09 (*) 3.94 (*) 4.14 (*) 3.95 (*) 4.44 (*) 4.10 (*) 4.12 4.06 3.92 (*) 3.70 (*) 3.69 3.60 3.10 3.23 2.69 (*) 2.94 (*) 3.51 (*) 3.27 (*) 3.35 3.15 3.70 (*) 3.28 (*)
Note.* The figures marked with an asterisk differ significantly at level p < 0.05.
Average 2008 3.92 3.88 4.22 4.18 4.01 4.06 4.03 (*) 3.87 (*) 4.07 (*) 3.90 (*) 4.30 4.04 3.85 3.73 3.65 3.58 3.58 3.58 3.21 3.29 2.86 3.02 3.80 (*) 3.51 (*) 3.31 (*) 2.83 (*) 3.41 (*) 3.15 (*)
Shift -0.08 -0.05 +0.02 +0.01 -0.12 -0.11 (*) -0.06 -0.07 -0.07 -0.05 -0.14 (*) -0.06 -0.27 (*) -0.33 (*) -0.27 (*) -0.12 (*) -0.11 -0.02 +0.11 +0.06 +0.17 +0.08 +0.29 (*) +0.24 (*) -0.04 -0.32 (*) -0.29 (*) -0.13 (*)
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In the first place we observe that journalists who have a managerial function both in 2003 and 2008 are more satisfied with the intellectual challenge, individual freedom, job security, and the pay connected with their job. It is fairly logical that it is precisely these elements that score better. After all, someone who holds a higher function is assumed to face greater intellectual challenges and take decisions autonomously. That is precisely why individuals often opt for a job as editor in chief, section head, or general editor. More responsibility and a higher function are furthermore remunerated in different ways. Managerial journalists are paid more and having specific qualities makes the risk of journalists with a higher function being dismissed or replaced less. Significant differences in 2003 with regard to individual autonomy, prestige within the professional group and work pressure no longer occur in 2008. As far as work pressure is concerned, however, in 2008 journalists with a managerial function are less satisfied than non-managerial journalists. Furthermore, it is noticeable that the satisfaction with this element is quite a lot lower compared to other job-extrinsic factors. However, all the journalists are very satisfied with the autonomy that they get in their job. In 2003 journalists with a managerial function were even significantly more satisfied. But if we compare the results of 2003 with those of 2008, we observe that despite the fact that satisfaction remains fairly high, both journalists with a managerial function and non-managerial journalists give lower scores for autonomy. In 2008 we see a new significant difference occur with regard to promotion prospects. Whereas in 2003 both managerial and non-managerial journalists gave fairly positive scores for this element of the job, in 2008 the non-managerial journalists are a lot less satisfied with their promotion prospects. Perhaps this can partly be explained by the editorial reforms and the financial and economic crises that have ensured that the journalists with a non-managerial function see their prospects of promotion decreasing. From the above results we can deduce that hypothesis 3b can largely be confirmed. Professional satisfaction not only depends on the social statute of the journalist but is also determined by the job function. Once again we would like to point out that although there are various significant differences between journalists with and those without a managerial function, certain intrinsic and extrinsic factors are assessed in the same way. For example, it is not the case that the satisfaction with the working hours is significantly lower amongst managerial journalists. If we study the differences on the basis of the media sector in which the journalist works, the 2003 and 2008 surveys show that the Flemish professional journalist’s professional also partly depends on this. Thus we observe that journalists who work for the written press are significantly less satisfied with the work pressure, working hours and job security in journalism. The fact that these are all job-extrinsic factors suggests that a job with a newspaper or magazine offers less stability than a job with the radio or television. Furthermore in the radio sector, the journalists complain significantly less about the job security and the working hours. In other words we can largely confirm hypothesis 3c. The media sector does have an impact on the professional satisfaction. However, this impact largely occurs in the job-extrinsic factors. Does professional satisfaction depend on gender and age? Whereas we have shown above that the professional satisfaction of professional journalists largely depends on the statute that they work under, the function held and the media sector in which they work, we found few or no significant differences with regard to professional satisfaction depending on gender and age. So in general the differences in professional satisfaction between men and women or younger and older journalists are limited. What is noticeable is that on average both in 2003 and in 2008 female professional journalists were slightly more satisfied with the variation in content of their job in journalism than their male colleagues. In
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
2003, women also indicate that they are less satisfied with their prestige within the professional group and the working hours. However, in 2008 those discrepancies have disappeared. Hypothesis 3d is in other words not fully proved. On the other hand, we do find gender differences if we specifically focus on the perception of journalists concerning the work/private life balance. Figure 1 leaves little doubt that female professional journalists perceive the difficulties that accompany the combination of work and private life differently to male journalists. % journalists who agree (completely) with the statements
Journalists have little time for a social life outside of journalism
It is best if It is best if journalists have a Having children partner who affects the career Journalism and a journalists have a family are hard to partner with a works less or not opportunities of a combine regular job at all journalist
25,3% 22,4% 41,9%
44,0% Survey 2008
42,6% 45,5% 38,7% 41,1%
54,0% Survey 2003 43,9% Survey 2008
Figure 1. Opinions about the combination of work and private life.
If we look at the results for the entire professional group, we can see that 45.5% in 2003 and 41.1% in 2008 of the respondents agree with the statement that the profession of journalism is difficult to combine with a family life. The figures furthermore make it clear that women consider the combination of work and a family more difficult than men. The gender difference is more apparent for the statement that having children has an impact on the journalist’s career opportunities: Six out of ten women (about 62%) agree, whilst only four out of ten of the men do. Female professional journalists seem less inclined to choose to have children than their male colleagues. This is confirmed by the results. In 2003, 59.7% of the women and only 40.9% of the men did not have children. In 2008 only 45% of the women still do not have children and 26.7% of the men, but the discrepancy between the two genders remains. In view of these figures it should not be surprising that female journalists opt more for part-time work: In
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
2003, 15.5% of the female professional journalists worked part-time, compared to 8.5% of the male respondents. In 2008 this had increased to 17.2% compared to 7.2% of the men. By working part-time, women appear to “buy” a little more time for their life outside journalism. Perhaps this explains why the female journalists tend to agree a little less with the statement that journalists have little time for a social life in addition to their work. Finally, Figure 1 shows that journalists do find it fairly important that their partner has a regular job (about 47%), but that it is not necessary for that partner to work less (31.1% in 2003 and 22.4% in 2008). Above all, female journalists are not really bothered that their partners work more than they do. If we divide the professional group into journalists who are older and those that are younger than average, in 2003 we observe that younger journalists are less satisfied with their prestige within the professional group and the pay they receive. In 2008 these young journalists remain less satisfied about the job-extrinsic elements cited, but the difference is no longer significant. Prestige and pay are closely linked with seniority. Perhaps that is why older journalists indicate that they are more satisfied with this. For the rest our analysis does not bring any significant statistical correlations to light. In other words, we cannot endorse hypothesis 3e.
Conclusion In this study we have discussed the professional satisfaction amongst Flemish journalists. As sketched in the introduction, this concept is very valuable in times of evolving news staffs, changing working environments, and increased interest in factors such as burnout. By using a longitudinal approach to the research, we have not only made the focal point professional satisfaction amongst Flemish journalists, but also investigated any evolution in that professional satisfaction. Both in 2003 and in 2008 the Flemish professional journalist seems fairly satisfied with the interpretation of his job. However, it must be said that the job-intrinsic aspects score better than the job-extrinsic elements. Furthermore, journalists are less satisfied with the working hours, work pressure, pay, and promotion prospects. On the other hand, the job autonomy, the variation in content, and the abundance of contacts are perceived as being very positive. If we compare the results of 2003 with those of 2008, we see a slightly negative but non-significant shift occurring. This may be a sign that the professional satisfaction is falling. However, a new wave of surveys will have to provide a definite answer. Although the professional satisfaction amongst Flemish journalists is fairly high, we have still identified a number of discrepancies with regard to social statute and job function. Those differences were already notices in previous research in the American national context (cf. supra) and now confirmed for the Flemish context. Freelancers and journalists on a payroll differ especially in their assessment of the individual autonomy, job security, abundance of contacts, and variation in content. These differences were determined in the 2003 survey and confirmed in the 2008 survey. Managerial and non-managerial journalists also assess certain job-intrinsic and job-extrinsic elements differently. The intellectual challenge, individual freedom, job security, and the pay were after all assessed more positively by managerial journalists in 2003 and in 2008. In addition to the above-mentioned significant differences, we have also observed that segmentation by the individual level predictors of gender and age do not expose much differentiation. In contrast to various international studies (cf. supra), our analysis only brings to light a few statistical correlations. However, what men and women do clearly assess differently is the combination of work and family life. Above all, female journalists find their profession more difficult to combine with a family. They tend to experience having
A LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF JOB SATISFACTION
children as a curtailing of the career opportunities more than their male colleagues. Perhaps this is because women are still chiefly the ones who bear most of the family responsibilities. Summarising we can state that the professional satisfaction amongst Flemish journalists does not appear to have been eroded by recent evolutions such as changing news staffs, financial and other crises, technological developments, and the rise of citizen journalism. However, this does not rule out the fact that these factors can have a perceivable impact on the general professional satisfaction of Flemish professional journalists in the future. After all, the surveys in this study were carried out in 2003 and 2008. In a new wave of research, the real impact of certain recent developments will probably become clearer.
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Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1, 250-262
Media as an Identity Negotiator Among “Swedish” Children in Athens and “Japanese” in London Ulrika Sjöberg Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden
Kaoruko Kondo University of Westminster, London, U.K.
With its transcultural perspective this paper looks at how families (i.e., parents and children) talk about children’s identity and the importance of mothers’ homeland media for the children, who are surrounded by a global popular media culture. Both studies used similar methods: interviews, participant observation, and photo-taking. The analysis shows the complexity of identity formation and the need to apply a contextual and relational perspective when wanting to understand the roles of media in the process of forming identity. The mothers’ homeland media is an important construction tool in the process and helps the children not only with languages but also catch up with information about peers in mothers’ homeland. Keywords: comparative research, migration, children, identity, homeland media use
The paper is a comparative study based on two separate studies: The Media and Japanese Children in Diaspora: Understanding Japanese Families’ Media Consumption and Everyday Lives in London (Kondo, 2005) and Mediated Childhoods in Multicultural Families in Greece (Sjöberg, 2005). With its transcultural perspective the paper reflects upon what it is like growing up with several cultures and the role of media in terms of identity formation among Japanese and Swedish/Greek children in U.K. and Greece. What are the similarities and differences? Both studies had similar aims and methods (interviews, participant observations, and photo-taking) but in different national and cultural contexts. With this paper we hope to contribute to the field of comparative studies on children in diaspora/multicultural settings and the media. By comparing these two studies more knowledge and new understanding is gained about what it is like growing up with several cultures and the importance of mothers’ homeland media1 for these children’s negotiation of identities in an increasingly global and transnational media world (cf. Giddens, 1990; Castells, 1996). In order to develop new ways of thinking (theoretically and methodologically), much greater effort is needed by researchers to “… become aware of the similarities between projects being developed in different countries, we can start to come together more, share ideas and collaborate” (Gauntlett, 2005, p. 16). While there may be critics of comparison between different studies in different settings, Beniger (1992) encourages this type of approach to lead to new ways of thinking. Similarities as well as differences in our findings are worth looking at and might trigger new avenues in the way we do research. Previous comparative media research (cf. Livingstone & Bovill, 2001) has mainly looked at how much
Ulrika Sjöberg, associate professor, the School of Arts and Communication, Malmö University. Kaoruko Kondo, research fellow, the school of Media, Art and Design, University of Westminster. 1 In the U.K. project the mothers were interviewed and children were observed, while in the Greek studies mothers or both parents took part.
MEDIA AS AN IDENTITY NEGOTIATOR AMONG “SWEDISH” CHILDREN
time children and young people worldwide spend on different types of media, media access, with whom, for what purposes, and in what settings (e.g., schools, home) media are used. Studies have also been conducted on the usage of global media like Disney and Pokemon among youngsters from different cultures (cf. Wasko, Phillips, & Meehan, 2001; Tobin, 2004). Besides looking at media usage, research has examined how migrant children in Europe, with the help of media production represent their experiences of, for instance, peer groups, school, and family (cf. de Block & Sefton-Green, 2004; Christopoulou & de Leeuw, 2005). In the area of reception studies, audience research on particular contents is often compared in various settings (e.g., different countries, classroom/home). Livingstone (2003), however, argues that studies which are edited nation-by-chapter tend to leave the readers with the task of comparing its results. Livingstone (2003) also claims that the aims in comparing studies should be precise and the units of analysis clearly stated. Couldry and Hepp (2006) argued for a “transcultural approach” when comparing media cultures; looking beyond the nation as the natural point of departure. The unit of analysis in this article is the participating families’ thoughts based on their cultural backgrounds about identity and the children’s usage of particular media. Thus, it is the families’ way of using the particular media that serve as a reference point in the analysis rather than looking at the “nations” and its media systems and markets per se. This is however not to dismiss the nation and its cultural distinctive elements, but this analysis is beyond the scope of this paper. The paper starts with a methodological discussions and a description of the participating families. Thereafter, the children’s and their parents’ talks about identity will be examined. Finally, the children’s experience of the media from the countries where their mothers come from will be looked at.
Reflections on Methodological Approaches The two studies raised similar research questions with methods such as interviews, observations, field notes, and photo-taking, with the aim of studying media usage2 in relational and holistic terms, i.e., in everyday life of the participating families (cf. Gillespie, 1995, p. 55). Furthermore, both projects applied a generational perspective (involving both parents/mothers and their children). While the parents/mothers have moved to another country (U.K. and Greece), the children are growing up in these two countries, which is assumed to affect their formation of identities and media usage. There are, however, also several differences between the projects such as the participating families’ nationality, ethnicity, cultural, and personal background and the age of the children. In the study of Japanese families, both parents are originally from Japan, and the case of Swedish families, the mothers are from Sweden and the husbands (except one) from Greece. Another difference is that the Japanese families in the U.K. project are only visitors in London for a specific period of time (about five years), while the Swedish mothers in Greece have taken the decision to stay permanently. We will now look into more detail on the participating families and the verbal and visual methods used when conducting the field work.
The Families The fieldwork in the U.K. project was carried out for a year from 2002 to 2003 by Kondo and can be said to represent an anthropological form of ethnography, which is advocated by Gillespie (1995, p. 54) “… 2
The media involved in the two projects were: newspapers, internet, e-mail, computer games, Playstation, CD, books, comics, telephone, postcards, letters, magazines, radio, television, video, DVD. In the U.K. project, also holidays to Disneyland or clothes/stationeries with TV characters were included.
MEDIA AS AN IDENTITY NEGOTIATOR AMONG “SWEDISH” CHILDREN
fieldwork based upon intense, long-term participant observation”. Eleven Japanese families who had children aged five to eight in London were introduced through a key person such as a manager from Japanese satellite television in London (JSTV) and some families who participated in the previous studies by Kondo (2001). These Japanese families of middle class were temporary living in London sent by their companies (generally for five years). The mothers and children including their siblings (totally 11 mothers and 23 children) were observed and interviewed every two months for a year. The advantage of visiting families repeatedly are mainly to obtain the in-depth and rich data from their everyday lives, where the researcher became intimate with the participants, and to observe changes in the children’s usages or interests in the media while they lived in London. The absence of fathers may be pointed out. It is due to fathers’ work where they were promoted to be a manager in European offices, often go on business trips to other European cities and spend weekends on playing golf amongst the Japanese expatriates (cf. Ben-Ari, 1998). Therefore, fathers are not regarded as the centre of the family at homes, only mothers and children were interviewed and observed at their homes. The families who participated in this project were West London area (West Acton, Ealing Broadway) where most of the Japanese expatriates concentrate due to the Japanese school, North London area (Finchley) where ex-Japanese school located and is still popular amongst them, and South London (Orpington, Chislehurst, Purely) where they tend to live not as close as the North and West area of London but in white middle-class affluent area where many private schools are located. The data collection for the Greek project took place during September, 2004, where ten families participated; all living in Athens (e.g., Pireas, Plaka, Faliro, & Metamorfosi ) and its surroundings (e.g., Vari) with children of the ages 12-16 (total of 12 children). The families were contacted with the help of the Swedish Institute and the Swedish school in Athens. The children (except one) attended Greek public schools. In all the families the mother is Swedish and has lived in Greece between 10 to 26 years. The husbands were Greeks, except for one family, where the father was non-European. The majority of the families had a middle class background. Their occupations were teacher, secretary, physiotherapist, painter, psychologist, photographer, and businessman. Three others had their own business like a café, a hotel, and a store3.
Children’s Visual Means of Expression Both studies interviewed both children and mothers, asking about their media experiences and their everyday lives. In addition to in-depth interviews, photo-taking was used. Today, questions are being asked about how various visual means may offer alternative ways in exploring a person’s relationship with his or her media culture and the symbolic and social meanings associated with objects in daily life (cf. Gauntlett, 2005; Pink, 2001; Secondulfo, 1997; Cavin, 1994). In the Greek project disposable cameras were sent to the children before the researcher’s visit and they were asked to take photos of people, places, and things that were important to them in daily life (thus not only of media). The main purpose of the photos in the Greek project was to act as a “can-opener”, as a way of establishing rapport with the younger informants for the latter interview, which took place in their bedroom (cf. Pink, 2001). This encouraged the children to be co-researchers as they got the opportunity to be involved in the research process by shaping the agenda of the 3
All families in the British and Greek study were assured that participation was voluntary and that the material would be confidential. In the presentation of the material, attempts have been made so that the identity of the participants will not be disclosed. Written permission has also been given by both the parents and the children to use the photos in conferences, publications etc.
MEDIA AS AN IDENTITY NEGOTIATOR AMONG “SWEDISH” CHILDREN
later interview (cf. Harper, 1998; Gauntlett, 2005). In the U.K., the children aged five to eight were asked to take photos of their favourite toys or something important to them with the researcher’s digital camera (cf. Entz & Galarza, 2000). The photos taken were not only toys, but also of their mothers, siblings, pets, and the researcher. Another reason why the use of the camera is useful is because the photos show the “world” through children’s eyes. This could show different things other than what their mothers believed the children might like. In both projects the children were asked to talk about their photos, which stress a relational type of interpretation, resulting from a dialogue between the child and the researcher. Visual images are filled with ambiguity and it is only by letting the children talk about their photos that the subjective meanings attached to the photos by its informants are brought to the fore (cf. Mitchell & Reid-Walsh, 2002; Pink, 2001). This process of making the children image-makers also inspired, for example, the young people in the Greek project to reflect upon things and people that mattered to them. The Japanese children’s photos were taken of their favourite toys as they were told to take “anything important to you”. Thus, the photos were not taken randomly but with a certain thought behind them. The fact that the children used the researcher’s camera in the U.K. study had of course consequences on the type of photos taken. With their disposable camera the Greek/Swedish children could take photos of other places and people etc. beyond the private sphere of the home. In the U.K. children under aged 11 are not allowed to go out side by themselves. They were therefore asked to take photos at homes and their gardens. In addition, children from the middle-classes are busy with lessons after school. The advantage of using the digital camera was that the children could see the photos on the screen and talk about each object to the researcher. That is, the photo-taken has initiated children to talk about what they were interested in and why they chose a particular subject. This has helped the researcher with children who might be shy or not good at expressing their thoughts without objects. Most importantly, the researcher understood what the children actually liked and how they categorised the objects rather than merely observing many objects in their bedrooms.
Interviews and Field Notes The children in the Greek project were interviewed in their bedrooms and these interviews lasted between 1.5-2 hours. Media researchers (e.g., Bovill & Livingstone, 2001) frequently talk about the rise of bedroom culture in which various media play a crucial role. As has been mentioned above, in the interviews with children their photos served as a reference point. In the interviews, the children were also asked to show the researcher their favourite books, computer games etc.. The mother in each family was also interviewed (the father participated in four of the families). In addition to the interviews, the researcher was sometimes invited to have a coffee break with the family, visiting the family café, or joining a mother to see her daughter training Tae Kwondo. For all the interviews a tape recorder was used and all the material was transcribed verbatim. A combination of research diary and field notes was written during the field work in Athens. The notes contain a mixture of describing, for example, each interview situation in more general terms and thus becoming an important tool in the processing of all impressions during the data collection. An in-depth interview with mothers was carried out in the U.K. project. In order to see any change, the researcher visited them every two months over a year. In the U.K. project the field notes were not taken in front of the informants since this could have disturbed the interviews and natural settings. The field notes
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were done as soon as possible after leaving the families. No formal interviews were carried out with the children. The researcher asked questions to the children about chosen objects (e.g., cartoon’s characters, toys, their drawings, Disney costumes).
Talking About Children’s Identities Before examining the children’s use of mothers’ homeland media, a note is made on the discussions that evolved about the children’s identity within the family. The definitions of identity are numerous, from Erikson’s (1968) concept of identity as a stable psychological entity, rooted in childhood (involving values and biographic experiences) mainly influenced by local actors like family and peers to a late modern definition of identity advocated by, for example, Giddens (1991). For Giddens, identity formation is the result of a reflexive process, adjusting to various contexts and situations, and where the function of media as a symbolic resource is emphasised. Relating to Goffman’s work (1959), the various roles a person inhabits are closely related to his or her identity. While roles are formed by language, behaviour pattern and habits; identity is a result of how more abstract cultural domains like view of the world, ideology, values have been internalized (Stier, 2004; cf. Berger & Luckmann, 1967). To live in a multiplicity of cultures is said to encourage a development of transcultural identities and translocal communities. It is stated that a person’s identity has to switch (and thereby find a balance) between two worlds, between the traditionally bounded home and on the other hand the new society, with its demands and expectations (cf. Hall, 1992). See further section below how the studies dealt with the concept of identity. Another key term in the two studies is the concept of culture. That culture and media are closely interwoven is stated by Martín-Barbero (1997, p. 50) “… the media have acquired a concrete institutional form and become a reflection of the culture”. Through the media, many representations and stereotypes can be seen. Looking more specifically at its many-sided nature of culture, it may include a collective consciousness or systems of meanings and symbols, a medium in which experiences are organised through (e.g., language, cognitive schemata) and a tool of power or of defence in order to, for example, mark collective identities in conflicts. However, in this discussion it is important not to perceive people who share a certain culture as a homogenous group; variations due to individual experiences, class, gender, age etc. will always be discernible (Ehn & Löfgren, 1982, pp. 13-15). Werbner (1997, p. 229) stresses the problem of collective objectification and encourages us to consider the moral appropriateness of various group labels: “Such levels labels seem to capture the essence of a group, and this has lead to fierce debates about what ethnic minorities should call themselves, and be called”. As for the two projects the labels given by the informants were used. Hence, both studies did not examine specific predetermined definitions of culture and identity. We approached the families in an inductive way; the participants themselves talked about their categorisation and perception of these terms. This approach led us to categorise the families’ talk about children’s identity along the aspects of doing, being and becoming. Figure 1 summarises the main aspects involved in the identity formation among Japanese and Swedish/Greek children according to the parents’ and the children’s talk and through photo-taking. The labels doing, being, and becoming will be the main analytical tool in the discussions that follow, both in relation to identities and how the mothers/parents would like to bring up their children in relation to their choices of mothers’ homeland media, and how children actually use and perceive the media in their socialising and identity formation process. What are the similarities and differences in the two studies?
MEDIA AS AN IDENTITY NEGOTIATOR AMONG “SWEDISH” CHILDREN Doing
* Traditions & habits
communicating and expressing
in the home
* Upbringing * Social and cultural
codes in how to behave
* Body language * Personal traits *
* Going to church,
* School, peers, play
Changes with time and context
Figure 1. The doing, being, and becoming of children’s identity in U.K. and Greece.
Children’s “Doing, Being, and Becoming” in Everyday Life Figure 1 shows that several markers of identity were mentioned, such as cultural, religious, and national (cf. Hall, 2001). While various markers of identity were expressed by the informants, it usually involved the interrelated features of being, doing, and becoming. Parallels can here be drawn to the social dimensions of ethnicity suggested by Fishman (1996). In our definition being refers to how, for example, a culture, nation, religion organizes a person’s experiences through, for example, language (both verbal and non-verbal), values, norms and cognitive schemata. “Doing”, on the other hand, involves a way of living, having a specific behaviour, which in turn may be related to, for example, rituals, traditions, values, culture. Finally, the term becoming stresses how some of the participating children’s identity markers may change with time and context. Compared to the children, many of the Swedish mothers, who were brought up in Sweden and lived in Greece, said that they felt themselves caught between two worlds; that they will never be Greek and at the same time they did not feel 100% Swedish when in Sweden (see further Sjöberg, 2006). Even the Japanese mothers who would stay temporally in the U.K. became gradually to feel that they were different from people in Japan. Thus, the mothers in the two projects described their lives as “rootless” (cf. Cunningham & Sinclair, 2001). However, this “rootless” feeling was not discernible among the children in the two studies. While all the children in Greece have a Swedish mother, there was an agreement among the parents that the children were more Greek than Swedish. Two of the boys in the Greek study stated clearly that Greece is their home and that they did not care about Sweden. As for Japanese children, who were aged five to eight, they did not mention “homes” directly since they were too young to have such an awareness. Those young children, however, often used the phrases “return to Japan” since they knew they would return to Japan some day. Several aspects related to doing were stated when discussing children’s identity (see Figure 1). When referring to their Swedish features, the Swedish school (which was attended once per week) and the
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Scandinavian church in Athens were two fundamental places. The latter was not only a religious place but a meeting point for social and cultural activities. The importance of learning and preserving the mother tongue language (cf. being) was also stressed by the Japanese mothers, who sent their school-children to the Saturday Japanese schools in London where they were taught Japanese by the Ministry of Education in Japan. Another example of doing is how the children in Greece talked about having another way of living, for instance, travelling abroad on a regular basis in comparison to their Greek peers. The Japanese children did not talk about the differences except that they believed to be able to obtain the latest toys, episodes of the popular programmes, or sports (e.g., baseball in Japan, cricket or football in the U.K. for boys) from Japan. Another example of doing was how the Japanese mothers tended to encourage their daughters more to make non-Japanese friends at school than their sons. The main reason was because experiencing and knowing different cultures could be their future cultural capital (cf. Goodman, 1990). Boys, on the other hand, were minimised to play with non-Japanese peers, they tended to nourish becoming elements within their mothers’ plot (goal of childrearing to become “international businessman”). Similar thoughts about peers and playing were not found in the Greek project. There are also examples of how the children’s body language differed from Greek peers’. This type of being characteristics was also seen among the Japanese children, perceived by their mothers. Due to their younger age the Japanese children did not realise such differences themselves, but the mothers often mentioned their children’s being or becoming also from body language; perceived as “English” or “Other”. Both Swedish and Japanese mothers made effort to maintain traditions (e.g., special food during certain events) in the home. By making their children “do” (behave along certain manners the mothers prefer), they tried to lead their children to become their ideal being/becoming. The Japanese mothers stressed their concern about the children’s future in Japan after returning if they can adopt in Japanese society (such as being bullied due to lack of understanding of the Japanese society where “harmony” is respected, whereas the Western society values “individualism” (cf. Pang, 2000; Minami, 2000). Therefore, although the Japanese mothers encouraged their children to engage with certain elements of the foreign culture such as the language (within a certain form such as language acquisitions,) sense of fashions, and experiences of high culture (e.g., Royal Ballets in London), they did not appreciate the children’s behaviours (i.e., doing) based on the Western “individualism” which would look strange in Japan (e.g., speaking loudly in English on buses or trains). Similar results were not found among Swedish mothers. In the process of “becoming”, one can here refer to Goffman (1959) who talks about how people wear a wide range of different social costumes depending on the specific context (see becoming in Figure 1). It is stated that children who grow up with more than one culture are likely to develop a so called intercultural competence, i.e., to have the ability to alter not just between different languages but also various cultural norms, traditions, and behaviours etc. (cf. Stier, 2004). The interviews with the mothers/parents and their children in both projects indicated that, for example, whether the child stressed his/her Swedishness/Greekness or Japanese/Englishness shifted depending on the context and locality (i.e., becoming). The children move in and out, live between different cultures and change language and body language codes, which lead to their being and doing. The parents encouraged their children to be bilingual and bicultural as a valuable skill in their future adult life and as will be seen in the following section, mothers’ homeland media usage becomes one means for this. “He just takes the best from each place. He never becomes the Greek male when he goes to Sweden” (mother to a 16-year-old boy). As for the Japanese children, they were still young, but surely they had already
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developed an ability to switch two languages and even the ways of playing with their peers. For example, Japanese boys tended to play with more than two peers at the same time, and played Beyblade (a Japanese spinning toy with TV characters) whereas with English peers they played football in the garden or classical children’s board games. An additional aspect of becoming in the two projects is how the children may become more rooted in Greece or Sweden and Britain or Japan as they grow older; indicating, once again, the contextual nature of a person’s identity formation. Some examples of this process in which the media is related will be shown below.
Media Usage From Mothers’ Homelands This section focuses on how media from the mothers’ homelands played a role in relation to the children’s identities based on the interrelated features of “doing, being, and becoming”. Media consumption is said to play an additional important part in children’s formation of identities (cf. Bachmair, 1990). Looking at today’s media’s distribution, national boundaries have become increasingly ambiguous in global flows such as the impact of various transnational media (e.g., satellite television and the Internet) on contemporary life. Screberny-Mohammadi, Screberny, Winseck, McKenna, & Boyd-Barrett note (1997, p. xii) “… we can suggest that patterns of social interaction and information flows are increasingly occurring across national boundaries to form new bases of political and cultural identity”. But at the same time the importance of locality and nationality cannot be ignored. The distinction between global and homeland media is not an easy one and we might in fact question this distinction. Several studies have, for example, shown how international television programmes are rooted and associated with “local” meanings among a global audience (cf. Liebes & Katz, 1990; Drotner, 2001). In both projects, different media such as books, magazines, TV programmes, films, toys with TV characters, etc. appeared in the children’s photographs and in their interviews. As for photos involving mothers’ homeland media only one photo, taken by a 16-year-old girl, in the Greek project showed Swedish media (books), i.e., media which are produced in Sweden, in Swedish. But when talking to the children about their use of Swedish media variations were found due to personal interests or tastes which is part of their being. As for the latter, those children who were most inclined to utilize different Swedish media are also the ones who talked about perceiving oneself more as Swedish or Swedish/Greek and the importance of going to Sweden every year (i.e., the Swedish features of “doing, being, and becoming” were most prevalent). The Swedish media most frequently mentioned among the children were video films, books, the children’s magazine Kamratposten, music, comics, and Swedish communities on the net. The Japanese case shows similar tendencies even though the children were too young to verbally associate such media from Japan with their identities. The photos which the children took showed their interests—toys with popular Japanese cartoon characters such as Pokemon, BeyBlades, Hello Kitty etc., which is also part of their being and doing. It is clear that these symbolic forms from Japan were very significant for them. That is, they said taking pictures of their “important” objects, “This is my most favourite or important toy without mixing with non-Japanese objects” (e.g., accessories from England, Lego, books, & Disney products). Not only watching Japanese programmes (either in Japanese via videos from Japan or a JSTV [a Japanese satellite TV station in the U.K.] or in English via Fox kids or Cartoon network on Sky), they read books, magazines, and comics in Japanese, which are published and originally produced/written in Japan, play related games such as Pokemon or Mario Brothers on gameboy, and checked prices of the latest toys in Japan over the Internet. Thus,
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both studies have found that the children choose the media from their mothers’ homeland positively and eagerly in their everyday lives. So through such media contents, how do they develop and negotiate their identities (becoming)? Both the children and the parents in the Greek project stated that Swedish media had fulfilled an important role for the children to learn Swedish and by giving them an insight into Swedish culture and children’s culture, which was admitted also by the Japanese mothers. To some extent, the reason why the Japanese mothers encouraged their sons to socialise themselves via the Japanese media products amongst Japanese peers is because they were able to learn how to respect “harmony” which is a virtue in Japan (cf. Goodman, 1990). Thus, media became a crucial means for the mothers reminding them of their bicultural backgrounds: My children have been pretty brainwashed when it comes to the Swedish language. Ever since they were babies, so to speak, they have gotten cassettes and tapes and everything with Swedish music, we have always read bedtime stories in Swedish. (Mother of a 13- and 14-year-old daughter and son) Mother: Nagging at you? Do you want me to nag at you? He has just learned the word from Japan. Nine-year-old son: No. I learned it from a comic. Mother: I guess they did not understand the [Japanese] word when they read the comic, and when they use the word in life, they learn…They learned Japanese culture through such comics and cartoons. In our daily life [in London], it is very difficult even when I explain to them. Through these cartoons or comics, they learn these things [rituals], too. (Mother of three children aged three, seven, and nine)
The children in the Greek project have become older and their mothers had less control of them. As a result they have come to choose the media which best fit in with their interests and taste, thereby reflecting the children’s process of becoming. While the mothers had been keen on reading Swedish books to their children at a younger age, now most of the young participants preferred to read books in Greek as they perceived that to be much easier as they knew Greek much better (cf. being). As for the Japanese mothers, they organised “reading clubs” for their children. In addition, in order to encourage their children’s literacy in Japanese, they even provided comics which were sold in Japanese book stores in London or on the site Amazon. As have been stated before, it is not always easy to distinguish between global and homeland media. This can be seen in the mothers’ attempt to, for example, make their children read a popular global media product such as Donald Duck and Harry Potter, just as long it was in Swedish or Japanese. This could also be seen in the choice of DVDs and videos, where the Swedish mothers believed that the contents did not have to be produced in Sweden such as Disney films, the main importance was that these were dubbed into Swedish. In the case of Japanese families, they tended to use Disney films to encourage their children learn more English words (cf. being). Thus, both studies show that such global media products (including the Japanese ones through which children can relate to a wider plethora of cultures) have been used in a flexible manner. All the children in the study have seen or read Harry Potter, but the ways of experiencing were varied: Some have, for example, been to cinema many times (English version), some watched on DVD in English/Greek, or in the U.K. project some watched the DVD produced in Japan dubbed in Japanese. As for the last case, it was mostly used when watching with their parents as family entertainment since most of the children were better at English than their mothers. Much research has been done on the usage of satellite television for immigrants in maintaining a link to the homeland (e.g., Aksoy & Robins, 2003). As for the Greek study, only one family subscribed to the Swedish satellite channel Swedish Television (SVT) Europa to keep up with Swedish events and to provide the children with Swedish programmes and to hear the language. They, conversely, did not show much interest in
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the channel as they thought it contained mainly boring talk shows. The element of being Japanese or seen as Japanese by having and knowing their cultural capital was also pursued and embedded by their non-Japanese peers (cf. Lemish & Bloch, 2004). The Swedish children, on the other hand, did not have such globally popular media products from Sweden which they could share with non-Swedish friends. The Japanese children, therefore, distinguished between and showed different meanings of global Japanese media from non-Japanese ones to them can reassure their being. For example, a family after coming back from holiday in Japan, her nine-year-old son did not watch Beyblade on Sky (dubbed in English, the episodes are far behind from Japan) any longer as it was perceived as old and boring. Their knowledge of the latest series in Rangers and other super-heroes such as Ultraman or Pokemon, provides them with additional sub-cultural capital compared to British peers (cf. Gill, 1998).
Peer Media: A Way of Socialising “Friends” was a main theme among the photos in the Greek project, and their importance was also reflected in their Swedish media use. It became clear that various media products in their photos were important tools in socializing themselves. That the Japanese children did not take photos of their friends was probably due to the limited mobility caused by using the researcher’s camera (at homes). And also, as the child grows older, the peer-group gains a greater importance and media comes to play a central role for young people in the formation and maintenance of social relations (cf. Suoninen, 2001). For the children in both Greece and U.K. the Swedish/Japanese popular culture shared by peers in their mothers’ homelands was important. However, due to the age gap between the two studies, different meanings and usages were discernable as will be seen below. Another difference between the studies was that for the Japanese children, some media from Japan can be also global, which was very convenient in the process of socialising. Beyblade, for example, became very popular amongst both Japanese and non-Japanese peers. These globally popular Japanese media products provide the Japanese children “Japaneseness”. The children in Greece, however, tended to share Swedish produced media only amongst Swedish/Greek peers or Swedish friends and relatives. Thus, Japanese children developed their awareness of being “others” (Japanese) or “from Japan” by not only their parents but also by their non-Japanese peers who recognised the symbolic forms linking with Japan. Furthermore, in their photos, the Japanese children never mixed non-Japanese toys with Japanese ones, saying, those are from Japan. This global Japanese media gave to them a sense of Japaneseness within their socialising space in London because they had opportunity to show off their cultural capital to their non-Japanese peers and thereby function as a marker of difference. Similar findings were seen in the Greek project, where the young informants mentioned how by knowing Swedish and Greek opened the door for more alternative sources of information compared to Greek peers. This additional information was gained by visiting Sweden but also by using Swedish media and, for example, reading about what Swedish peers think and discuss (cf. being). As with the Japanese children, the young participants in the Greek study enjoyed watching Swedish produced films and they usually circulated them within the Swedish/Greek peer group in Greece. One might assume that this swapping of films becomes a part of their distinctive cultural capital, i.e., of being both Greek and Swedish, which is shared with the Swedish/Greek peer group. There were several reasons why Swedish films held their interest, also now when they are older. While learning Swedish (cf. being) had been the main
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reason at a younger age, they appreciated the quality of Swedish produced films. In addition, the feeling of knowing the latest music or films is important to the children when visiting friends and family in Sweden for holiday. This can be related to the term being in Figure 1. In the same manner, the Japanese children, especially the boys, were very keen on the speed of obtaining the knowledge on the latest episodes or toys from Japan. The girls, on the other hand, were more influenced by their English friends. They seemed to feel that pop idols’ sexy fashion and listening to the latest hits were regarded as ‘cool stuff. They, however, took more pictures of objects which signify Japaneseness (e.g., stickers’ collection from Japan, or Hello Kitty’s products, etc.). While the young participants in the Greek project talked about a lack of interest in finding out about various social and political events in Sweden. On the other hand, they were all eager to know what issues Swedish peers discuss and what they think of, for example, religion (cf. being). This was either done by being members of Swedish communities on the internet or by subscribing the magazine Kamratposten for young people. A 16-year-old girl mentioned how she had read Kamratposten frequently and how it had become an important keyhole to get an insight into the daily life of Swedish peers: For example by reading Kamratposten then I know, have read that if you believe in God in Sweden then people can make fun of you, that’s rare here, then it’s strange if you say that you don’t believe in God for example. That’s not strange, it’s not strange either to go to church and you don’t feel shy to say that. (16-year-old girl)
Like the magazine Kamratposten, different communities on the internet may serve as an important link to Swedish youth. Thus, they have become sites for identifying, addressing and sharing various concerns and thereby constituting an additional means of the aspects being, doing and becoming in the identity process. Due to their younger age similar social usage of the internet was not seen among the Japanese children, who merely used the net for checking information about Japanese toys or cartoons.
Concluding Remarks This paper has shown several examples of how the families talked about children’s identity and the importance of mothers’ homeland media for the children. Studying identities, and the role of media in this process, is very complex, which the framework of being, doing and becoming has shown. Even if the participating families lived in different social, national, economical and cultural context, several similarities are seen when discussing children’s identity, which in this paper have been summarised with the labels being, doing and becoming. The informants’ talks involved everything from traditions, how to behave, ways of thinking, and language skills. Furthermore, the relational nature of identity, being influenced by context and time, is stressed by the families. It is obvious that mothers’ homeland media is only one of the elements that are used in the identity formation. But it is an important construction tool that is used, especially for the younger children, with the control of the mothers. The older children in the Greek project were more independent in their media choices, affected by their own tastes and interests. As they got older the importance of using mothers’ homeland media for socialising with peers is evident, becoming increasingly interested in finding out what peers in Sweden think about certain issues. All the aspects mentioned when discussing children’s identity show the complexity of identity. Some aspects are more prominent in one context, at a certain time, while other aspects are important in another situation etc.. Our comparative analysis emphasises the need to apply a contextual and relational perspective when we want to understand the roles of media in the process of forming identity. At least from our understanding after comparing our studies based on the framework being, doing, and
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becoming, it can be argued that identities are not fixed or permanent; the aspects of being and doing are rooted in a specific time and context; on how the individual positions himself/herself in a certain location (which can also be a mediated one). Further research is needed to elaborate on these aspects and how different media are used in relation to these. This paper has focussed on the mothers’ homeland media and the next step is to see the interrelation between this type of media and global, national and transnational ones in various contexts. Re-examining the media usage in the two studies has suggested how people take meanings differently even though they can share the same media, i.e., global media. For instance, Swedish media provided the children with an important means to be updated on current teenage issues in Sweden, and made them feel more confident and less of a stranger in Sweden by knowing the Swedish popular culture. Thus, knowing global media products is not enough for Swedish families in Greece. It is assumed by the both mothers and children that Swedish produced media can provide its audiences with more appropriate values and a way of living that are in accordance with one’s culture besides hearing one’s mother tongue. This, however, for the Japanese families in London signified differently since both popular British and Japanese global media could play both roles as national and global media. The mothers’ homeland media, however, in both studies, appeared as symbolic forms which can provide the children with markers of being different compared to Greek or British peers.
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Fishman, J. (1996). Ethnicity as being, doing and knowing. In J. Hutchinson & A. D. Smith (Eds.), Ethnicity (pp. 63-69). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gauntlett, D. (2005). Using creative visual research methods to understand media audiences. MedienPädagogik. Retrieved July 20, 2006, from http://www.medienpaed.com Giddens, A. (1990). Consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-Identity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Gill, T. (1998). Transformational magic: Some Japanese super-heroes and monsters. In D. P. Martinez (Ed.). The worlds of japanese popular culture: Gender, shifting boundaries and global cultures (pp. 33-55). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gillespie, M. (1995). Television, ethnicity and cultural change. London: Routledge. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Middlesex: Penguin Books. Goodman, R. (1990). Japan’s international youth: The emergence of a new class of schoolchildren. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Hall, S. (1992). The question of cultural identity. In S. Hall, D. Held, & T. McGrew (Eds.), Modernity and its futures (pp. 273-316). Cambridge: Polity Press. Hall, S. (2001). The multicultural question in pavis. Social and Cultural Research, 4. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Harper, D. (1998). An argument for visual sociology. In J. Prosser (Ed.), Image-based research (pp. 24-41). London: Falmer Press. Kondo. K (2001). Understanding media experiences for Japanese children in London (MA dissertation, London, University of Westminster, 2001). Kondo.K (2005). The media and Japanese children in diaspora. Understanding Japanese families’ media consumption and everyday lives in London (Ph.D. thesis, London, University of Westminster, 2005). Lemish, D., & Bloch, L. (2004). Pokemon in Israel. In J. Tobin (Ed.), Pikachu’s global adventure:The rise and fall of pokemon (pp. 165-186). Durham: Duke University Press Liebes, T., & Katz, E. (1990). The export of meaning: Cross-cultural readings of Dallas. New York: Oxford University Press. Livingstone, S. (2003). On the challenges of cross-national comparative media research. European Journal of Communication, 18(4), 477-500. Livingstone, S., & Bovill, M. (Eds.), (2001) Children and their changing media environment: A European comparative study. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.. Minami, Y. (2000). Understanding Identity of Japanese Children Overseas and Reentering: Their Life Experiences and Inter-Cultural Development (Kaigai Kikokusijyo no Identity), Tokyo: Toshindo. Martín-Barbero, J. (1997). The processes: From nationalisms to transnationals. In A. Screberny_Mohammadi, D. Winseck, J. McKenna, & O. Boyd-Barrett (Eds.), Media in global context: A reader (pp. 50-57). London: Arnold. Mitchell, C., & Reid-Walsh, J. (2002). Researching children’s popular culture: The cultural spaces of childhood. London: Routledge. Pang, C. L. (2000). Negotiating Identity in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Kikokushijo. London: Kegan Paul International. Pink, S. (2001). Doing visual ethnography. London: Sage Publications Ltd.. Screberny, M. A., Winseck, D., McKenna, J., & Boyd-Barrett, O. (1997). Media in global context. In A. Screberny_Mohammadi, D. Winseck, J. McKenna, & O. Boyd-Barrett (Eds.), Media in global context: A reader (pp. ix-xxviii). London: Arnold. Secondulfo, D. (1997). The social meaning of things: A working field of visual sociology. Visual Sociology, 12 (2), 33-45. Sjöberg, U. (2005). Mediated childhoods in multicultural families in Greece (Working Paper). Halmstad: Halmstad University. Sjöberg, U. (2006). It took time to understand Greek newspapers—The media experience of Swedish women in Greece. Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research, 31, 173-192. Stier, J. (2004). Kulturmöten: En introduktion till interkulturella studier. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Suoninen, A. (2001). The role of media in peer group relations. In S. Livingstone, & M. Bovill (Eds.), Children and their changing media environment: A European comparative study (pp. 201-219). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.. Tobin, J. (2004). Pikachu’s global adventure: The rise and fall of pokemon. Durham: Duke University Press. Werbner, P. (1997). Essenitialising essentialism, essentialising silence: Ambivalence and multiplicity in the construction of racism and ethnicity. In P. Werbner, & T. Moddod, (Eds.), Debating cultural hybridity: Multi-Cultural identities and the politics of anti-racism (pp. 209-225). London: Zed Books.
Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No.1, 263-270
The Need for Music as a Learner’s Characteristic Affecting the Effects of Educational Films
Barbara Wolf , Paul Pechan
Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Germany
This paper is about the development of applications for a more specific and therefore more effective teaching and instructional technology usage in classrooms. It investigates the relationship between a lack of music in educational films and its effect on film evaluation and interest gain in educational film topics. Results of the presented study raise the assumption of a need for music as central characteristic of learners related to the effects of educational science films: Basically, it shows that the evaluation of educational films is based on emotional as well as on factual criteria and that both dimensions are positively related to the interest of learners in the film content. Further it shows that learners with need for music,compared to their classmates that do not state a need for music, exhibit a significant worse evaluation on the film factual characteristics and a reduced class performance, as measured by reduced interest in the film topic, the research area and the motivation to carry out follow-up research on the topic. Implications are discussed. Keywords: music effects, educational film, film evaluation, interest in education
Introduction Audiovisual media, specifically educational science films, play an increasing role in modern classrooms (Fassbender, 2008; van Weert & Tatnall, 2005).One important aspect to consider is music when referring to instructional audiovisual technology. Unfortunately, the role of music in educational science has been insufficiently investigated in classroom environments. It is still not clear, for example, which effect music may have on creating or increasing interest in scientific film contents. Addressing this question is important because of trends showing that youth is losing interest in science (e.g., Gago et al., 2004). Since educational films are often used by teachers to communicate scientific knowledge to learners (Tergan, 2001; Reich, Speck-Hamdan, & Götz, 2005; Holthoff-Stenger, 2008), one suggestion to counter the declining trend is to present well-made educational science films in schools (Rolletschek, 2004). Ideally, these films should not only enhance knowledge but also stimulate the learners to become sufficiently interested to carry out own follow-up investigations on the presented topic. Creating or raising interest in the specific film content, in the general research area presented or even in the working field of science could provide an important stimulus to increase science knowledge amongst the youth and ultimately encourage science enrollment at universities.
Barbara Wolf, Ph.D., communication researcher, Institute of Communication and Media Research, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. Paul Pechan, Ph.D., communication researcher, Institute of Communication and Media Research, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich.
THE NEED FOR MUSIC AS A LEARNER’S CHARACTERISTIC
The main body of research that investigates the effects of music in educational science films is over 20 years old, and concentrates primarily on the recall of content and on the evaluation of films not in classroom settings. It was shown that background music has a negative impact on the recall of verbal film content although it is possible that it enhances the recall of visual film content (Boeckmann, Nessmann, & Petermandl, 1988; Boeckmann, Nessmann, Petermandl, & Stückler, 1990; Brosius, 1990; Nessmann, 1990). As the evaluation of an educational film is positively linked to the recall of film content and music impairs recall of verbal educational film content, it could be assumed that music impairs the evaluation of the film as well. However, this is not the case: music leads to better film evaluations (Brosius, 1990). Brosius also shows that music can have a positive impact on raising interest in the film topic. Resent data also show that music has the potential power to impact the perception of film-based educational content (e.g., Parke, Chew, & Kyriakakis, 2007) and therefore, can be used as a learner-specific application tool. This collection of results illustrates that the relationship of music in instructional film and learners’ classroom performances is multifaceted. Unfortunately, music itself is a complex factor to investigate: Different music styles, volumes, tempi and modalities have been shown to influence the effects of music on learners (e.g., Wakshlag, Reitz, & Zillmann, 1982; Sullivan, 1990; Schwartz, 2003; Zander, 2006; Dillman, Carpentier, & Potter, 2007; Schramm, 2008). As previous studies investigating the impact of music on reception processes differ in types and styles of music, they are difficult to compare. This means that a general approach to investigate the effects of music has to consider all possible influencing factors. In a previous unpublished study (n = 40) we found three groups of learners—equal in size—one that desired to have music in educational films, one that did not and one that did not care either way. Taking this result into consideration while investigating the impact of music, it can be assumed that learners possibly have differing relationships to music. Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2007) found that differences in personality and cognitive ability determine the way in which individuals experience music. Such characteristics can affect the emotional and cognitive perception processes of listening to music whilst watching an educational science film. Such a learner specific approach in investigating the effects of music in educational films could also help to explain the above mentioned contradiction in the so far presented results. Such as other personality variables, like the need for cognition (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982) that shows an influence on the reception process of the individual, the general assumption of this study is the existence of a characteristic named as the need for music. This characteristic can be seen as the general attitude towards having music during learning situations. Further, it is expected that the need for music could be a contributory element to explain the complex relationships of music with film evaluation and interest gain. To our knowledge, the existence and the implication of the need for music amongst learners have not yet been investigated. This study takes a closer look at the relationship between music in educational science films and performance of learners in classroom settings. It explores the relationship between the need for music and the evaluation of science films as well as the interest in the film topic after watching an educational science film in classroom settings. Particularly two questions are investigated: First, is there a subgroup of learners that expresses a need for music in educational films when no music is played during the film? Second, how does this characteristic affects educational science film evaluation and the interest in film content?
Methodology A questionnaire was prepared to evaluate an educational science film about stem cells presented in
THE NEED FOR MUSIC AS A LEARNER’S CHARACTERISTIC
classrooms in Austria. The questionnaire was administered in a classroom setting by the regular teachers, according to given instructions, immediately after the film was shown. The reason to carry out the study by the regular teacher was to assure the questionnaire to be minimally intrusive in the learning situation. The data were collected from the learners only after the film was shown to avoid drawing the attention of the learners to the possible influence that music may play in evaluating educational science films. In total 189 Austrian learners from classes 9 to 13 (age 15 to 19 years) participated in this study. Sixty percent of the participants were female learners. As the central question is related to the need for music, and we did not wish the answers to be influenced by any specific type of music they had just listened to, the 15-minute film was presented without a music track. The need for music was operationalized with a question that asked the learners about their wish of having music in the film. It allowed learners to answer with “yes” if they would have preferred music within the educational film or answer with “no” if they did not have a need for music in this specific learning context. Learners were additionally asked if they were aware of music during the film. They could answer this question as well with “yes” or “no”. Further the participants of the study were asked to evaluate on a scale from one (= strong agreement) to five (= no agreement) whether the film was “old fashioned”, “well made”, “with good animations”, “understandable”, and “informative”. These items represent different criteria of the film craftsmanship and therefore they are used as indicators for cognitive, emotional and motivational effects on the film viewers. Based on a principal components factor analysis, it was possible to group the individual craftsmanship criteria into two dimensions (Table 1). The former contains the first three items: “old fashioned”, “well made”, and “with good animations”. These criteria correspond to the quality of the film content and are therefore linked to the emotive factor that describes the more emotional dimension of the film evaluation. The latter dimension contains the items “understandable” and “informative”. These criteria describe the factual dimension of the film evaluation and are therefore linked to the cognitive factor. Table 1 Factor Analysis: Film Evaluation Factor 1: Entertainment/emotional factor % of total variance: 35.8% Chronbachs Alpha: 0.66 well made 0.79 -0.07 with good animations 0.85 0.26 old fashioned -0.64 -0.31 Factor 2: Information/factual factor % of total variance: 32.5% Chronbachs Alpha: 0.70 understandable 0.11 0.85 informative 0.17 0.86 Note. Base: N = 183; Extraction method: Principal component analysis/Extraction criteria: Kaiser-criteria/Rotation method: Varimax. Bartlett-Test: Chi-square = 192.2; df = 10; p < 0.001/KMO sample adequacy > 0.68 % of total Variance R² = 69.3%. Scale of evaluations: I think the film is “…” from one = strong agreement to five = no agreement.
Concerning the interest in the film content, learners were asked about their “interest in the specific film topic,” their “interest in research area in general” and their “motivation for own follow-up investigation on the topic”. They could state their interest on a scale from one (= strong interest) to five (= no interest).
Results The analysis based on the learners’ reactions concerning their need for music, their film evaluation and
THE NEED FOR MUSIC AS A LEARNER’S CHARACTERISTIC
their interest gain in the specific film topic after watching an educational science film without music in a classroom setting. Before addressing the need for music, the relationship between film evaluation and interest gain for the particular learning situation is investigated: As no significant differences were found between genders and class levels concerning the explored variables, the following analysis grouped ages and genders together. Analysis of the Relationship Between Film Evaluation and Interest Gain Previous studies have shown that music increases interest in the film topic and that film evaluation and interest in the film topic are positively linked to each other. What is the situation for films without a music track? To investigate this, the emotive and factual factors, reflecting the five film craftsmanship criteria, were correlated with the interest in the topic, in the research area and in carrying out own follow-up investigation on the film content (Table 2). Table 2 Correlations Between the Film EvaluationA and the Interest Gain B Pearson’s r Interest in the topic Interest in the research area Interest in the follow-up investigation
Entertainment/emotive factor 0.22** 0.26*** 0.26***
Information/factual factor 0.24** 0.26*** 0.18*
Note. * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.01; *** p < 0.001. Base: N = 182-185. A The factors of evaluation are scaled from-1 (positive) to +1 (negative). B The interest variables are scaled from 1 (strong interest) to 5 (no interest).
The results indicate that the interest in the film topic, in the research area, and in follow-up investigations is significantly positively linked to both the evaluation of the emotive and the factual dimension: The more positive the film evaluation, the more interest the learners express in the film topic, the research area addressed by the film and the follow-up investigation. Although there are only small differences between the two factors, the evaluations concerning factual qualities of the film show a stronger interrelation to the interest in the film topic (r = 0.24; p < 0.01) than the emotive evaluation (r = 0.22; p < 0.01). But comparing the relationship of emotive (r = 0.26; p < 0.001) and factual evaluations (r = 0.18; p < 0.05) to the interest of carrying out follow-up investigations after watching an educational science film, evaluation of emotive criteria appear as the better predictor for motivational interest in educational content. Analysis of the Need for Music in the Film Over one third of the learners expressed a need for music, the others preferred the shown film as it was, without music. To further investigate the implications of such a characteristic, analysis was carried out to find whether these learners differ in: (a) their evaluations of emotive and factual criteria of the film and (b) their interest in the film topic, research area and follow-up investigation. Table 3 shows that learners expressing a need for music differ significantly only in their evaluation on the factual factor (t = 3.3; df = 166; p < 0.001) from learners without stating a need for music. But the two groups do not differ concerning their evaluations on the emotive film criteria (t = 0.3; df = 166; p = n.s.): Learners without a need for music judge the factual dimension of the film as being more understandable and informative (M = -0.16) than learners stating a need for music (M = 0.36). It seems that learners showing a need for music have more problems with understanding and processing the film based information when no music track was present in the film.
THE NEED FOR MUSIC AS A LEARNER’S CHARACTERISTIC
Table 3 Mean Differences for the Film Evaluationa and the Interest Gain Bfor Learners With/Without the Need for Music without need for music T (N =103-106) -0.01 0.3
Film evaluation: entertainment/emotive factor
with need for music (N = 60-62) 0.04
Film evaluation: information/factual factor
Interest gain in the topic
Interest gain in the research area
Interest gain in the follow-up investigation
Note. A scale of evaluation factors: positive assessment < 0 < negative assessment. B scale: from one (= strong interest) to five (= no interest).
Learners that expressed a need for music differ significantly from their peers in their interest in follow-up investigation (t = 3.8; df = 163; p < 0.001).Data show that learners stating a need for music show less interest in the follow-up investigation (M = 3.9) than learners without a need for music (M = 3.1). Although not significant, learners with need for music also show less interest in the film topic (M = 3) than learners without the need for music (M = 2.6). They also show less interest in the research area (M = 3) compared to learners without the need for music (M = 2.8). In conclusion, the data illustrate that learners stating a need for music after watching an educational science film without a music track have less interest in the film topic as well as in the research area in general and in follow-up investigations compared to learners without a need for music. Analysis of the Awareness of Music in the Film Although there was no music track in the shown film, learners were asked if they were aware of listening to music during the reception of the film. This question was asked to control whether all learners noticed that there was no music in the film. Eight percent of the learners responded that they were aware of music in the film. Further tests show that the awareness of music is not correlated to the need for music (r = -0.07; p > 0.05). But as this surprising number of learners responded to our control question that they were aware of music in the film, we also looked more closely at the characteristics of this subgroup of learners: Analysis was carried out to find out whether learners with and without the awareness for music differ in their: (a) evaluation of emotive and factual film criteria and (b) interest in the film topic, research area and follow-up investigation. The awareness of music is not related to the evaluation of the film, neither concerning the evaluations of the emotive (t = 0; df = 171; p = n.s.) nor the factual factor (Table 4). But there is a significant positive correlation of being aware of music with the interest in the film topic(r = 0.17; p < 0.05) and with the interest in the general research area (r = 0.15; p < 0.05). Thus the learners that have been aware of music show a stronger interest in the film content than learners who have not been aware of music.
Discussion The general objective of this study was to investigate whether learners state a need for music in educational films and, if so, to analyze the implications of this need in the learning setting of watching educational science films in classroom.
THE NEED FOR MUSIC AS A LEARNER’S CHARACTERISTIC
Table 4 Mean Differences for the Evaluation of the Film EvaluationA and the Interest Gain in Film ContentB of Learners That Were Aware/Not Aware of Music in the Film
Film evaluation: entertainment/emotive factor Film evaluation: information/factual factor Interest gain in the topic Interest gain in the research area Interest gain in the follow-up investigation
Aware of music (N = 13) 0.03 0.28 2.1 2.2 2.9
Not aware of music (N = 157-160) 0.03 -0.01 2.8 2.9 3.5
0 1 -2.2 -2 -1.6
171 171 169 169 168
n.s. n.s. 0.05 0.05 n.s.
Note. A scale of evaluation factors: positive assessment < 0 < negative assessment. no interest).
scale: from one (= strong interest) to five (=
Results show that the evaluations of an educational film can be measured using film craftsmanship criteria grouped into two dimensions: one that contains the entertaining/emotive and the other that refers to more informative/factual criteria. Both evaluative dimensions are significantly and positively linked to the interest in the film topic, the research area and to carry out additional follow-up investigation on the film topic. The more positive the reply about whether the film was entertaining (well made, with good animations) and rationally appealing (informative, understandable), the more interest the learners showed in the film content. These findings validate the results of previous studies (e.g., Brosius, 1990) and allow transferring them to educational settings. Further, the study proves that a positive evaluation of both dimensions is basis for creating interest for the film content and for further follow-up investigation. However, it is the emotive criteria that are seen as the better predictor for motivating learners to do self-organized follow-up investigation on a specific topic. Implications that can be drawn from this is that if learners have an entertaining time while watching an educational film, they may be more willing to do follow-up investigations by themselves. This finding is in line with the study of Lesiuk (2005) showing that music during work time creates a more entertaining atmosphere and contributes positively to working performance and motivation. We found one third of our learners stating a need for music and, as the study of Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2007) indicates, there are differences in the perception of the film depending on this characteristic of learners: The need for music is negatively correlated with the factual film evaluation and therefore learners that expressed the need for music gave significantly less positive replies about the film being informative, understandable and interesting as the group without the need for music. The three characteristics that constitute the emotive factor (whether the film was old fashioned, well made and with good animations) are not linked with the need for music. Had the students simply reported the need for music because they found the movie boring, the emotive factor should also be negatively affected. As this was not the case, the need for music is characterized as a more cognitive rather than emotive issue: The lack of a music track in the educational science film may have negative cognitive effects on learners who express the need for music. Two possible hypotheses could explain that only the cognitive factor is affected. First, the desire for music may be a fixed characteristic of certain learners (Cassidy & MacDonald, 2007; Furnham, 2007), requiring musical background stimulation to process the new information content better. Alternatively, learners could not understand the film and they used the question concerning the desire for music to express their wish to have more help with the film content. In both cases, the need for music could be seen as a characteristic that may
THE NEED FOR MUSIC AS A LEARNER’S CHARACTERISTIC
help to identify learners with problems in processing film factual information. However, it cannot be concluded that the role of music in educational films is uncoupled from an emotive evaluation: Previous research results show that music is a highly emotionalizing factor in the reception of visuals (Baumgartner, Lutz, Schmidt, & Jäncke, 2006; Schramm, 2008). Before drawing further conclusions it needs to be established whether the need for music is a consequence of difficulties learners have with understanding the film content or if it is a stable characteristic of learners, independent from film content. Such findings will have practical implications. The need for music could become a marker to help teachers identify special types of learners who have difficulties with a particular subject matter, or who could learn better with a certain kind of background music in audiovisual learning situations. It needs to be evaluated whether adding a musical audio track to an educational science film would enhance the performance of learners expressing the need for music. In addition to the learners with a need for music, we identified an additional sub-group of learners in the study. These were learners who claimed to be aware of music, although there was no music track in the film. This subgroup of learners exhibited higher interest in the film topic–analogues result to when real music was played in a film (Holicki & Brosius, 1998). As certain actions have been previously shown to affect emotions and distribute endorphins in the same way good music can (Stroh, 2008), the awareness of music could be seen as a sign of a high involvement with the film that stimulates the same brain regions that music does (Baumgartner, Lutz, Schmidt, & Jäncke, 2006). An alternative explanation for the statement of being aware of music in a film without music track is that the eight percent who were aware of music in the film without a music track were so deeply involved in the film content that they could not remember if there was a film track or not. They just guessed the answer of this question and were wrong. The awareness of music in films without music should be further investigated. The presented study shows a new perspective on the effects of music in educational films and it draws possible implications on the existence of a need for music as relevant characteristic of learners that influences the way educational film content is processed in classroom settings. Finally, it needs to be emphasized that cross-sectional studies, as presented, only allow measurements of relationships without providing causal interpretations. Therefore, further studies need to follow to prove that the need for music or awareness of music is a specific characteristic of some learners and that this influences the way they process educational film content.
References Baumgartner, T., Lutz, K., Schmidt, C. F., & Jäncke, L. (2006). The emotional power of music: How music enhances the feeling of affective pictures. Brain Research, 1075, 151-164. Boeckmann, K., Nessmann, K., & Petermandl, M. (1988). Filmgestaltung und behaltensleistung: Kurzbericht über empirische untersuchungen. Unterrichtswissenschaft, 16(3), 77-80. Boeckmann, K., Nessmann, K., Petermandl, M., & Stückler, H. (1990). On the influence of background music on recall and appraisal in educational films. Journal of Educational Media International, 27(3), 172-179. Brosius, H. (1990). Bewertung gut, behalten schlecht: Die wirkung von musik in Informationsfilmen. Medienpsychologie, 2(1), 44-55. Cacioppo, J. T., & Petty, R. E. (1982).The need for cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42(1), 116-131. Cassidy, G., & MacDonald, R. A. R. (2007). The effect of background music and background noise on the task performance of introverts and extraverts. Psychology of Music, 35(3), 517-537. Chamorro-Premuzic, T., & Furnham, A. (2007). Personality and music: Can traits explain how people use music in everyday life? British Journal of Psychology, 98, 175-185.
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DillmanCarpentier, F., & Potter, R. F. (2007). Effects of music on physiological arousal: Explorations into Genre and Tempo. Media Psychology, 10(3), 339-363. Fassbender, R. (2008). Using new media in a task-based German conversation classroom. Florida: Boca Raton. Furnham, A. (2007). Musical distracters, personality type and cognitive performance in school children. Psychology of Music, 35(3), 403-420. Gago, J. M., Ziman, J., Caro, P.,…Sjøberg, S. (2004). Increasing human resources for science and technology in Europe. In European Commission (Ed.), Europe Needs More Scientists. Belgium: European Communities. Holicki, S., & Brosius, H. (1988). Der Einfluß von Filmmusik und nonverbalem Verhalten der Akteureauf die Wahrnehmung und Interpretation einer Filmhandlung. Rundfunk und Fernsehen, 36(2), 189-206. Holthoff-Stenger, M. (2008). Schüler pauken mit netbooks. Focus Online Schule. Retrieved November 26, 2008, from http://www.focus.de/schule/dossiers/tid-12655/unterricht-schueler-pauken-mit-netbooks_aid_351155.htm Lesiuk, T. (2005). The effect of music listening on work performance.Psychology of Music, 33, 173-191. Nessmann, K. (1990). Zur wirkung filmischer darstellungsformen und gestaltungsmittel in bildungsfilmen. In G. Schumm, & H. J. Wulff (Eds.), Film und Psychologie I. Kognition-Rezeption-Perzeption (pp. 227-257). Münster: MAkSPublikationen. Parke, R., Chew, E., & Kyriakakis, C. (2007). Quantitative and visual analysis of the impact of music on perceived emotion of film. Computers in Entertainment, 5(3). Reich, K., Speck-Hamdan, A., & Götz, M. (2005). Qualitätskriterien für Lernsendungen. Televizion, 18(2), 86-91. Rolletschek, H. (2004). Lernen mit Löwenzahn? Televizion, 17(1), 22-26. Schramm, H. (2008). Rezeption und wirkung von musik in den medien. In H. Schramm (Ed.), Wissenschaftliche Perspektiven auf Musik und Medien (pp. 135-153). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag. Schwartz, N. (2003).The Impact of animation and sound effects on attention and memory processes for computer mediated messages (Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association, San Diego). Stroh, W. M. (2008). Musik macht dumm! Zeitschrift für Kritische Musikpädagogik, 23-41. Retrieved from www.zfkm.org Sullivan, G. L. (1990). Music Format Effects in Radio Advertising. Psychology and Marketing, 7(2), 97-108. Tergan, S. (2001). Qualitätsbeurteilung von bildungssoftware mittels kriterienkatalogen. Problemaufriss und perspektiven. Unterrichtswissenschaft, 29(4), 319-341. vanWeert, T. J., & Tatnall, A. (Eds.). (2005). Information and communication technologies and real-life learning. New education for the knowledge society. New York: Springer. Wakshlag, J. J., Reitz, R. J., & Zillmann, D. (1982). Selective exposure to and acquisition of information from educational television programs as a function of appeal and tempo of background music. .Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(5), 666-677. Zander, M. F. (2006). Musical influences in advertising: How music modifies first impressions of product endorsers and brands. Psychology of Music, 34, 465-480.
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Media Activism in Search of Truth: Questioning the Mission to Restore Sanity Claudia Schwarz, Theo Hug University of Innsbruck, Austria
For a young, media savvy, radically globalized generation, television as a platform for news has lost momentum. Ironically, however, in a media landscape with a variety of news providers competing for audiences and trust, television news parodies like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report attract new audiences as they seem to fill a gap. They succeed not only in entertaining and informing (even educating) a previously “deactivated”, relatively young target audience, but also in initiating activism by using old and new (social) media. How can it be that a comedy show succeeds in promoting reason and gets young people to stand up for more sanity in politics and culture? In the sense that, in this case, critical (subversive) practice comes from within the mainstream, is television, as the platform that has been criticized for “dumbing down” audiences (cf. Postman 1985), actually becoming the solution for commitment? In this constellation, what is the role of self-determined (intrinsic) and acquired (extrinsic) practices in relation to mobilized practices and practices determined by other factors? And how do they work differently in comparison to the subversive practices of tactical media and media activism that question the methods of biopower? This paper examines several responses to the (more and less serious) calls for action of the two shows and discusses their delicate role as entertainers, watchdogs, and activists for reason, sanity, and what is left of truth in the media. Furthermore, implications for critical media studies are considered by questioning the claims of education towards truth (cf. Mitterer, 1983). Keywords: media activism, news parody, biopolitcs
Standing up for Sanity On October 30, 2010 approximately 215,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. for the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” a joint venture by Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central’s news parody The Daily Show, and Stephen Colbert, the host of its spin-off The Colbert Report. The official rally website opens with the famous call for action from the 1976 satire Network (1976, Directed by Sidney Lumet. USA: MGM ): “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” In the announcement of the rally on the show Stewart asks, “How did we get here?” pointing to the voices of the 15% of Americans that dominate the agenda and are covered by the 24/7 newsreel. In the rally, he wants to “send a message to our national leaders and our media that says ‘We [the rational eighty percent of Americans] are here!’” (The Daily Show, September 16, 2010).
A slightly revised version of this paper appeared in Suetzl, Wolfgang, & Hug, T. (Eds.). (2012). Activist media and biopolitics: Critical media interventions in the age of biopower (pp. 135-145). Innsbruck: Innsbruck University Press. Claudia Schwarz, Ph.D., Department of American Studies, University of Innsbruck. Theo Hug, professor, Institute for Psychosocial Intervention and Communications Studies, University of Innsbruck.
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The rally was a great success. It was much bigger than the organizers had anticipated; yet, its impact remains unclear. It was covered on all major news channels; however, many in the audience did not quite know what to make of it (Easley, 2010). This might be due to two things: First, the event combined two very different rallies—the quite serious Rally to Restore Sanity (team Stewart) and the ironic March to Keep Fear Alive (team Colbert). Second, the media themselves were one of the main targets of criticism in the rally, which put them in an awkward position and hit their blind spot. Nevertheless, as a piece of media activism, the rally proves that a television show can, in fact, mobilize people “Who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs)” (Rally to Restore Sanity, 2010), that is, people who were generally believed to be passive consumers. The rally also proves that people are disappointed with politics and the media to the extent that they are willing to publicly express their frustration. Moreover, it shows that people are able to differentiate between actual (truthful) information and what Harry Frankfurt infamously terms bullshit (Frankfurt, 2005). In the following, a rough outline of the search for truth in the media (understood as truthful reporting) helps to establish news satire as a genre that criticizes politics and the media on a meta-level and speaks “truth beyond facts”.
Who to Trust in the News Media The acceptance of the news media as an authority in terms of truth-telling has been challenged for some time now, especially with the advent of new technologies and new channels of information-processing in Web 2.0. Interestingly, a general mistrust is apparent in almost all parts of civil society, ranging from the political to the economic. Seymour Lipset and William Schneider (1983) argued that there is a correlation between the decline of confidence in the media and the decline of confidence in politics (see also Hetherington, 2005). According to this line of reasoning, the criticism of the news media in news parodies has a negative effect on people’s trust in politics. As the collected data show, watching The Daily Show leads to distrust in the media and significantly decreases ratings of news media coverage of politics (Morris & Baumgartner, 2008, p. 324). Cynicism, Morris, and Baumgartner claim results in an “unhealthy distrust for all aspects of politics” (p. 328). Even though an explanation for these findings is not provided, it is not difficult to come by: First, information about any aspect of civil society is communicated through the media. If people do not trust the media, they cannot trust the content reported. Secondly, and in this context more significantly, the mechanism and style of communication (and deception) are shared by all, media as well as politics: Form rules over content, which means that information is scripted rather than authentic and “hyped” rather than rationalized. The style of communication we find in all matters today is based on what comedian Stephen Colbert famously termed “truthiness”, a term reminiscent of what Harry Frankfurt calls bullshit: “The essence of bullshit is not that it is false but that it is phony” (Frankfurt, 2005, p. 47). Similarly, truthiness is defined as “truth that comes from the gut, not books” (The Colbert Report, October 17, 2005) and “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true” (American Dialect Society, 2006). As Frankfurt describes the dangerous development, people are not concerned with the difference between truth and lie anymore. They are busy chattering, regardless of what might or might not be true. Possible reasons for this development, especially in the media, can be found in the 24/7 news cycle that requires continuous
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news-chatter, the emergence of new jobs and fields of work like PR, consulting, and lobbying, Web 2.0 technology, where people are invited to share their thoughts and many more. This idea of bullshit in communication resonates with Neil Postman’s famous line: “Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well informed people in the Western world” (Postman, 1985, p. 106). In the long run, a perceived lack of respect for the truth leads to general mistrust, which is only legitimate (even sane). It requires careful deconstruction to re-establish a common ground from which to rebuild trust. The question remains who, other than media critics, sociologists, media pedagogues, and philosophers, is up to the task and influential enough to spread this message. As argued here, this deconstruction might ironically be provided by successful news parodies within traditional television. In a news media system like the one in the United States, where there is a firm belief in a truth to be found, hence the slogan “Seek Truth and Report it” in the “Code of Ethics” by the Society of Professional Journalists (1996), the question of who is able tell the truth almost seems legitimate. After CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, the unrivaled “most trusted man in America” died in 2009, speculations about the new most reliable newsperson arose. Surprisingly, the anchor of a parody of a news show, Jon Stewart, was not only suggested for the position in an article published in the New York Times (Kakutani, 2008), he also won the Time online poll for most admired journalists against real news people like Dan Rather, Brian Williams, and Anderson Cooper (Time Poll Results, 2009). During the run-up for the 2008 elections, Newsweek featured Stewart as one of the most powerful media figures in the elections. In 2010, they called him a “Media Watchdog,” placing him second on a list of the “New Thought Leaders” of the decade: “For the past several years, however, there’s been another step added to the end of the process: being held to account for our faults by a comedy show with a sharp eye and a sharp tongue” (Williams, 2010, para. 1). The New York Times described Stewart as “Mr. Common Sense, pointing to the disconnect between reality and what politicians and the news media describe as reality” (Kakutani, 2008, para. 5).
Fake News Shows on a Mission to Restore Sanity (and/or Fear) In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman describes a subversive TV program that is highly reminiscent of The Daily Show. However, he thought it would not attract an audience large enough to have an impact (Postman, 1985, p. 161; Erion, 2007, p. 13). Quite obviously, times have changed. The Daily Show and its spin-off The Colbert Report are news show parodies aired on weekdays on Comedy Central. Apart from their most obvious mission to entertain people and make fun of things (as the slogans mentioned on their websites, like “unburdened by objectivity, integrity, or even accuracy,” “zero credibility,” “truth that comes from the gut, not books,” and “time for a truth injection” indicate), they obviously fill a gap created by their real counterparts. With a nightly audience of approximately one and a half million for The Daily Show and approximately one million for The Colbert Report, the shows have gained momentum, especially among audiences between eighteen and 35 years of age. By making fun of both current events and the way mainstream news media report them, they reveal truths beyond a mere fact checking or fact and opinion reporting. They have proven their role as watchdogs of media watchdogs by upgrading their “fake” reporting to the level of critical, satirical news reporting (Schwarz, 2008, pp. 245-277).
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The importance of both shows can probably best be measured by the media attention they receive, the studio guests they attract (including the sitting president, which was a first in the US), and the fact that especially young audiences name them as one of their prime news sources. As research studies show, this audience even turns out to be among the best-informed group of people (Erion, 2007, p. 10, referring to an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll; Pew Research Center, 2007). The two shows take on their mission from two different angles: While Jon Stewart is the authentic, critical, stand-up comedian-anchorman, Stephen Colbert impersonates a conservative, republican pundit. While Stewart aims to make people think and/or laugh about matters, Colbert seeks to mobilize his audience, for example, by getting people to change Wikipedia articles and asking them to support his “idea(s)”. Given both shows’ incredible success and impact, together they are the perfect team to provoke change. In a reaction to the Tea Party movement in the US and the immediate danger of politicians together with their media bullhorns they believe were systematically stupefying and hence disempowering citizens, the mismatched team set out on a mission to restore sanity (and/or fear). In a rally speech by Jon Stewart called A Moment of Sincerity, he pointed to the challenges of our time and criticized the media for hyping unreal fears and polarizing citizens, what he calls the 24-hour politico-pundit perpetual panic conflictinator. However, his primary message was a call for social cohesion.
Moving Masses With Old and New Media: Between Couch Potato, Political Lethargy, and the Search for Meaning and Identity The rally has shown that traditional media such as television, generally believed to deactivate people, have the power to activate them, to get them to go to places, do things, even make them think and reflect on issues. Ironically, however, it is not only the real or sincere programs on television that seem to have this impact. Of course, new media supplemented the movement: There were iPhone apps, tweets, and other social media that additionally called for people to attend the rally. However, the initial starting point of the movement was a critical and thoughtful parody of an anchorman, who, by breaking his routine of sticking to his anchor desk, motivated people not only to think critically but to show others that they care and are willing to actually do something, in this case participating in a rally, demonstrating concern for a society and politics that they believe should be more sincere and solution-oriented. “On this one day, regular people wanted to show that media may be broken, but America isn’t” (Easley, 2010, para. 9). All across so-called Western countries, one of the main concerns in politics has been that younger generations seem to be particularly disinterested, disenchanted, and disillusioned with politics and the establishment. The main question is how to motivate them to care about politics and the world at large, beyond the virtual realms into which they have retreated. The success of The Daily Show proves that, if issues and topics are presented adequately, young people do care. One of the reasons why celebrities and politicians are happy to be interviewed on those shows, even with the danger of being ridiculed, is the fact that they can reach out to a young audience, which is almost impossible to access through other, let alone, traditional media. The two news parodies have the format that gets young people involved and that presents what is significant in a way that also helps people differentiate between what is important, honest, sincere, and trustworthy, and what is not.
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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility The impact the two shows have on young people—and this is especially true for The Daily Show—is systematically denied or played down by the anchors. Jon Stewart has the power to inform, entertain, and educate people, yet he emphasizes that he is only a comedian. Even as arguably the most trusted man in America he sticks to this image, which suggests that he does not misuse his power. Maybe this is part of his success, but it is also a point he is criticized for. At issue is his responsibility, which he sometimes takes and often denies. In this sense, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a one-time event, the impact of which quickly declined. However, it was a rather radical step outside of their (or at least Stewart’s) comfort zone. So, are Stewart and Colbert moving from comedy into political activism?
News Parodies as Forms of Media Activism? In his chapter on media activism, Matthew Lasar (2007) begins with a historical example predating the making of the United States (Lasar, 2007, p. 925). He refers to the case of the newspaper printer John Peter Zenger (New York, 1732), who accused the British colony’s governor of corruption and was sent to jail for libel. However, the jury ruled that no libel was committed since Zenger printed the truth. As Lasar writes, the “Zenger case both advocated and paved the way for independent media” (Laser, 2007, p. 925)—an idea still at work, for example, in the context of Indymedia. Media activism can be defined as two related kinds of activity. One creates media that challenge the dominant culture, structure, or ruling class of a society. The other advocates changes within that society intended to preserve or open up space for such media. Often media activism encompasses both these activities in the same historical moment; or it quickly moves between the two modes of action (Lasar, 2007, p. 925). Clearly, the two shows challenge the dominant media and encourage action and discursive activities (for example, in the context of [re-]mediation in social media). They encompass these activities and attract a wide and increasing audience but there is no intention to create open spaces in terms of platforms. A similar ambivalence is noticeable if we look at other characterizations of media activism. For example, Graham Meikle (2002), who addresses the basic distinction between open and closed systems in his book Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet (Meikle, 2002, p. 13). He relates openness to incompleteness (open source or open content developments). Here, media activism is used as an umbrella term for various intervening forms of media appropriation (with characteristics such as open, incomplete, spontaneous, and temporary forms). More recently (2010), he distinguishes four dimensions of Net activism: intercreative texts (for the concept of interactivity, see Tim Berners-Lee, 1999), tactics, strategies, and networks. As for the two shows, they can be regarded as intervening forms but they are part of a closed system. Robert Huesca refers to activist media as a key phrase and defines it as follows: Activist media are radio, television, and other media practices that aim to effect social change and that generally engage in some sort of structural analysis concerned with power and the reconstitution of society into more egalitarian arrangements. Many activist media practices are also committed to principles of communication democracy, which place at their core notions of popular access, participation, and self-management in the communication process. (Huesca, 2008, p. 31)
The shows also aim to effect social change to some extent and they focus on high quality products (not on processes and grassroots developments). But there is no core notion of participation in a political sense.
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Wolfgang Sützl’s (2011) characterization focuses on carnivalesque cultures as media of resistance or disobedience. In view of the explicit self-portrayal in the case of Jon Stewart as an authentic, critical, stand-up comedian, the show can be located clearly in this tradition but, at the same time, it is part of the mainstream media. With reference to the concept of variations (Goodman & Elgin, 1988) the theme of media activism can be described in terms of perspectives that appear in different ways such as: the unconventional use of media in the context of creative re-framings or social orientations, the strengthening (fortification) of minorities, questioning and criticizing mainstream developments, structural constraints, regimes and dominant cultures (cultures of dictatorial rights), and cognitive autonomy in (partial) cultures of resistance. However, the two shows appear as ambivalent forms when applying these perspectives. In the case of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, there is a questioning of the mainstream media and its attempt to hype unreal fears and polarize citizens, thus promoting biopolitical regimes. This questioning suggests a form of media of resistance in the sense of biopolitical activism. Although the example does not aim at cutting edge developments like the activities of artists such as the Critical Art Ensemble (available at http://www.critical-art.net, May 8, 2011) or Stelarc and scientists such as Beatriz da Costa, who began developing projects that intervened in a new, engineered (technological) form of exercising power on the body itself, it is a good illustration for effectively challenging the workings of biopower by introducing discontinuities in a new hegemony of knowledge.
Show Masters as Truth Tellers? In the case of our examples, the activists emphasize that they have no agenda of influence. They rather question issues and—to all intents and purposes—this kind of questioning, not explicitly but implicitly, challenges processes of governmentalization, the “art of government” in a Foucauldian sense. With the concept of “governmentality” Foucault aims at a new understanding of power beyond the problematique of consensus, will, or conquest: “The relationship proper to power would not therefore be sought on the side of violence or of struggle, nor on that of voluntary linking (all of which can, at best, only be the instruments of power), but rather in the area of the singular mode of action, neither warlike nor juridical, which is government” (Foucault, 1982, p. 221). Foucault advocates a concept of power that focuses on various forms of social control in disciplinary institutions (for example, schools or hospitals) as well as on different forms of knowledge in contrast to widespread conceptualizations of power in the sense of the hierarchical, top-down power of the state. Accordingly, the concept of government is not limited to state politics alone. It includes a wide range of control techniques that apply to a variety of phenomena, from one’s control of the self to the biopolitical control of populations. Foucault defines governmentality as the art of government in a wide sense, which includes organized practices (attitudes, rationalities, and techniques) through which subjects are governed, and which is linked to related concepts such as biopolitics and power-knowledge (Foucault, 2006a, 2006b). On the other hand, if we understand these creative acts in terms of an “ethics of de-governmentalization”, we should be aware that the analytical potential under the auspices of Foucault are somehow pruned and finally turned into moral stances. In other words, the concept of de-governmentalization emerges as concept of re-governmentalization on other levels (Hug, 2008).
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However, truth-oriented activism may be related to claims of clarification and enlightenment. But whatever the “truthometer” (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements) or other authorities tell us, we depend on a sense of trust in the respective agencies. Even though we might successfully refer to differentiated philosophical concepts of truth such as veritas est adaequatio intellectus ad rem (Truth is the correspondence of the intellect to the thing), consensus, evidence, coherence, or pragmatism, we should be aware that “Education towards truth is always education towards the truth of the educator” (Mitterer, 2001, p. 67).
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Pew Research Center. (2007). Public knowledge of current affairs little changed by news and information revolutions. Pew research center for the people and the press. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://people-press.org/2007/04/15/public-knowledge-of-current-affairs-little-changed-by-news-and-information-revolutions Postman, N. (1985). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York: Penguin. Rally to Restore Sanity. (2010). The Daily Show. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.rallytorestoresanity.com/ Schwarz, C. (2008). The ethics of storytelling: American media and the quest for truth (Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Innsbruck). Society of Professional Journalists. (1996). SPJ code of ethics. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.spj.org/pdf/ethicscode.pdf Stewart, J. (2010, October 31). YouTube (Final Speech at Rally to Restore Sanity). Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JzGOiBXeD4 Strauss, N. (2009, September 17). The subversive joy of Stephen Colbert. Rolling stones( pp. 56-110). Sützl, W. (2011). Medien des Ungehorsams. Zur Geschichtlichkeit von Medienaktivismus. Retrieved March 11, 2011, from http://www.medienimpulse.at/articles/view/290 Thacker, E. (2004). Biomedia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Time Poll Results. (2009). Now that Walter Cronkite has passed on, who is america's most trusted newscaster? Time. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://www.timepolls.com/hppolls/archive/poll_results_417.html Williams, B. (2010). New thought leaders: #2 Jon Stewart. Retrieved May 8, 2011, from http://2010.newsweek.com/top-10/new-thought-leaders/jon-stewart.html
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African-American Women’s Perceptions of Constitutive Meanings of Good Hair Articulated in Black Hair Magazine Advertisements
Eletra S. Gilchrist, Courtney Thompson The University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA
Hair has historically reflected material consequences in the Black community; thus, research has begun to investigate how the power/privilege matrix that is propagated throughout the media permeates society and impacts African-American women’s perceptions of hair. This research joins the discussion by exploring how Black hair magazine advertisements influence Black women’s hair decisions and their perceptions of what constitutes beautiful Black hair. Findings reveal that the images African-American women consume from Black hair magazine advertisements do impact what they consider to be beautiful and, subsequently, influence their day-to-day styling and hair care mechanisms, lending further support to the idea that the media serve as powerful sources of knowledge. This study culminates by theorizing about the constitutive meanings and importance of Black hair as conveyed through magazine advertisements and considers how Black women use social comparisons to make everyday hair decisions to achieve what they identify as good hair. Keywords: body politics, hair politics, social comparison theory, Black hair, magazine advertisements
Ethnic studies focusing on African Americans have addressed a myriad of research topics. One profound area of inquiry in African-American research that has recently sparked interest involves body politics. The term body politics describes the comprehensive ideals, guidelines, and decisions made by society about the human flesh and implies that the body is the site and surface of struggle. Representations, definitions, and treatments of the body are inherently political statements because of what they communicate about the constitutive meanings, importance, obsessions, practices, and urgencies related to the body. Body politics furthermore describes the social constructs of a particular culture or group of individuals regarding the parts and structure of the body. The politics that individuals adopt explain and govern the relationships between genetic traits, physical appearance, and other political ideologies that exist in a given culture (Spellers & Moffitt, 2010). Body politics presumes that the body is not only a political entity, but a rhetorical artifact. Thus, studying the body is similar to analyzing a text or artifact, and much like a piece of text or other rhetorical artifact, researchers have become increasingly interested in studying the human body to gain a better understanding of its relevance to art, science, religion, popular culture, cross-cultures, and even the mass media (Spellers & Moffitt, 2010). Because of the uniqueness and diversity of the demographics associated with African Eletra S. Gilchrist, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Communication Arts, The University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Courtney Thompson, student, Department of Communication Arts, The University of Alabama in Huntsville.
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Americans, research has become especially fascinated with exploring Black bodies. In the book, Scripting the Black Masculine Body, Jackson (2006) described Black body politics in popular media as “contemporaneous with slavery” (p. 12). Jackson (2006) writes, “Since the emergence of race as a social construct, Black bodies have become surfaces of racial meanings. So it is only logical that any attempt to divorce the concept of race from body politics leaves the analysis incomplete” (p. 12). Body politics is an all encompassing term, focusing on issues of hair, skin, size, etc., and it is virtually impossible for any research endeavor to explore every area of body politics at one time. Toward this end, this study takes a more narrow approach in exploring Black body politics and assesses a single, yet powerful area related to Black bodies. Specifically, this study focuses on the hair politics that govern African-American women’s hair perceptions and decisions based on the mediated influence of magazine advertisements. By using a social scientific approach, the goal of this study is to examine how Black magazine advertisements impact the perceptions of what African-American women identify as beautiful hair and how the women’s views, in turn, shape their hair decisions.
Review of Literature Research on media effects asserts that the mass media have a strong impact on individuals by constructing social reality or “framing images of reality... in a predictable and patterned way” (McQuail, 1994, p. 331). Media effects further alleges that “Media discourse is part of the process by which individuals construct meaning, and public opinion is part of the process by which journalists... develop and crystallize meaning in public discourse” (Gamson & Modigliani, 1989, p. 2). Using media effects as a research premise, many studies have concurred that the mass media represent powerful forces that have the unique ability to influence individuals in many different ways (e.g., Azibo, 2010; Chomsky, 1991; Gilchrist, 2011; Shaker, 2009; Spellers & Moffitt, 2010; Thompson, 2009; Thompson & Heinberg, 1999). The mass media are used to communicate information to vast audiences by way of television, radio, print, film, the Internet, etc.. People interact with some form of media on a daily basis, and therefore the varied channels affect people’s lives socially, culturally, or economically in some way (Hallowell, 2007). The messages sent to the public through the media have a significant impact on how individuals view themselves and the world around them. Azibo (2010) argues, for example, that the mass media have endangered or depleted African-centered consciousness. Various forms of media, including magazines, tend to mirror society by reflecting society’s cultural views. Littlefield (2008) referred to the media as a system of racialization that constantly bombards society with a “daily discourse on race, gender, and class” (p. 675). Because people within a culture, group, or class are all unique, magazine advertisements—as well as the media in general—often face difficulty trying to satisfy a wide range of consumer needs. Therefore, advertisers often tailor their messages to reach a broad mainstream audience; meanwhile, the consumers in minority groups frequently are ignored, underrepresented, or misrepresented in the advertisements they view in magazines (Taylor & Lee, 1995). African-American women represent one unique minority group that is often ignored, underrepresented, or misrepresented in the media. As asserted by Collins (2000), these women have the multiple competing identities of race, class, and gender working against them in many areas of life, including how they are 1
According to The Associated Press Stylebook (2011), which provides rules regarding fundamental journalistic principles, the terms African American and Black are both acceptable when referring to American Black persons of African descent. Hence, both terms are used in this article.
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portrayed in the media. Current research on African-American women and the magazine industry has focused primarily on the effects that beauty advertisements have on the self-esteem and total body image of these women of color. Studies on body perception and esteem suggest that Black women tend to associate more readily with media images they can identify with in some way, and less with images that depict more mainstream standards of beauty (Frisby, 2004; Kennedy & Martin, 1994; Thompson, 2009). In other words, to evaluate their own unique characteristics, Black women tend to use images of similar others (i.e., other Black women rather than White women) to compare themselves against (Frisby, 2004). Hence, it is important for research to explore the types of mediated images about African-American women that this population uses when making social comparisons. The theory of social comparison, as developed by social psychologist Leon Festinger (1954), explains why individuals judge themselves against the standards of other individuals in society. Social comparison theory assumes people desire to measure themselves against others they perceive to be like them (in some way) by evaluating their own characteristics with the comparative others (Festinger, 1954). Festinger’s perspective on self-assessment purposes that social influence and competitive behaviors are connected and serve as the basis of human motivation for self-improvement (1954). In order to promote upward movement of one’s abilities and performance, the comparisons tend to involve persons who are perceived to possess similar opinions or abilities, according to the one engaging in self-evaluation, self-enhancement, or even self-advancement (Festinger, 1954; Frisby, 2004). As articulated by Frisby (2004), “From a mass communication perspective, social comparison theory would prove extremely useful in developing theory focused on information processing and the effects and uses of mass media messages” (p. 326). With this in mind, a mix of topics has been explored in examining how women socially compare themselves to others based on the mass media messages they consume. In particular, many topics related to body politics, such as skin color, hair type, and body size, have all been scientifically examined to determine if magazine images influence the perceptions, self-esteem, and mood of women of color (e.g., Chin Evans & McConnell, 2003; Frisby, 2004; Mbure, 2009; Thompson, 2009). Previous research on African-American women’s self-perceptions and body esteem has often analyzed Black women in relation to women of other races—especially Caucasian women, who historically have served as an ideal image of beauty in mass media (Chin & McConnell, 2003; Frisby, 2004; Mbure, 2009; Thompson, 2009). Specifically, prevailing beauty paradigms in the U.S.A. have a tendency to privilege Eurocentric standards of beauty, which was inherited from slavery and passed down throughout the generations (Gilchrist & Jackson, in press). From this perspective, anything that is White or White-like has been perceived as good, desirable, or beautiful, while anything, including hair, that is Black or Black-like has been viewed as bad, negative, or detestable (Gilchrist & Jackson, in press). In the book Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women’s Consciousness, Banks (2000) writes, “Hair has emerged as socially and culturally significant” (p. 5). For Black women, hair is an identity marker and a symbol of status that can connote beauty, acceptance, and power. In other words, hair matters a lot in the African-American community (Gilchrist & Jackson, in press). Within popular culture, African-American hair is considered a very complex and controversial subject, and it has grown into a very lucrative business. For instance, the film Good Hair (2009) highlights that African-American women have ballooned the Black hair care and styling industry into a nine-billion-dollar enterprise (Hunter, O’Donnell, & Stilson, 2009). From hair enhancements, such as weaves and wigs, to color treatments, and the good versus bad hair controversy, the
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Good Hair documentary addresses the long-standing issue of what beauty means in terms of Black hair texture, length, color, and styling practices (Hunter et al., 2009). Lester (2000) argues that, “competing mythologies around something as deceptively insignificant as hair still haunt and complicate African Americans’ self-identities and their ideals of beauty, thus revealing broad and complex social, historical, and political realities” (p. 203). The fascination and value that Black hair has always had in the African-American community makes it a worthy topic for examination not only through popular culture, but disciplined inquiry as well. Historically, the good and bad labels placed on the various types and textures of hair carry a considerably different social meaning within the Black community than they do for other cultures. For example, African-American hair in its natural state is usually described as having a kinky or curly texture, and it has often been considered as less acceptable in society than chemically straightened hair, which resembles White standards of beauty (Banks, 2000). The negative connotations associated with Black hair texture reflect the deep stigma that the enslavement of African people in the West has left on American society, particularly within the Black community. As a result, the good and bad labels function as reminders of slavery, analogous 2
with other forms of discrimination such as the “brown paper bag test” and “comb test” used years ago to categorize, separate, and even degrade members of the Black community based their skin color (Banks, 2000). For Black women, hair tends to serve as an identity marker that women become cognizant of as little girls, in part due to the images they consume from the media (Banks, 2000). Spellers and Moffitt (2010) assert that the Black body, which includes Black hair, has been associated with beauty, status, spirituality, health, erotic and exotic consciousness, and markings of social identity throughout the African Diaspora. Thus, there is a profound combination of stereotyping, desire, detest, and material consequence linked to Black hair. For instance, even Michelle Obama—the first African-American first lady of the United States—has faced scrutiny in the media over her hair decisions (Desmond-Harris, 2009). After photos of First Lady Obama’s various hairstyles were posted on the Internet, a writer from Time Magazine pointed out that 56% of an online poll’s respondents felt that the country was not ready for a “first lady with kinky hair” (Desmond-Harris, 2009, p. 56). Other situations in the media that reinforce a resistance of natural Black hair include an incident in 2007 when radio personality Don Imus referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team players as “nappy-headed hos” (CBS Fires Don Imus Over Racial Slur, 2009). These examples illustrate that the media are powerful forces that can bolster many stereotypes about Black hair. Additionally, perceptions of Black hair are also evident in the workplace. Thompson (2009) argued, “A fact that needs to be underscored is that Black women continue to fear adorning the ‘natural’ especially in the workplace because of the spectacle an authentically Black aesthetic will create, and the potential negative impact on one’s economic mobility” (p. 852). According to Thompson (2009), even within the Black culture, a woman who wears her hair in its natural state may suffer being ostracized in relationships or in the workplace because of her hair. The authors of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America also conclude the following: America’s, including Black America’s, beauty ideal has not altered drastically since the late 1800s. Large 2
The “brown paper bag test” describes a ritual once practiced by certain African-American and Creole fraternities and sororities who discriminated against people who were “too dark”. Specifically, these groups would not let anyone into the sorority or fraternity whose skin tone was darker than a paper bag (Kerr, 2005). 3 The “comb test” refers to a ritual that occurred when somebody’s origin was in doubt. A comb with fine teeth was used to test the coarseness of one’s hair, and if the comb ran through it easily, then the person could be classified as acceptable, according to White standards (Kerr, 2005).
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breast, small waists, and masses of flowing hair are still the look desired by men and sought after by many women... Black people looking to fit into the mainstream visually still overwhelmingly have to contend with the same standards as in the past. (Byrd & Tharps, 2001, pp. 181-182) In sum, the literature supports two conclusions relative to the current investigation: (a) Hair is an important component to the identity of African-American women (Banks, 2000; Byrd & Tharps, 2001; Gilchrist & Jackson, in press); and (b) mass media platforms, such as the magazine industry, shape the way members of society make everyday decisions and perceive themselves (Azibo, 2010; Chomsky, 1991; Gilchrist, 2011; Shaker, 2009; Spellers & Moffitt, 2010; Thompson, 2009; Thompson & Heinberg, 1999). Using these prevailing themes as benchmarks for analysis, the conversation now warrants a more extensive examination of how the media affect specific aspects of body politics for African-American women. Hence, this study explores African-American women’s perceptions of the constitutive meanings of good hair as articulated in Black hair magazine advertisements. Specifically, this investigation examines how Black hair magazine advertisements impact perceptions of beautiful hair and the overall styling and hair care decisions of the population in question. Toward this end, the following research questions are asked: RQ1: Do Black hair magazine advertisements influence Black women’s perceptions of what they consider to be beautiful Black hair? RQ2: Have Black hair magazine advertisements changed Black women’s perceptions of hair enhancements? RQ3: Do Black hair magazine advertisements influence Black women’s hair care and styling decisions? RQ4: What do Black women perceive as good or bad in terms of Black hair?
Method Participants To study African-American women’s perceptions of Black hair, the participants consisted of a purposive sample of African-American women residing in a large city from the U.S.A. South. The participants were recruited mainly based on acquaintance with the principal investigators. The participants were also asked to refer additional research participants. Hence, about 20% of the participants were obtained through snowball procedures. The volunteers ranged in age from 19 to 56 years of age, and the average age of the 50 women participating in the study was 26. The women’s current hair state included chemically-relaxed (n = 29; 58%), natural (i.e., hair not chemically relaxed) (n = 17; 34%), and transitioning from chemically-relaxed to natural hair (n = 4; 8%). Because this study examined how Black magazine advertisements impact Black women’s perceptions of hair, it was necessary to assess the types of magazines the women view that contain the advertisements. All the women reported that they do view Black hair magazine advertisement. They then listed the names of all magazines they read that feature advertisements for Black hair products or styles, which included the following five magazines: Sophisticate’s Black Hair (n = 28; 34.1%), Ebony (n = 16; 19.5%), Essence (n = 14; 17%), Hype Hair (n = 12; 14.6%), and Jet (n = 7; 8.5%). It is important to note that the magazines listed are targeted toward African-American consumers, though the women had free range to choose any type of magazine, regardless of whether or not it primarily targeted African Americans, other minority groups, or even a more mainstream audience. However, it is not surprising that the women chose magazines geared primarily toward African-American consumers because, as stated in the Review of Literature, Black women tend to relate more
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readily with identifiable media images, and they are more likely to evaluate their own unique characteristics with similar others (Frisby, 2004; Kennedy & Martin, 1994; Thompson, 2009). Procedure After signing and returning an informed consent form, the participants were given approximately 15 minutes to complete an open-ended survey comprised of 10 items relative to hair perceptions and the media’s depiction about what constitutes beautiful Black hair. The survey also asked the participants whether or not the magazine advertisements they view impact their hair decisions. The questions were formatted as open-ended questions in order to objectively allow participants the opportunity to provide as much explanation as necessary about Black hair magazine advertisements and the influence that the images have on their hair decisions (See Appendix). Data Analysis The open-ended survey yielded data reflective of the African-American women’s perceptions of hair. Thus, it was necessary for this social scientific investigation to categorize occurrences of themes inherent in the women’s written responses. Thus, quantitative content analysis was the appropriate data analysis procedure. According to Neuendorf (2002), content analysis is a “summarizing, quantitative analysis of messages that relies on the scientific method (including attention to objectivity, intersubjectivity, a priori design, reliability, validity, generalizability, replicability, and hypothesis testing) and is not limited as to the types of variables that may be measured or the context in which the messages are created or presented” (p. 10). Frey, Botan, and Kreps (2000) add that content analysis involves textual analysis of a recorded or visual message, and it is used to identify and enumerate similarities and differences in the messages acquired in the data. Hence, content analysis was an ideal method for quantitatively summarizing the message content because the goal of this study was to describe and count the occurrences of messages embedded in the African-American women’s written response. Frey et al. (2000) recommend using two coders to enhance a study’s validity when performing content analysis. Thus, two trained coders coded the data by following the process outlined by Auerbach and Silverstein (2003). Based on their suggestions, the coders first examined the women’s written answers and looked for repeating ideas, which are defined as concepts “expressed in relevant texts by two or more research participants” (p. 54). The coders then worked independently and categorized the repeating ideas into thematic constructs, which are viewed as abstract concepts that organize a group of themes by placing them into a theoretical framework (Auerbach & Silverstein, 2003). There was high intercoder reliability (Cohen’s Kappa = 0.80). In the third step of the content analysis, the coders negotiated discrepant codings until consensus was reached. Analyzing the data comprised the final stage, whereby the coders counted the number of occurrences in each category to obtain an overall quantitative typology.
Results Perceptions of Beautiful Hair The initial research question asked: Do Black hair magazine advertisements influence Black women’s perceptions of what they consider to be beautiful Black hair? In response to this question, content analysis results revealed that the participants gave various comments about what they perceive as beautiful based on what they learn from viewing Black magazine advertisements. Twelve categories emerged, and arranged from
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highest to lowest frequency, the categories included the following hair types: (1) straight, (2) long, (3) all types, (4) natural, and (5) weave-enhanced; a three-way tie occurred for (6) color-treated, (7) healthy, and (8) shiny; and a four-way tie occurred for (9) curly, (10) full/thick, (11) manageable, and (12) short hair. Straight hair. Of all of the women’s responses, straight hair was reported as what Black hair magazine advertisements mostly depict as beautiful (n = 32; 32.6%). In the comments, the word straight usually referred to either chemically-relaxed or “naturally” straight hair. Many of the responses included similar terms such as “silky” and “flowing” in their description. According to one participant, “Beautiful hair is straight hair”. Long hair. Additionally, the second-highest ranking category referred to the type of straight hair represented in the advertisements, which was long (n = 18; 18.3%). For example, some women commented that magazines show “predominately long, straight hair (chemically-relaxed), sometimes short hair, but nevertheless relaxed” and others said the magazines illustrate “mostly relaxed hair that is straightened and long, some short hair”. As one respondent stated, “Children’s advertisements show little girls with long, relaxed hair”. All types of hair. The third highest ranking category from the survey data was that magazines portray all hair types as beautiful (n = 16; 16.3%). Several comments in this group included: “Black hair magazines are very diverse. They portray all Black hair as beautiful”; “I think they [magazine advertisements] portray beautiful in many terms. They have long, short, wet and wavy, curly, natural hairstyles for Black hair”; and “I think they portray beautiful as natural, long, short, anything. I think they view Black as beautiful”. Natural hair. In the fourth highest ranking category, women stated that Black hair magazine advertisements emphasize natural hair as beautiful (n = 10; 10.2%), but the women in this group often noted that this trend had reemerged in recent years. Sample statements included: “I used to see women with weaves and straightened hair only. Now, I see more natural women in magazines”; “A lot of hair magazines are focusing on natural beauty now”; and, “…natural hair is beautiful!” Weave enhancements. In the fifth highest ranking category, the women’s responses indicated that weave enhancements (n = 5; 5.1%), which are used to make hair appear longer or shorter, fuller, or even to change the color or texture of one’s natural hair, generally are represented as beautiful in Black hair magazine advertisements. For instance, one woman stated, “They [magazines] advertise the natural and relaxed look, but both using weave”. Another respondent said beautiful meant wearing weave that has “mixed-looking hair with perfect curls”. Color-treated hair. Another group of women in the sixth category revealed that Black hair magazine advertisements often use color-treated hair to depict beauty (n = 3; 3%). Comments falling in this category described beautiful hair as, “relaxed with color”. One response even added hair black in color was usually illustrated in magazine advertisements. According to one respondent, “Colored hair is hot!” Healthy hair. In addition to color-treated hair, women in the sixth most frequently mentioned category said that healthy hair also is represented as beautiful in magazine advertisements (n = 3; 3%). “Good hair-care and maintenance” were listed among the comments. As stated by one participant, “Regardless of the magazine ads I see, they all have an undertone that healthy hair equals beautiful hair”. Shiny hair. Shiny hair also tied with color-treated and healthy hair as the sixth highest ranking category portrayed as beautiful in Black hair magazine advertisements (n = 3; 3%). “They [magazines] advertise all types of hair as beautiful as long as it is shiny,” one woman replied. Another participant said, “Whether hair is long or short, magazine advertisements communicate that hair should have this shinny and glossy texture”. Curly hair. Per the participants’ responses, the seventh highest ranking content category included curly
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hair (n = 2; 2%). Aside from natural hair, which is characterized by its tendency to curl or coil when exposed to moisture, respondents stated: “They [advertisements] portray Black hair as relaxed and curly”. The same respondent also added, “Now natural is also portrayed, but it’s the curly, full hair”. Another participant said, “Curly and bouncing hair is beautiful according to magazine advertisements”. Full/Thick hair. Also included in the seventh category was full or thick hair as a representation of beauty in magazine advertisements (n = 2; 2%). One woman stated that “full hair” is a standard. Another one said, “I never see anyone portrayed in magazine advertisements whose hair is thin as a dime. Their hair is always full and think”. Manageable hair. Manageability of hair was also mentioned in the seventh content category of beauty (n = 2; 2%). As stated by one participant, “Hair must be manageable to be beautiful”. Another term that the women closely associated with manageability was “texture”. The women indicated texture is seen as an indicator of manageability as well as beauty in Black hair magazine advertisements. Short hair. In addition to curly, full/thick, and manageable hair, the respondents stated that some magazine advertisements also portray short hair as beautiful in the seventh highest ranking category (n = 2; 2%). These women did not expound about the types of short hairstyles they view, but they mentioned that many short hairstyles are appealing. As stated by one participant, “A cute bobbed haircut is hard to beat”. In sum, the participants specified that just as with longer hair, shorter hair is also considered beautiful. Hair Enhancements The second research question queried: Have magazine advertisements changed Black women’s perception of hair enhancements (e.g., weaves, hair pieces, wigs, and/or hair extensions)? Most of the women in the study responded that magazine advertisements of African-American hair have indeed changed the way they view hair enhancements (n = 43; 86%), and the women overall perceive hair enhancements very positively. One respondent said, “I think they [advertisements] are encouraging more people to use weaves, hair extensions, etc.”. Another respondent said that she dislikes her natural hair, but hair enhancements have provided her with many more favorable options. She said, “I found myself putting extensions in my hair, and hating my hair”. Another woman wrote: I feel that magazine advertisements have influenced the public to embrace the use of weaves, wigs, hair extensions, etc.. Years ago, women wore wigs if they simply had thinning hair. Now advertisements show that women can enhance by changing the length and color of their hair at will.
In sum, the women overwhelmingly believed that Black hair magazine advertisements have enabled them to have a more positive perception of hair enhancements. For the small percentage of women who responded that the advertisements have not impacted how they view hair enhancements (n = 7; 14%), many of them argued that hair enhancements have always been a “big thing”. As stated by one participant, “Wigs have been popular for a long time before Black hair ads were popular”. Other responses stated that pictorial representations on television about Black hair were more impactful than magazine advertisements because television tends to reach a larger audience. Styling and Hair-Care Decisions The third research question asked: Do Black hair magazine advertisements influence Black women’s hair care and styling decisions? The data revealed that more than half of the participants answered yes in regard to advertisements impacting their own styling and hair care choices (n = 31; 62%). For example, one of the
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women influenced by the advertisements said, “Whenever I am ready for a change, I always turn to magazine ads to see what fits me and my personality.” Thirty-one of the 50 women surveyed in this study reported that magazine advertisements influence their styling and hair care decisions; These two areas are further explained in the subsequent paragraphs. Hair styling techniques. Several of the statements relative to the third research question revealed that most women consult magazines for new styling ideas (n = 21; 67.7%). Comments about styling tips included the following: “I look at magazines as more of a guide to see the latest trends, and I may do my hair or wear products because of it being in a particular magazine”; “They’ve [advertisements have] influenced me to continuously cut and color my hair”; and “From seeing different advertisements, I have decided to try to go natural [i.e., to transition to natural hair from chemically treated hair] instead of putting a relaxer on my hair”. Overall, the statements about hair styling tended to focus on ideas for haircuts, color treatments, and other popular trends. Hair care. The respondents also used Black hair magazine advertisements to find knowledge about hair care management and new products to try (n = 10; 32.3%). These women replied: “Now that I am natural, I read these magazines to find products to help me better manage my hair”; “They [advertisements] make me more aware of what I am putting in my hair”; and “Magazines make you want to try certain hair products”. The women who stated magazine advertisements did not persuade their styling and hair-care practices (n = 19; 38%), followed up by listing the external factors that do influence hair decisions. Some of these women stated: “I base my decisions usually on the advice of my beautician”; “I mainly get tips and styles from online blogs and YouTube”; and another woman replied, “I have my own style”. Good Hair Versus Bad Hair The last research question, RQ4, asked: What do Black women perceive as good or bad in terms of Black hair? While most women felt there were clear definitions for the terms good hair and bad hair (n = 35; 70%), other participants felt there was not a solid definition for what constitutes good or bad hair (n = 15; 30%). Interestingly, data from RQ4 mirrored the findings from RQ1 in that what the participants defined as good hair paralleled what they reported magazine advertisements portray as beautiful Black hair. As with the findings from RQ1, many of the participants’ comments for RQ4 focused on the manageability of hair texture and its natural curl pattern. For instance, some women regarded good hair as manageable, while bad hair is unmanageable. Some responses even referred to good hair texture as “wavy,” “curly,” and even naturally or chemically straight, while other responses called “kinky,” “nappy,” and “course” hair bad. One respondent stated, “Hair that does not require chemicals is good, and adversely, bad hair needs chemicals”. Also indicative of what was discovered in the results for RQ1, data analysis for RQ4 referred to health and appearance as markers of good and bad hair. According to the responses, key words used to denote good hair included “healthy”, “well-conditioned”, “growing”, and “moisturized”, whereas bad hair was characterized as “damaged” or “dry”. As for appearance, common ways of identifying good hair included its “thickness”, “shine”, and “professional maintenance”. On the other hand, words used to describe bad hair included “thin”, “messy”, “dull”, and “uneven”. Contrary to defining African-American hair as either good or bad, a few women felt there was no way to define hair using these terms. Some (i.e., n = 15; 30%) wrote that the terms did not accurately describe Black hair types. These comments included the following statements: “I feel all hair is good as long as you embrace
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it”; “I don’t define hair as good or bad hair. All hair is beautiful”; and “Hair is hair”. Another respondent expressed displeasure at the very idea that hair could be labeled as good or bad: “I don’t really feel any hair is good or bad. Those terms seem very stereotypical and were influenced by White society’s issues/beliefs about Blacks and Black hair”.
Discussion Implications This study examined how Black magazine advertisements impact the perceptions of what Black women identify as beautiful hair and how the women’s views subsequently shape their hair decisions. Toward this end, the first research question explored perceptions of beauty in Black hair magazine advertisements. Content analysis revealed magazine advertisements do influence Black women’s views of beautiful hair. Twelve categories of what Black hair advertisements portray as beautiful emerged via content analysis and included: straight, long, all hair types, natural, and weave-enhanced; a three-way tie occurred for color-treated, healthy, and shiny; and a four-way tie occurred for curly, full/thick, manageable, and short hair. Byrd and Tharps (2001) argued that the media’s ideal beauty standard has not drastically changed since the late 1800s, but findings from this study counter this theoretical perspective and suggest that Black hair magazine advertisements now portray many different images of beauty. The variety of categories indicates that magazine advertisements are now depicting and promoting multiple definitions of beautiful Black hair, as opposed to a single beauty standard. This suggests that the magazine industry is transitioning from a narrow, mainstream ideal of beauty to a more comprehensive representation of what beautiful hair can and should mean for African-American women. That said, the “masses of flowing hair” that Byrd and Tharps (2001) argue are still sought after by many Black women is not the only image being presented in the media now, nor is it the sole message being interpreted as beautiful by Black women (p. 181). Instead, the impactful findings from this study concur with Gilchrist and Jackson (in press) and suggest that hair politics is finally merging in a direction that celebrates Black hair for what it should be—a personal choice and not a social construction of acceptance or rejection. Thus, it is the hope of this research that the magazine industry and other forms of mass media will follow this basic premise and continue creating more inclusive images featuring all hair types and textures as acceptable. The second objective of this study was to explore whether magazine advertisements featuring Black hair have changed Black women’s perceptions of hair enhancements. The data suggest Black hair magazine advertisements have not only affected Black women’s perceptions of hair enhancements, but they have encouraged the women to have an overall positive view of hair enhancements. The women in this study reported that hair enhancements were becoming more popular or acceptable in today’s society, and weaves, wigs, and extensions are no longer seen as a stigma or taboo, but a personal choice. As discussed in the Review of Literature, the documentary Good Hair highlights how the hair industry has ballooned into a nine-billion-dollar empire in recent years. With weave enhancements accounting for 65% of all hair care revenue, the documentary alleges African-American women are the primary consumers of these products (Hunter et al., 2009). Data from this study affirm the claims brought out in the Good Hair documentary and imply that African-American women have a positive affinity toward hair enhancements. The idea that African-American women readily embrace many diverse hair types and textures, whether natural or synthetic, is reflective of their acceptance of both Eurocentric and Afrocentric beauty markers. Hence, “today,
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hairstyles run the gamut from Afros to straightened hair to Jheri curls, irrespective of skin tone, socio-economic class, and political affiliation” (Thompson, 2009, p. 835). The third objective of this research endeavor examined whether Black hair magazine advertisements influence the styling and hair care decisions of African-American women. Though this research question in no way implies that magazine advertisements can only influence the hair decisions of Black women, it was important to ask this question because previous research has consistently found that the media serve as tools for all people, but Black women in particular, to define, measure, and understand themselves (Collins, 2000; Gilchrist & Jackson, in press; Littlefield, 2008). Littlefield (2008) argues that the media have profound power “to define and create attitudes that influence [Black women’s] behavior” (p. 677). Because “The media have historically operated as an agent constructing racial ideology” for Black women (Littlefield, 2008, p. 678), it was plausible that magazine advertisements would indeed affect the styling and hair care decisions of the population under study. Content analysis of the data from RQ3 supported this claim. Specifically, the participants reported using magazines to find ideas for new techniques about haircuts, color treatments, and other popular trends. Additionally, some women used advertisements to find information on hair care products. According to social comparison theory, people compare themselves with similar others in order to reach a goal (Festinger, 1954). This theory has much relevance to this study’s findings because the women consulted magazine advertisements in order to educate themselves on ways to style and care for their hair. Even women who did not use magazine advertisements to gather styling and hair care tips admitted being persuaded by other forms of the media, such as television and online social media. These results concur with previous research asserting that the media represent powerful forces capable of influencing individuals in many different ways (Azibo, 2010; Chomsky, 1991; Gilchrist, 2011; Shaker, 2009; Spellers & Moffitt, 2010; Thompson, 2009; Thompson & Heinberg, 1999). The final objective of this study was to investigate how African-American women define good and bad hair. In addition to exploring whether or not the women had conclusive definitions of good and bad hair, the researchers wanted to know whether the women’s definitions were similar to or different from the perceptions of Black hair they view in magazine advertisements. First, the data imply that Black women collectively believe that there are indeed clear definitions of good and bad Black hair. The participants’ explanations focused on the overarching themes of texture, health, and appearance. Particularly, the respondents’ textural themes alluded to differences in the hair’s curl pattern and manageability. For some women, hair textures with a loose or almost straight curl pattern were considered better and more manageable than hair types with a tight or kinky curl pattern. Also, health themes centered on the use of hair care products to nourish and grow hair. Regardless of hair type or appearance, the health themes indicated that well-conditioned and growing hair was good as opposed to damaged hair, which was seen as bad. Lastly, appearance themes concentrated on the length, thickness, and professional maintenance of Black hair. The data revealed that full, shiny, and well-maintained hair was visually better than thin, dull, and unkempt hair. Per the second objective with RQ4, the results revealed that the women’s standards of good hair resembled many of the content categories that emerged from the analysis of data for RQ1, which assessed the representations of beautiful Black hair in magazine advertisements. It is interesting to note that none of the participants used any of the content categories that emerged with RQ1 in their classifications of bad hair. These findings lend further support to the idea that Black hair magazine advertisements shape what African-American women consider as beautiful, as well as how they distinguish good hair from bad hair. Specifically, this study
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found that the women’s ideas of good hair matched the images they reported viewing in the magazine advertisements. The results are meaningful in that they lend further evidence to past research that concluded the media serve as sources of knowledge for consumers (Azibo, 2010; Chomsky, 1991; Gilchrist, 2011; Shaker, 2009; Spellers & Moffitt, 2010; Thompson, 2009; Thompson & Heinberg, 1999). In the context of this study, it appears that African-American women have internalized the images they view in the media, implying that the women’s perceptions of beauty indeed align with what is depicted as beautiful in the magazine advertisements. The results from this study also illustrate that Black women make social comparisons to achieve what the media deem as both beautiful and good hair, lending additional support to Festinger’s (1954) social comparison theory. Although many African-American women have feared adorning their natural Black hair in the workplace and other professional settings (see Thompson, 2009), data from RQ4 show that African-American women are beginning to embrace a variety of hair types and styles as beautiful. It is arguable that African-American women are currently more accepting of various types of Black hair and are moving away from some of the race-related ideologies that once greatly defined and limited their beauty because magazine advertisements are becoming more diverse in terms of what they depict as acceptable beauty. Hence, it is important for magazines, as well as other mediated channels, to continue conveying diverse images that appeal to all hair types, textures, and lengths. The researchers duly recognize the small percentage (i.e., n = 15; 30%) of the women in this study who responded that hair is neither good nor bad, but that it is simply hair. These women’s responses counter some commonly held beliefs that assert hair is “socially and culturally significant” (Banks, 2000, p. 5). Instead, these women’s comments, though in the minority of all comments made by the participants, provide hopeful evidence of a possible shift in ideological perspectives. Perhaps there is a small percentage of women who are, as advised by Gilchrist and Jackson (in press), “breaking the chains of hair bondage inherited from slavery and passed down through the generations”. Holistically speaking, the results of the four research questions in this study reinforce assertions by Littlefield (2008) and imply that media do affect people socially, culturally, and economically. For African-American women, the findings suggest that magazine advertisements persuade them socially in that portrayals of beauty shape how they see their own hair in comparison to other images of Black hair in the media. Also, data acquired from this study imply that Black women are culturally affected by the images they view in magazines because those images tend to define what constitutes beautiful Black hair. Finally, magazine advertisements of Black hair impact these women of color economically by influencing the products they buy and the hair services they request in order to reach the ideal beauty goals portrayed by the media. Findings from this study have provided a model for future research to use in expanding the available data on how the media impact hair politics, with a specific interest on African-American women’s perceptions of hair and beauty. Limitations and Recommendations Although the study achieved its desired goal of enhancing the research in the area of Black hair politics, there were limits to the present investigation. The sample accounts for one limitation. For instance, the sample size only represents a small percentage of African-American women who view Black hair magazine advertisements. Hence, the researchers fully acknowledge that the nonrandom purposive sample of 50 participants from the U.S.A. is not inclusive of the opinions of all African-American women, especially those living in other regions of the country and certainly not Black women outside the country. Also, though the
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participants ranged in ages from 19-56, the average age was 26. Thus, it was impossible to infer whether or not generational differences exist in what African-American women view as beautiful Black hair. Additionally, the current hair type of the participants may have been a factor in the outcome of the study. Because the majority of participants stated that they had chemically-relaxed hair (i.e., n = 29; 58%), their perceptions of beauty may have been influenced by their hair’s current state. Future research could rectify some of the limitations associated with the sample by including the voices of a larger and more regionally diverse population of African-American women who are of varying ages and who represent a relatively equal distribution of each hair type. This study only focused on one form of mass mediated communication—magazine advertisements. Yet, as indicated by the respondents, Black hair magazine advertisements are only one of many mediums that influence African-American women’s definitions of beauty. According to the participants’ responses, television and online social media, such as video blogs, are also influential to the study of body politics and are, thus, worthy of examination. Hence, the researchers recommend that future inquiries explore how other types of the media affect African-American women’s perceptions of beautiful hair and their subsequent hair decisions in order to obtain a more holistic view of how various mass communication mediums impact hair politics. This study’s sample was only comprised of African-American women because research has consistently found that hair matters significantly in the African-American community, and there is a history of oppression and stereotypes associated with Black hair (Banks, 2000; Gilchrist & Jackson, in press; White, 2005). However, it might also be telling if future research examined whether or not White women and women from other racial minority groups have similar or different views of what constitutes beautiful hair in comparison to African-American women. By exploring how magazine advertisements impact all women’s hair decisions and perceptions of beautiful hair, the growing field of body politics can be enriched all the more. This study’s final limitation is of a methodological nature. Analyzing the open-ended questions via content analysis was sufficient for this study’s purposes because, as stated in the Method section, all of the participants indicated that they viewed magazine advertisements about Black hair. To fully explore whether or not it is truly the magazine advertisements that are affecting the women’s perceptions of what constitutes beautiful hair and their subsequent hair decisions, future research could compare the responses of those who view magazine advertisements with those who do not view any magazine advertisements. Perhaps data from these two groups could be compared with a t test to see if a statistically significant difference exists in the survey responses. Data from this proposed method could greatly complement the findings that emerged from this study’s content analysis.
Conclusion This social scientific investigation explored how Black magazine advertisements impact African-American women’s hair decisions and perceptions of beautiful hair. The overall topic is meaningful in that it has added to the growing genre of research in the area of body politics, which as previously noted, alleges the body, especially the Black body, is a site and surface of struggle (Spellers & Moffitt, 2010). In other words, much like an artifact, the human body is a persuasive and rhetorical construction emulating images that span from the most beautiful to the perhaps the most grotesque. This research endeavor focused on one narrow, yet important element of body politics—hair politics. Findings revealed that the pictorial representations African-American women view from Black hair magazine advertisements do impact what they consider to be
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beautiful, as well as influence the day-to-day styling and hair care decisions these women make about their hair. These research findings further legitimize the overall tenets advanced by body politics, which allege that representations of the body are inherently political and rhetorical statements communicating meaning and importance about one’s physical appearance (Spellers & Moffitt, 2010; White, 2005). Data from this study reveal that the magazine industry is now conveying a wealth of images that are broadening Black women’s definitions of beauty to encompass a variety of representations of Black hair, including hair enhancements. The magazine industry’s portrayals of beautiful Black hair have also changed the way that the terms good and bad are used by Black women in defining beautiful hair. The results further indicate that magazine advertisements have shifted to rhetorically construct beautiful Black hair in a variety of ways. No longer is there a single definition of what constitutes beauty in terms of Black hair; instead, beautiful Black hair is multidimensional and comprised of many textures and lengths. Data from this study also imply that African-American women socially compare their definitions of beautiful Black hair with the images they consume from magazine advertisements, lending further support to the idea that the media serve as sources of knowledge (Azibo, 2010; Chomsky, 1991; Gilchrist, 2011; Shaker, 2009; Spellers & Moffitt, 2010; Thompson, 2009; Thompson & Heinberg, 1999). Future research is now challenged to explore how other mass mediated channels, such as television and the Internet affect perceptions of Black hair. By further investigating how various mediums impact standards of beauty, scholarly research will continue to capture a more complete understanding of media effects and the constitutive meanings attached to Black hair politics.
References Auerbach, C. F., & Silverstein, L. B. (2003). Qualitative data: An introduction to coding and analysis. New York: New York University Press. Azibo, D. (2010). Criteria that indicate when African-centered consciousness is endangered or depleted by the mass media. Journal of Pan African Studies, 3(8), 135-150. Banks, I. (2000). Hair matters: Beauty, power, and Black women’s consciousness. New York: New York University Press. Byrd, A. D., & Tharps, L. L. (2001). Hair story: Untangling the roots of Black hair in America. New York: St. Martin’s Press. CBS News Fires Don Imus over racial slur. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/ stories/ 2007/04/12/national/main2675273.shtml Chin Evans, P., & McConnell, A. R. (2003). Do racial minorities respond in the same way to mainstream beauty standards? Social comparison processes in Asian, Black, and White women. Self & Identity, 2(2), 153-167. Chomsky, N. (1991). Media control: The spectacular achievements of propaganda. Westfield, NJ: Open Media. Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York: Routledge. Desmond-Harris, J. (2009). Why Michelle’s hair matters. Time, 174(9), 55-57. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7,117-140. Frey, L. R., Botan C. H., & Kreps, G. L. (2000). Investigation communication: An introduction to research methods (2nd ed). Needham Heights. MA: Pearson Education Company. Frisby, C. M. (2004). Does race matter? Journal of Black Studies, 34(3), 323-347. Gamson, W. A., & Modigliani, A. (1989). Media discourse and public opinion on nuclear power: A constructionist approach. American Journal of Sociology, 95, 1-37. Gilchrist, E. S. (2011). Experiences of single African-American women professors: With this Ph.D., I thee wed. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. Gilchrist, E., & Jackson, R. (in press). Articulating the heuristic value of African American communication studies. Review of Communication, 12(3). Hallowell, E. M. (2007). CrazyBusy: Overstretched, overbooked, and about to snap! Strategies for handling your fast-paced life. New York: Ballantine Books. Hunter, J., O’Donnell, K. (Producers), & Stilson, J. (Director). (2009). Good hair [Motion picture]. United States: Chris Rock Productions and HBO Films.
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Jackson, R. L. (2006). Scripting the Black masculine body: Identity, discourse, and racial politics in popular media. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Kennedy, P. F., & Martin, M. C. (1994). Social comparison and the beauty of advertising models: The role of motives for comparison. Advances in Consumer Research, 21, 365-371. Kerr, A. E. (2005). The paper bag principle: Of the myth and the motion of colorism. Journal of American Folklore, 118(469), 271-289. Lester, N. A. (2000). Nappy edges and goldy locks: African-American daughters and the politics of hair. The Lion and The Unicorn, 24, 201-224. Littlefield, M. B. (2008). The media as a system of racialization: Exploring images of African American women and the new racism. American Behavioral Scientist, 51(5), 675-685. Mbure, W. (2009). Beauty through the eyes of cosmetics: The construction of beautiful faces through cosmetic advertising in Black magazines (Paper presented at the International Communication Association), 1-23. McQuail, D. (1994). Mass communication theory: An introduction (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Shaker, L. (2009). Citizens’ local political knowledge and the role of media access. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 86(4), 809-826. Spellers, R., & Moffitt, K. (2010). Blackberries and redbones: Critical articulations of black hair/body politics in Africana communities. New York: Hampton Press. Taylor, C. R., & Lee, J. (1995). Portrayals of African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans in magazine advertising. American Behavioral Scientist, 38(4), 608. The Associated Press Stylebook. (2011). New York: The Associated Press. Thompson, C. (2009). Black women, beauty, and hair as a matter of being. Women’s Studies, 38, 831-856. doi10.1080/00497870903238463 Thompson, J. K., & Heinberg, L. J. (1999). The media’s influence on body image disturbance and eating disorders: We’ve reviled them, now can we rehabilitate them? Journal of Social Issues, 55(2), 339-353. White, S. B. (2005). Releasing the pursuit of bouncin’ and behavin’ hair: Natural hair as an Afrocentric feminist aesthetic for beauty. International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 1, 295-208. doi: 10.1386/macp.1.3.295/1 Appendix: Perceptions of Black Hair Instructions: This study explores perceptions of Black hair. Please answer the following questions in as much detail as needed. Do not write your name on this form. 1. What is your age? _____________ 2. Describe your current hair type. In other words, is your hair natural, chemically relaxed, straightened, etc.? 3. Do you read or view Black hair magazine advertisements? Yes
4. If you answered yes for the previous question, what are some names of magazines you read regarding Black hair care and styling? (Note: The magazines can include any in which you may encounter an advertisement for Black hair products or styles). 5. In your opinion, what do Black hair magazine advertisements portray as beautiful in terms of Black hair? 6. In your opinion, do Black hair magazine advertisements have a single definition or multiple definitions of what constitutes "beautiful" in terms of Black hair? Please explain your answer. 7. Do you feel that, over the years, Black hair magazine advertisements have changed their portrayals of what is meant as beautiful in terms of Black hair? Please explain your answer. 8. Have magazine advertisements changed Black women’s perceptions of hair enhancements (e.g., weaves, hair pieces, wigs, and/or hair extensions) in recent years? Please explain your answer. 9. How have magazine advertisements impacted your hair decisions (e.g., hair-care products, hair styles, hair enhancements, etc.)? 10. What do the terms “good hair” and “bad hair” mean to you?
Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No.1, 294-303
Triggering Body Dissatisfaction: The Role of Familiarity on Subsequent Evaluations of the Self Temple Northup University of Houston, USA Past research examining the content of media programming has demonstrated that women in the media tend to have to conform to certain beauty and body standards in order to succeed. Because this thin ideal is so well-documented, there has been an interest in examining the effects of those portrayals on media consumers. Results from experimental studies suggest that the media can play an important role in causing body dissatisfaction among women. This research looks to build upon prior studies by exploring the role of familiarity with the mediated image in causing body dissatisfaction. Results suggest that in line with prior research, unfamiliar images of skinny women and moderately overweight women influenced women so that they felt worse about themselves. A similar result was obtained with familiar images of skinny celebrities. Familiar images of overweight celebrities, though, did not cause body dissatisfaction. Implications from these results are discussed. Keywords: body dissatisfaction, priming, self discrepancy theory
One of the favorite topics for the U.S. media to discuss over the past few years is the increasing girth of Americans (e.g., Hitti, 2006; Peng, 2008). It is perhaps not surprising that with this overall increase in weight, there has been an increase in people, particularly women, who have eating disorders and other body image concerns. This is not to say that only those who are overweight have eating disorders, though, as 50% of girls who diet are normal weight. Furthermore, an astounding 62% of all girls are dissatisfied with their body (Bentley, 1999). In fact, girls as young as seven years old have often begun dieting (Lowes & Tiggemann, 2003) and girls as young as six have a desire to be thin (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, & Thompson, 2004). While the trend for most Americans over the past few decades has been an increase in weight, the same cannot be said for those we see in the media. Recent discussions of popular culture and media content (e.g., Durham, 2008; Northup & Liebler, 2010; Opplinger, 2008) suggest that the beauty ideals present in the media provide narrow definitions of what is attractive, often emphasizing sexualized imagery, and that the “thin ideal” continues to dominate (e.g., Engeln-Maddox, 2006; Fouts, 1999; Fout & Burggraf, 2000; Wiseman, Gray, Mosimann, & Ahrens, 1992). The revelations about the continued reliance on and reinforcement of the thin ideal are especially important because of the research that suggests that body-related images are automatically processed (Watts, Cranney, & Gleitzman, 2008) and tend to lead to negative psychological and behavioral outcomes (e.g., Anschutz, Engels, Becker, & Van Strien, 2009; Bell, Lawton, & Dittmar, 2007). Indeed, in a recent Temple Northup, assistant professor, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, University of Houston.
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meta-analysis, Grabe, Hyde, and Ward (2008) concluded that media exposure to thin beauty ideals is related to body image disturbance. Similarly, Carlson Jones, Vigfusdottir, and Lee (2004) showed there to be a direct relationship between exposure to media and body dissatisfaction. This all strongly suggests that individuals are susceptible to media’s influence and that the beauty images portrayed can have a negative effect on one’s self perception. Therefore, the question is not if body dissatisfaction can occur from exposure to the media’s ideal, but when and to what extent? In order to help answer those important questions, it is helpful to consider Self-Discrepancy Theory (SDT). When introduced in 1986 by Higgins, Bond, Klein, and Strauman, SDT argued that the self had two representations: Domains of the Self and Standpoints on the Self. They defined “domains of the self” as having three distinct groups: (1) The actual self, which is a person’s representation of how they actually are (e.g., I am overweight); (2) The ideal self, which is the representation of how a person would prefer to be (e.g., I want to be skinny); (3) The ought self, which are the attributes one believes one should possess (e.g., My boyfriend wants me to be skinny). Discrepancies between the actual and ideal self as well as the actual and ought self can lead to emotional disturbances. The distinctions between selves become clearer when considering the two different “standpoints on the self,” which are that individuals can either judge themselves from a self standpoint (using one’s own beliefs) or the standpoint of someone else. Therefore, a self standpoint refers to any actual/ideal discrepancy, since both are based on one’s own beliefs, while another standpoint refers to any actual/ought discrepancy. Furthermore, Higgins and colleagues (1986) conceptualized ideal discrepancies as representing the absence of a desired positive outcome, which leads to depression, whereas ought discrepancies represent the presence or threat of a negative outcome, which leads to anxiety. Since its inception, SDT has been well-supported in psychological research and has been found to be applicable to body dissatisfaction research as well (Strauman, Vookles, Berenstein, Chaiken, & Higgins, 1991). The SDT framework can also be used to contextualize effects from the media. Because the media contain messages about how to look, it can be assumed that those images give us our ideal body images against which we compare our actual selves. Comparing oneself to the idealized and thin media image would most likely lead to an actual-ideal discrepancy. It is also possible that the media can activate actual-ought discrepancies, as those types of discrepancies relates to the threat of a negative outcome, in other words, the threat of not being like the media’s ideal. In fact, Harrison (2001) experimentally tested the effects of actual-ideal and actual-ought messages in the media by operationalizing the actual-ideal discrepancy by showing images of thinness being rewarded (thereby activating the discrepancy between oneself and that ideal) and the actual-ought discrepancy by the showing of an overweight person being made fun of (thereby activating the threat of not having friends if overweight). Her results suggest that those high in actual-ideal discrepancy did indeed show higher levels of dejection after viewing the “thin-reward” condition, whereas those high in actual-ought felt more agitated after viewing the “fat-punished” condition. While not specifically using the SDT as a framework, Smeesters, Mussweiler, and Mandel’s (2009) results are particularly relevant for this present research. Among their conclusions, they found that moderately overweight or very skinny models used in advertisements would lead to a lowering of self-esteem for the women who viewed those advertisements. While incredibly intriguing, their research did not examine one feature of the advertisement that could play an important role in understanding the effects: the level of
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familiarity the participants had with the models shown. Presumably, the participants were unfamiliar with any of the women shown in the images. Is it possible that recognizing the women in the images would lead to greater negative effects? This question is largely based in the assimilation and contrast literature from social psychology (Stapel & Koomen, 2001). In particular, research has suggested that the more distinct (or familiar) a prime is, the more likely it is to be used as a standard of comparison (Stapel, Koomen, & van der Pligt, 1997). For example, in a classic assimilation/contrast research paradigm, participants who were making intelligence judgments were more likely to use “Einstein” as a standard of comparison than they were to use “professor”, even though both were seen as being related to intelligence. In this way, the more distinct, prime was able to wield more priming influence. Applying this to the current research, familiar primes can be conceptualized as images that are distinct and known to the participants, whereas less familiar images would include those that are not distinct or familiar. Specifically, familiar images would be those of known celebrities whereas unfamiliar images would include models that the participants have never seen before. In this way, celebrities would represent a beauty ideal in much the same way as Einstein specifically relates to intelligence, whereas a model would be a less distinct or familiar representation of beauty in the same way professor relates to intelligence. Both celebrity and model images relate to certain standards of beauty, but in distinctly different ways. In the Smeesters, Mussweiler, and Mandel (2009) research, then, the images used would best be described as unfamiliar or indistinct in that the participants would not have seen the models before. It is unknown what the effect would have been had the images used been familiar—a major extension of their research that is being considered here. Based on this literature, then, the following hypotheses are proposed: H1a: Exposure to a thin female image will negatively affect body satisfaction among those participants who have had self-discrepancies activated. H1b: Exposure to a familiar thin image will intensify the prime’s effect, thereby yielding stronger priming effects as compared to an unfamiliar thin image. H2a: Exposure to a moderately overweight female image will negatively affect body satisfaction among those participants who have had self-discrepancies activated. H2b: Exposure to a familiar moderately overweight female image will intensify the prime’s effect, thereby yielding stronger priming effects as compared to an unfamiliar thin image. For each of these hypotheses, self-discrepancy activation will be indicated by an increase in overall negative affect. While research suggests that actual-ideal and actual-ought discrepancies trigger different psychological reactions, those actions are nevertheless associated with an overall increase in negative affect and therefore that one measure will be used. Priming effects relate to the extent to which the affective concept the prime triggers will significantly contribute to (predict) the subsequent evaluation (see Roskos-Ewoldsen, Klinger, & Roskos-Ewoldsen, 2007).
Method Overview In a two (thin image, moderately overweight image) × two (familiar image, unfamiliar image) between-subjects design, participants reported to a computer lab and completed basic demographic information. They were then shown via computer a manipulated screenshot from the Women’s Health
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website. After exposure to the website, participants completed relevant measures before being debriefed and dismissed. Participants Three hundred eighty-eight participants were recruited from the participant pool of a large, public university located in the Southeast. Because past research has demonstrated that there are often differences among genders and races (e.g., Molloy & Herzberger, 1998), and because there was a relatively small non-White sample and male sample, only female Caucasians were used. This led to a final sample of 213 Caucasian females. Procedure Participants arrived in a computer lab and were seated at one of 20 computers in the room. After signing consent forms, participants were told that they were participating in a research study that was designed to see what features of websites they liked most. Accordingly, they were told they would see a number of screenshots from actual websites that they would later evaluate. After any participant questions were answered, they began the procedure on the computer. The first set of questions encountered was demographic questions. Once those were completed, the participants were informed that they were now going to see various screenshots. In between each screenshot, they were told that they would have to answer questions related to themselves, so that the researchers could better understand some of their preferences. The participants then proceeded to evaluate the first screenshot, which was unrelated to this present study. After completing that first evaluation, they were randomly assigned by the computer to see one of the four manipulated Women’s Health screenshots. They were instructed to read the page just as they would read any other website they might visit during the day. After viewing the manipulated website, the participants continued to a page that included the relevant measures. After completing those measures, the participants rated the Women’s Health screenshot on a number of different features. They then continued to view other websites that were unrelated to this study. Once they had completed all of the measures, the participants were debriefed, thanked, and dismissed. Stimuli The stimuli used were manipulated “screenshots” from the online website for Women’s Health magazine (see Figure 1 for a sample screenshot). The manipulated content included the image and the accompanying headline and story with the image. For familiar images, the pictures were either of familiar thin celebrities (e.g., Amanda Bynes) or moderately overweight celebrities (e.g., America Ferrera); For the unfamiliar images, thin or moderately overweight models were used. Importantly, all images used were women who were approximately the same age as the participants so that they were more likely to be considered similar for social comparisons. Furthermore, all images were pre-tested using 107 participants from the same participant pool to ensure three things: (1) all women were seen as equally “attractive,” (2) all celebrity images were familiar to the target audience, and (3) that all the model images were unfamiliar to the audience. For the final stimulus material, for the celebrity conditions, text was added below the image naming the celebrity to help make certain that the participants recognized who was pictured. Accompanying the image was a headline and text that matched the condition. The text would suggest that being thin is either healthy or unhealthy, or that being overweight is either healthy or unhealthy. The text matched the images to create a redundant message condition. In other words, Amanda Bynes was always
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accompanied by the text that was about thin being healthy while America Ferrera was always accompanied by text that was about overweight being healthy.
Figure 1. Example screenshot from the “Thin is good” condition.
All other aspects of the webpage were held constant across conditions. Most of the features on the website were taking from the actual Women’s Health website in order for it to look authentic. One major difference between the actual and manipulated websites was that all other images were removed from the manipulated website to ensure that only the manipulated image could be used for comparison. All other images on the page were replaced with cartoon icons. Relevant Measures In line with previous priming research, the single item “To what extent are you dissatisfied with your body right now?” served as the primary dependent variable. Response choices were on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 = Very Slightly or Not At All to 5 = Extremely. This and all other measures were coded so that higher scores relate to more negative feelings, re-coding when necessary. This particular item represents the subsequent evaluation used to test for priming effects. Among the criteria available to predict overall evaluations of the self were participants’ assessments on a 5-point scale (1 = Very Slightly or Not At All to 5 = Extremely), the degree to which they currently felt: content (M = 3.17, SD = 0.96), happy (M = 2.87, SD = 1.10), angry (M = 4.8, SD = 0.66), and afraid (M = 4.9, SD = 0.40). With respect to the prime, which was intended to activate positive or negative affect, participants rated how they felt about themselves using items from the PANAS-X scale (Watson & Clark, 1994). Five items related to anxiety were used for the first composite: tense, worried, nervous, upset, and distressed. Five items related to depression were used for the second composite: sad, blue, downhearted, lonely, and alone. Anxiety items (α = 0.82) were averaged into a composite score of general negative affect related to anxiety (M = 4.42, SD = 0.67). Depression items (α = 0.89) were also averaged into a composite score of general negative affect related to depression (M = 4.63, SD = 0.67). Because these two measures were highly correlated (r = 0.68, p < 0.001), they were averaged together to represent a participant’s overall negative affect (M = 4.52, SD = 0.60).
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This composite was the key variable used to assess the prime’s effect on overall evaluations of the self. Specifically, the intent was to test the extent to which participants’ affective responses contributed to the prediction of their overall evaluation of themselves, depending on the nature of the prime.
Results In line with previous priming investigations, a hierarchical regression analysis was used to test how well the prime influenced subsequent overall evaluations based on affective conveyance of the image and text and/or familiarity of the image (see Table 1). Specifically, the analysis tested how well overall negative affect (the primed affect) predicted satisfaction with the self, in addition to whether the influence of affect was moderated by the type of prime (thin positive or overweight positive, unfamiliar or familiar image). All continuous variables were centered for analysis (Aiken & West, 1991). Entered in the first step of this hierarchical regression model were the above control variables and main effects of overall negative affect, image valence (negative = 0, positive = 1) and image familiarity (unfamiliar = 0, familiar = 1). Entered in Step 2 were all two-way interactions. Entered in Step 3 was the three-way interaction. Overall negative affect (B = 0.93, SE B = 0.12, p < 0.001) best predicted participant evaluations of the self in Step 1, when the type of prime was not taken into account, R2 = .40, F (7,199) = 18.85, p < 0.001. The addition of the two-way interactions did little to improve upon the initial model, ΔR2 = 0.00, ΔF (3,196) < 1. However, the addition of the three-way interaction (B = -1.009, SE B = 0.37, p < 0.01) yielded a significant improvement, suggesting that the priming effects are explained by both the type of message and familiarity of the image, Step 3 ΔR2 = 0.022, ΔF (1,195) = 7.29, p < 0.01. Table 1 Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Overall Satisfaction with Self (N = 213) B
Step 1 SE B
Step 2 SE B
Step 3 SE B
0.02 0.07 -0.07 0.05
0.07 0.06 0.10 0.16
0.06 0.08 -0.05 0.02
-0.01 0.07 -0.07 0.06
0.07 0.07 0.10 0.17
-0.01 0.08 -0.05 0.03
0.00 0.08 -0.08 0.09
0.07 0.06 0.10 0.16
0.00 0.09 -0.05 0.04
Image × Familiarity
Image × Affect
Affect × Familiarity
Variables Block 1 Content Happy Angry Afraid
Familiarity Condition Block 2
Block 3 Image × Familiarity x Affect
Note. Image coded as 0 = negative, 1 = positive. Familiarity coded as 0 = unfamiliar image, 1 = familiar image. Other variables rated on a 7-point scale from 1 (= extreme negative evaluation or feeling) to 7 (= extreme positive evaluation or feeling). Step 1: R2 = 0.40, F (7, 199) = 18.85, p < .001. Step 2: ΔR2 = .00, ΔF (3, 196) = .037, ns. Step 3: ΔR2 = .022, ΔF (1, 195) = 7.29, p < .01. *p < 0.01.
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Simple slope analyses were performed to examine the significant message X familiarity X negative affect interaction. Specifically, the contribution of negative affect was evaluated for each combination of message and familiarity. The slopes created by the analysis were anchored by the observed centered minimum and maximum for overall negative affect. As can be seen in Figure 2, the contribution of negative affect in predicting overall view’s of the self was largest in the thin-good, familiar image condition B = 1.12, SE B = 0.14 followed by the large-good, unfamiliar image condition B = 1.04, SE B = 0.15. The thin-good, unfamiliar image condition had the next largest slope B = 0.79, SE B = 0.15, with the large-good, familiar image having the smallest slope B = 0.36, SE B = 0.37.
Figure 2. Results of simple slope analysis exploring the significant image X familiarity X overall negative affect interaction predicting feelings about the self. Image was coded 0 = negative, 1 = positive; familiarity was 0 = unfamiliar image, 1 = positive image. Affect entails participants’ overall negative affect at the time of the experiment. Lines anchored at minimum and maximum affect scores. All continuous variables are centered in the analysis (M = 0, possible range -3.5 to 3.5).
According to subsequent one-tailed t-tests (see Aiken & West, 1991, p. 17), only the large-good, familiar image slope did not significantly differ from zero t (42) < 1. The thin-good, familiar image (t (40) = 7.96, p < .01), large-good, unfamiliar image (t (52) = 7.10, p < .01), and thin-good, unfamiliar image (t (54) = 5.15, p < .01) slopes all significantly differed from zero. Additional one-tailed t-tests showed that all of the slopes significantly differed from each other, ts = 2.88 to 13.68, dfs = 82 to 106, p < 0.01.
Discussion Prior research (Smeesters, Mussweiler, & Mandel, 2009) has shown that exposure to moderately heavy or very thin models can lead to body dissatisfaction among women. This present research looked to replicate and extend those findings by considering how the level of familiarity each participant had with the image
TRIGGERING BODY DISSATISFACTION
influenced subsequent evaluations of self. Results from this research both replicated the prior findings as well as presented interesting and new information on when images can affect one’s satisfaction with the self. First, it is worth observing that when exposed to either moderately overweight or very skinny model images (i.e., images that would present women the participants were unfamiliar with), participants tended to have lower satisfaction with their bodies. This essentially replicates the research of Smeesters, Mussweiler, and Mandel (2009) and would appear to provide evidence that those types of social comparisons do lead to anxiety about the way one looks. Second, when participants were exposed to a very skinny celebrity picture (i.e., A familiar image of a female celebrity who is known to the participants), participants tended to feel worse about themselves. This, like the previous results, replicated prior work and demonstrated that for familiar or unfamiliar images of skinny women, exposure can make women feel worse about their bodies. This is, perhaps, not entirely surprising. In many ways, it would be expected that when a female makes a comparison with a skinny celebrity, it is naturally going to be in a direction that makes her feel worse. After all, by definition, a celebrity has had incredible success and quite often that success is due, in part, to her size and looks. Being forced to make that comparison clearly activated body image concerns and led to the obtained results. Interestingly, where this research adds the most to our understanding of body image effects, is that when participants were exposed to a moderately overweight celebrity (that is, a familiar image of someone moderately overweight), there were no negative effects on body satisfaction. While this is in many ways counter to what Smeesters, Mussweiler, and Mandel (2009) found in their research, it is clear from this experiment that there is something important in making a comparison with an individual that you “know”. Approaching this from the perspective of comparisons, if a female participant saw a moderately heavy yet successful celebrity, it is possible that this would lead to a feeling of body satisfaction in that she is seeing an example of someone who does not fit the thin-ideal usually present in the media yet was able to find success. This could reduce anxiety about one’s own body. The power of the familiar image can also be seen when examining the different slopes obtained in the subsequent analyses. The greatest slope was for the familiar-thin image condition. This slope was significantly larger than any other slope, indicating that the prime had the greatest effect in this condition. This is interesting because prior research has usually looked at the effects of generic, unfamiliar images of women. In this instance, the results suggest that celebrities may have more power to influence how a woman feels about her body than just an unknown model. Apparently, having a familiar image provides a more solid anchor against which one can compare one’s own body. That the familiar images are so powerful has important implications for our understanding of body image. As has been well-documented in previous reviews, the thin ideal is almost impossible to escape in the media landscape of today. In fact, it was difficult to find many images of celebrities who were not extremely skinny for this study. That celebrities are almost exclusively very skinny, and that this research suggests that celebrities wield considerable power in creating feelings of body dissatisfaction, would seem to lead to the conclusion that the current trend in Hollywood to cast almost exclusively underweight actresses may be seriously contributing to the feelings of anxiety that many women feel today. It is also interesting to note that all images used were extensively pre-tested to ensure that they were all considered similarly “attractive”. This implies that the negative effects of being exposed to these images operate very much at an unconscious level. In other words, while participants all rated the women as being the
TRIGGERING BODY DISSATISFACTION
same in attractiveness, the psychological effects of being exposed to the different women were not the same—their explicit ratings of the women differed from their implicit feelings about their own body satisfaction.
Limitations and Future Directions There are a few important limitations that should be addressed. First and foremost, this sample is not generalizable to the general population. It was entirely composed of undergraduate students in a specific region of the United States. While this population merits considerable attention because of the perceived pressures they face to look a certain way, it nevertheless limits the applicability of the results to a broader audience. Furthermore, the sample was entirely Caucasian and male. Exploring differences related to race and gender is an important endeavor and future research should continue to look into this. The media have incredible power to shape perceptions of the world, but more than the world, the media have the ability to shape perceptions about ourselves. This present research builds on prior studies that continue to document the power the media have at influencing how women feel about their bodies. However, this research only included one website manipulation. Future studies would do well to vary the manipulations and messages to determine when body image messages might be most or least powerful. For instance, it is well known that younger females feel pressure to look good in order to attract men. It seems possible, then, that messages about being thin in order to find a man might wield even more powerful priming effects. Because the media continue to provide almost exclusively very skinny women as the “norm,” average women are constantly being reminded of their own bodies and how they are not as “attractive” as those celebrities. This can trigger a general increase in negative affect than can in turn lead to decreased satisfaction with the self. Perhaps it is time for the media to realize the power they have in creating these negative feelings and anxiety and begin to provide more beauty options than what are currently available. After all, this research clearly suggests that exposure to female celebrities who are just moderately overweight will not lead to the same body anxieties as compared to exposure to skinny women. If those who work in the media would cast projects to include a more diverse sampling of body sizes, it is entirely possible that there could be a decrease in body dissatisfaction among women.
References Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. London: Sage Publications. Anschutz, D. J., Engels, R. C. M. E., Becker, E. S., & Van Strien, T. (2009). The effects of TV commercials using less thin models on young women’s mood, body image, and actual food intake. Body Image, 6, 270-276. Bell, B.T., Lawton, R., & Dittmar, H. (2007). The impact of thin models in music videos on adolescent girls’ body dissatisfaction. Body Image, 4, 137-145. Bentley, M. K. (1999). The body of evidence: Dangerous intersections between development and culture in the lives of adolescent girls. In S. Mazzarella & N. Pecora (Eds.), Growing up girls: Popular culture and the construction of identity (pp. 209-223). New York: Peter Lang. Carlson-Jones, d., Vigfusdottir, H. T., & Lee, Y. (2004). Body image and the appearance culture among adolescent girls and boys: An examination of friend conversations, peer criticism, appearance magazines, and the internalization of appearance ideals. Journal of Adolescent Research, 19, 323-339. Durham, M. G. (2008). The Lolita Effect: The media sexualization of young girls and what we can do about it. Woodstock: The Overlook Press. Engeln-Maddox, R. (2006). Buying a beauty standard or dreaming of a new life? Expectations associated with media ideals. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 258-266.
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Fouts, G. (1999). Television situation comedies: Female body images and verbal reinforcements. Sex Roles, 40, 473-482. Fouts, G., & Burggraf, K. (2000). Television situation comedies: Female body image and verbal reinforcements. Sex Roles, 40, 473-481. Grabe, S., Ward, L. M., & Hyde, J. S. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlation studies. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 460-476. Harrison, K. (2001). Ourselves, our bodies: Thin-ideal media, self-discrepancies, and eating disorder symptomatology in adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 20, 289-323. Herbozo, S., Tantleff-Dunn, S., Gokee-Larose, J., & Thompson, J. K. (2004). Beauty and thinness messages in children’s media: A content analysis. Eating Disorders, 12, 21-34. Higgins, E. T., Bond, R. N., Klein, R., & Strauman, T. (1986). Self-discrepancies and emotional vulnerability: How magnitude, accessibility, and type of discrepancy influence affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1-15. Hitti, M. (2006, September 5). Overweight tots grow into chubby tweens. Foxnews.com, retrieved April 28, 2009 from, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,212245,00.html Lowes, J., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Body dissatisfaction, dieting awareness and the impact of parental influence in young children. British Journal of Health Psychology, 8, 135-147. Molloy, B. L., & Herzberger, S. D. (1998). Body image and self-esteem: A comparison of African-American and Caucasian women. Sex Roles, 38, 631-643. Northup, T., & Liebler, C. M. (2010). The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Beauty Ideals on the Disney and Nickelodeon Channels. Journal of Children and Media, 4, 265-282. Opplinger, P. A. (2008). Girls gone skank: The sexualization of girls in American culture. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company. Peng, T. (2008, August 15). Five financial costs of American obesity. Newsweek.com, retrieved April 28, 2009 from, http://www.newsweek.com/id/153309/output/print Roskos-Ewoldsen, D. R., Klinger, M., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, B. (2007). Media priming. In R.W. Preiss, B. M. Gayle, N. Burrell, M. Allen, & J. Bryant (Eds.), Mass media theories and processes: Advances through meta-analysis (pp. 53-80). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Smeesters, D., Mussweiler, T., & Mandel, N. (2009). The effects of thin and heavy media images on overweight and underweight consumers: Social comparison processes and behavioral implications. Journal of Consumer Research, 36, 930-949. Stapel, D. A., & Koomen, W. (2001). Let’s not forget the past when we go to the future: On our knowledge of knowledge accessibility. In G.B. Moskowitz (Ed.), Cognitive Social Psychology: The Princeton Symposium on the Legacy and Future of Social Cognition (pp. 229-246). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Stapel, D. A., Koomen, W., & van der Pligt, J. (1997). Categories of category accessibility: The impact of trait concept versus exemplar priming on person judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 33, 47-76. Strauman, T. J., Vookles, J., Berenstein, V., Chaiken, S., & Higgins, E. T. (1991). Self-discrepancies and vulnerability to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 946-956. Watson, D., & Clark, L.A. (1994). Manual for the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (Expanded form). Unpublished manuscript, University of Iowa, Iowa City. Watts, K., Cranney, J., & Gleitzman, M. (2008). Automatic evaluation of body-related images. Body Image, 5, 352-364. Wiseman, C. V., Gray, J. J., Mosimann, J. E., & Ahrens, A. H. (1992). Cultural expectations of thinness in women: An update. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 11, 85-89.
Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No.1, 304-316
Media Stakeholders’ Perspectives and Policy Integrity Oladokun Omojola Covenant University, Ota, Nigeria
Objectivity in media practice is the journalist’s ability to give every segment of the audience an equal right to be heard and seen, to read or to react. Disappointingly, that objectivity does not extend to the policies that regulate that practice. This concern is demonstrated in the incoherence and lack of judgment that exist in media policy domains where journalism is confined to a deal between only the journalist and his or her audience. This linear process conspicuously excludes those crucial stakeholders whose interests tremendously affect the destiny of journalists and their audience. The development has adversely affected policy rationality in some developing countries as media policies lack interactive planning, robust policy discourses and stakeholder dialogue, thereby undermining policy integrity. This paper attempts to argue that for a media policy to be truly in public interest, formulators have to expand their horizon beyond government, journalists and their audience to other stakeholders. Newsmakers, who fall into a category of such stakeholders, can make the journalist’s pen run dry if they go on strike! Others include media users, media owners and media scholars. The paper recommends the process of harnessing the perspectives of these stakeholders in a manner that can make analysts consider drafting a fresh all-encompassing media policy for developing countries, especially those of Africa. Keywords: audience, media policy, media stakeholders, policy integrity
Introduction On Tuesday, September 29, 2009, Reuters reported on its website that the Chinese state-owned oil and gas company, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), was in talks with the government of Nigeria to buy large stakes in some of the world’s richest oil blocks located in the Niger Delta region of the West African country. The potential deal was about six billion barrels of oil that could fetch Nigeria some $30 billion. The Financial Times (FT) had published the story the previous day and the Reuters reporter had requested the president of CNOOC Limited, YANG Hua, to confirm if he was aware of the FT’s report. Hua’s response was swift: “You know my standard answer: no comment”. Hua’s response, whether no or yes, was highly anticipated by stakeholders in oil and gas business around the world, especially those in the upstream sector. Anticipation rose because, if the deal sailed through, it would lend credence to the growing profile of China as an active force in Africa. Besides that, it is a deal that could signal the declining influence of Western oil giants like Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Agip and the like, who had been the traditional African partners. Moreover, many Nigerians also eagerly expected CNOOC’s official response as the huge cash involved would go a long way in making their country achieve her official dream of becoming one of the 20 world’s biggest economies in the year 2020—a big leap from its status, which hovers around 40th currently.
Oladokun Omojola, Ph.D., Department of Mass Communication, Covenant University.
MEDIA STAKEHOLDERS’ PERSPECTIVES AND POLICY INTEGRITY
Hua’s no-comment response succeeded in heightening the anticipation of Reuter’s audience, especially those who would need to factor in whatever his response might be into their plans and budget for the year ahead. Hua’s response brought to the fore the crucial importance of the newsmaker to the entire media system and journalism practice. It is an example of the great power that the newsmaker wields. The magnitude of this power is aptly demonstrated in a worst-case scenario where he goes on an industrial action. The Reuters reporter is the Journalist while Hua is the Newsmaker, in the following rehashed conversation: Journalist: Hello Sir, I work with Reuters News Agency. Newsmaker: It’s a pleasure meeting you. Journalist: I have a question for you: The Financial Times published a story that your company is cooking a deal with Nigeria that would see it lift some six billion barrels of oil and generate some $30 billion in revenues. Are you aware of this story? Newsmaker: Well, Journalist, I cannot answer your question. Journalist: Why? Newsmaker: I am on strike right now. I cannot talk to you. You know, as a newsmaker, my job is to supply the raw material, which you will process and sell as news to your audience. I cannot supply you that right now. When I call off my strike, please call back, I should be able to answer you then!
This scenario looks preposterous but it is a possibility. This possibility is explainable. Assuming a group that calls itself British Newsmakers Association announces its formation and makes known its commitment to enforce the interests of newsmakers. There is no law, convention or custom that can stop or prevent such a group from being formed, which means its existence will not be illegal. What is not illegal has potentials, a future and a hope. Paradoxically, newsmakers, in spite of the crucial role they play as news sources, have not been accorded the honor due to them. One way this is made manifest is the manner in which journalists have unilaterally taken decisions that concern both parties, by taking advantage of the absence of an umbrella organization for newsmakers. Pitifully, this neglect extends to the domain of media policies (especially in Africa) where policy formulators tend to zero in on what the journalist can do for his audience and vice versa and hardly what newsmakers have got to offer.
Media Policy Structure and the Problem in Context It is not only the newsmakers that have not been accorded the dignity due to them in terms of their continual contribution to the sustenance of the journalism profession. Much attention is paid to journalists and their audience to the neglect of other stakeholders who contribute immensely to the news flow process. In this paper, it is argued that one major reason why media policies are not performing up to expectation, especially in many developing countries, is that policy formulators construct their contents around a linear system. This system reduces the media business to a deal between journalist and her audience, where audience means news content consumers whether paying or consuming free. The irony here is that while such policies aggressively pursue objectivity by ensuring that the journalist accords equal opportunities to her audience, it disappointingly neglects those critical stakeholders who ensure that the journalist survives and does not die. This linearity implies that the formation of knowledge and attitudes, which ultimately shape development in a democratic setting, is presented as the sole responsibility of the journalist. This wrong impression has shut out other media stakeholders as critical enhancers of the
MEDIA STAKEHOLDERS’ PERSPECTIVES AND POLICY INTEGRITY
journalism profession. The circumstances in which contemporary journalists find themselves are proof that forces outside their territory determine the survival and sustenance of their job. For instance, to get “raw materials” which they run through the mill and process as news, they rely solely on the newsmakers. If, after packaging the information and the news content consumers refuse to buy, read, watch, listen or browse, their work becomes inconsequential and illegitimate because the availability of an audience legitimizes a journalist and his profession. If media scholars who teach journalists their work refuse to impart knowledge, journalists become stagnant and start smelling. Moreover, journalists also rely and depend heavily on commercials from advertising agencies and public relations officers who daily receive requests from the management of news producers for a share of their ad spend. Whenever the journalist’s interests need to be protected or furthered, he turns to his association or some non-government organizations whose job is to do that. Most journalists are employees of media owners who are not into journalism but for business. Crafters of media policies that only take cognizance of government, the journalist and his audience will have to do a rethink and do the right thing by coming up with an all-embracing system that works on an all-inclusive principle. It is not only in the area of media policies that the linearity is a disease. The search of global ethics for journalists has also become a cause for concern because searchers seem to be working on a theory that all that is to a journalist is her audience. Crafters of media ethics are drumming it into the ears of journalists to always strive hard to satisfy their audience in some simplistic expectation categories (Williams, 2004). These include fundamental expectation, which is the capacity and ability of the audience to understand the language of the mass medium. The training dimension is indicated when the medium is presented to the audience in a way that increases its knowledge and skill. Personal expectations have to do with particular benefits that are available to different parts or constituents of the mass audience. The journalist performs these responsibilities within the ambit of the law, constitution and some regulations of both local and international dimensions. However, it is becoming clear by the day and has been demonstrated through research (Bruce, 1994, pp. 245-251) that laws, regulations and conventions constitute only a partial guaranty for ethical behavior. Brumback (1991, p. 354) corroborates this: A program that does nothing more than keep behavior legal… would not be a bona fide ethics program. It would be more of a law enforcement program. Laws and regulations are not the answer to keeping [journalists’] behavior above the bottom line of ethics. The universality that characterizes the eventual moral system makes important the contributions of individuals ozer institutions that have close connections and deep affinity with the contents of the media. (Omojola, 2008, p. 175)
In this paper, it is predicted that these unappreciated stakeholders—newsmakers, media scholars, media owners, media users and non-governmental organizations will, in a matter of time, step up acts in order to leverage the media business to their advantage. This process has already started and is demonstrated in reactions during interactions with journalists. One of such reactions is the no-comment regime by which newsmakers deny journalists crucial answers to pressing questions and leave them with unimpressive reporting of substance. YANG Hua’s answer is an example of that. Moreover, citizen journalism practice, especially by those who are doing it on the Internet, is a way of telling the professional communicator that there are alternatives to professional performance.
MEDIA STAKEHOLDERS’ PERSPECTIVES AND POLICY INTEGRITY
Media Stakeholders and Their Consequentiality Newsmakers Regular procurement of raw materials is germane to any manufacturing process and it is a critical factor in the inventory of the factory’s inputs. For instance, a steelmaker needs a combination of iron ore and other metals as raw materials before he can make steel after running them through the mill. Statisticians need data from the field as raw materials in order to carry out an analysis. In the same manner, newsmakers are the sources who supply the “raw materials” that journalists run through their editorial mill before they are packaged as “finished goods” in the form of print, broadcast and web contents to their audience. “Journalists rely on newsworthy sources for information and opinion” (Roth, 2002, p. 355) and at the level of reliance one is in the state of need in order to survive. Suppliers of raw materials do get paid for their supplies. The steelmaker pays the iron ore supplier. Even if he gets it on credit, he is merely postponing payment, but he must pay. Unfortunately, the newsmaker supplies the raw materials the journalists need for their news mill but he never gets paid. Besides that, when issues that border on the journalist crop up, especially with her social responsibilities, the newsmaker is hardly regarded as a stakeholder, let alone a business partner. Many journalists are fond of the cliché—“according to our reliable source”—which suggests that their source has made their story worthy of trust. Reliability, in whatever circumstance, situation, or guise, has a price tied to it that someone has paid. In this case, either the journalist or the source must have paid. If it is the journalist who paid, her compensation in terms of salary and wages, was guaranteed. If it is the news source who secured the reliability, how would he get paid? The newsmaker is a victim of the curse of casual relationship. A journalist, in the course of her duties, does a lot buying and paying. When placing a call to the newsroom, she pays the telephone service provider. When driving to or from the same newsroom, she pays the filling station that fueled her car. Her laptop computer and the Internet service on it are both running on her bill. However, after getting her “raw material” from the news source, she discontinues the payment. “Hey, Mr. Newsmaker, though you supply the raw material for my news mill, you aren’t gonna get a penny from me!” Most ethical codes caution journalists against paying their sources for information and many professional bodies urge people to be wary of sources wanting to let out information for financial favors. The import of this argument is that paying sources for information could compromise the credibility of a news report. Journalists agree that this is a proper decision but it is crucial to stress that it is a decision made without the input of newsmakers who are the center of attraction in this matter and who supply the biggest input that journalists need to keep their engine running. The morality issue that arises at this point as to whether newsmakers should be paid for keeping the journalists pen running is indicated on both sides here. The issue has been resolved on the journalists’ side that they should not pay. For the other side, the issue is not for journalists to resolve but for newsmakers to decide. The question is: what if newsmakers are insisting they are paid for releasing information, the same way journalists are insisting they cannot pay, who will suffer the consequences? This paper does not support pecuniary agitation on the part of news sources but it is expedient to stress that it is unethical for journalists to usurp the power of newsmakers by exercising finality on a decision they should not have unilaterally taken. Some reasons may be adduced to support the perspective of journalists with regard to not wanting the
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newsmaker to be paid. Two of them are as fowllows: Firstly, the responsibility of the journalist is guaranteed by the constitution in a democratic environment, and newsmakers asking for money would be an abortion of that responsibility; Secondly, sometimes, news sources are not humans or non-living things who can reason enough to demand pay. These two points are subject to challenge. In most advanced countries, existing laws and to some extent, constitutions help guarantee the right of the journalist to perform her responsibility but the same laws do not forbid newsmakers from making claims for what rightly belongs to them. Secondly, even if news sources are not human, in one way or another, persons will ultimately be behind such sources and often are the ones who give credibility to such news sources. If a lion is making waves in a zoo, the lion is truly a newsmaker but the journalist’s report may not be complete until the zookeeper or a zoologist has something to say about the lion. A reverse press conference is a good forum to have insight into the potentialities of the newsmaker as well as his feelings towards the journalist. It is in policymaking that the newsmaker’s inconsequentiality is carried to a head. If journalists induce this inconsequentiality, then policymakers rub it in. Media policymakers hardly reckon with newsmakers and where they are reckoned with, it is limited to consultation and never extended to engagement. Journalists are agenda setters and central to the formation of knowledge and attitude but that centrality is hinged on the cooperation of the newsmakers. Media Scholars/Educators Media scholars are the ones who teach and train people to become journalists. Their job also involves research and social construction of media contents and in performing these roles, they are constrained to be the custodians of the secrets and principles that drive the business. However, their visibility in the media policy domain is low when compared with government and journalists who treat the media audience as all there is. Their low visibility is attributable to the belief that media scholars and educators are supposed to remain neutral (Stark & Kelly, 2006, pp. 13-14) as the “fathers” of the industry and should allow their “children”—journalists—to stand in for them since they, the journalists, are the eyes through which the world sees them. This reasoning is defective because in the policymaking domain, it is not that media scholars are not engaged as co-policymakers. The problem is that they are not properly engaged. Media policy in some African countries has proof of consultation with media scholars and educators but this had been done at either the informal or personal level. In most of the policies considered below, media scholars are hardly engaged as an institution. This has drastically underestimated the potential of the contributions they could make in order to make a media policy a success story. Most associations of media literacy that exist even in advanced countries have limited themselves to influencing school curricula, organizing conferences and training sessions for members rather than finding ways to making the authorities and policymakers aware of the benefits that their contributions will make to any eventual policy framework. Media Owners The performance of media owners in terms of making themselves relevant in policymaking is not significant. Media owners have been engaged as part of media policy formulators in many advanced and developing countries but their engagement has been limited. For instance, the Newspaper Proprietors Organization (NPO) of Nigeria was part of the formulation of a code of ethics for Nigerian journalists. The
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structural problem here is that newspaper media owners are left to draft policies for broadcast journalists not minding the idiosyncrasies of that category. Moreover, recommendations made often do not include the nature of the relationship between journalists and their employers but are always limited to the way journalists should behave in the course of their duties. This is clearly demonstrated in the Code of Ethics for Nigerian Journalists, which was formulated in 1998 (NPO, 1998). When this matter became an issue during one of our departmental seminars few months ago, one discussant argued that government or policy formulators might be justified in ignoring media owners when it comes to policymaking. The argument is that these owners (especially those who emerged from mergers and have become gargantuan) already wield so much power; that asking them to be part of policymaking gives them a solid opportunity to further foist their opinion and “greedy” lifestyle on the nation. This argument is not new. Miller (2002), while quoting the founding editor of Texas Observer (USA) Ronnie Dugger (2000, p. 49) says: … keep in mind how the structure of corporate journalism works. The owner of the corporation appoints the CEO who appoints the manager who appoints the editors. Those [dependent]… editors hire and fire the reporters and decide what stories the reporters are assigned to write, what stories they are not assigned to write, what the stories that are published say and how they say it, and what stories get killed.
This argument is probably tenable in developed countries. However, mergers are not common in many African countries and non-existent in some. Media owners have not grown beyond being useful. Besides that, government, which has always been the most potent force in policy formulation in African countries is always on hand to checkmate whatever excesses media owners are prone to. The gargantuan posture of a media owner cannot match up with often dictatorial tendencies of government, which has been a recurrent decimal in some developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. Media Users Media organizations depend on several sources of income, chief of which is advertising. In most media houses, the revenue earned has become one of the yardsticks for measuring performance (Kumar, 2003, p. 2179) and for survival. The peanuts that media houses get from subscription is nothing compared to advertising gross. Media and advertising have a symbiotic relationship in which media enhance the effectiveness of advertising (Hirschman & Thompson, 1997, p. 44). The media involved is a major intervening variable in the audience appraisal of advertising influence. It is impossible to do an assessment of the persuasive influence of advertising without the media through which the advertisement is exposed. When a media house is not run as social service but as a business system, then advertisers and media operators have a common domain where they meet. Therefore, advertising researchers who are fond of treating advertising as a separate domain would have to do a rethink. Since advertising is the lifeblood of the media, which translates as wages for the journalist, profit for the media owner and consumers’ access to media contents, it is in place to carry advertising along wherever the media go, especially when the issue at stake is the establishment of an institutional framework. While a media establishment would normally have its distinct advert executives to scout for business, journalists in Nigeria and many other African countries have also been the avenues through which adverts flow into the media. Some advertisements even place insertions in some newspapers simply as a result of good performance of the associated journalists. For instance, Lagos-based The Guardian, which has become one of the most respected
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newspapers in Nigeria and the West African sub region, excels in property advertisements because it has a record of excellent reporting in that subsector. Unfortunately, most media policy formulators do not reckon with advertisers and their agents in policymaking as the policy reviews in this paper show. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) In Nigeria, the Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has been active in advancing the cause of journalists while in Ghana, the Media Foundation for West Africa has been an oasis for many journalists who suffer persecution or harassment. But a critical look at the activities of some of these NGOs would show that they do not justify the name that they bear. For instance, in the case of MRA, it claims to work for the “media” but in fact, it only works in the interest of the journalist as an individual. Journalists are not only the people or professionals who work in the media. The vagueness in some NGOs’ objectives is exacerbated by their posture as government opposition rather than partners in progress. This has made government become scary of involving them in policy planning. Shedding the posture of antagonists will go a long way in giving a place to NGOs in media policy formulation.
Public Interest and Media Policy The assertion in this paper is that for a media policy to be truly in the public interest and functional, policy formulators and analysts must think beyond journalism practice as a deal between the journalist and her audience. They should let their policy-drafting radar cover other stakeholders who contribute effectively to the sustenance of the business. The concept of public interest in this case is multidimensional and highly variegated. For a journalist, public interest assumes the majoritarian perspective, which means her ability to appeal to the values and attitudes that are commonly shared by the multifarious segments of her audience. Therefore, journalists’ ability to satisfy the majority of her audience is a determinant of the survival and sustenance of democracy, since she is dealing with the “sum of individual interests” that is paramount (McQuail, 1992, p. 22). In this case, some minor interests may not be covered but as long as the journalist’s practice is in tune with the general will, she is believed to be working in the public interest. Public interest here, according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is “if the general will wills it” (cited in Benditt, 1973. p. 293). The perspective of the media owner about public interest might not be the same as that of the journalist. The media owner is not in business to practice journalism but to make profit. Media giants who employ hundreds of journalists can claim that if they do not break even and make profit, journalists will lose their jobs, thereby putting pressure on government social security. Here, public interest becomes a wise and superior interest, unlike the majoritarian perspective that promotes the general will. According to Sorauf (1957, p. 621), these advocates “all seek to equate a particular interest with the public interest by attaching a priority to that interest. They perceive in it a special wisdom or advantage that gives the interest a prior claim to the support of public policy”. Owing to the fact that this perspective rests on the hypothesis of superior wisdom and not on the reality of mass acceptance, pubic interest is subject to abuse as the public sector can become nothing more than a “clearing house” (Rauser & Zusman, 1992, p. 247) for these powerful special interests who have the will to make the government less autonomous. For non-governmental organizations that are interested in the media, public interest would be a moral imperative. This relates to some absolute principles, which, according to Held (1970), are derivatives of some
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larger social theory or ideology. It would be about promoting the happiness of practitioners in the media industry in the line of thinking of the English philosopher Bentham (2005), who asserts that mankind is under the control of pain and pleasure and that finding out the greatest happiness for the greatest people is imperative. The problem with this approach is finding what truly constitutes happiness. From the foregoing, it is clear that each stakeholder has a different perspective of the public with concomitant limitations. It therefore becomes obvious that media policy crafters and analysts should take these divergent views into full cognizance before they can claim that their policies are in the public interest. The best way probably would be to see public interests as the equilibrium of perspectives. What emerges is a process of mutual adjustment and compromise between the conflicting or competing interests in the society. Any media public policy should be an indicator of such a compromise and that is in line with the democratic process.
The Linearity Problem and Effects on Public Media Policies Good media policymaking is a function of practical reasoning and the reasoning is practical when government and journalists who dominate the process cultivate the altruistic habit and realize that other interests also exist that should be aggregated. According to Manzer (1984, p. 580), “The model of practical reasoning is… when, within the limits of reasonable foresight and care and appropriate regard for interpersonal differences, all wants of all persons are included in the decision-maker’s calculus”. Public policymaking process is carried out in phases which are conceptually distinct. It starts with determining the public problems that need solving, determining priorities for collective action, developing optional courses for action for resolving those problems, implementing the collective actions and then evaluating their impacts. Regrettably, this collective action is not indicated in media policies emanating from many developing countries. The rationality that characterizes such policies is one-sided because the criteria for evaluating options and making decisions among them are not universal but based on the knowledge of a privileged few. A concrete model of public policy should incorporate not simply the journalist, but also the strategic behavior of the various interest groups (Rausser & Foster, 1990, p. 642). Implementation of policies in these countries has always been an issue in spite of appeal to emotion or reason, material incentives and force, simply because it lacks those values that are common to all stakeholders. There have been debates regarding the influence that interest groups wield in the construction of public policies. Some argue that interest groups are very powerful and can have their way even if it is not consistent with the general will (Wright, 1996; Domhoff, 1998). This is the case when such interest groups are instrumental to the installation of the regime in power, which in turn formulates and implements policies that are convergent with these groups. Others, however, have argued that the influence of interest groups is only consequential when it is not at variance with public opinion (Kollman, 1998), and that since politicians depend on the public majority for election victories, it is doubtful if they would ever respond to the political demands of these interest groups. The second argument is sound when examined in the context of the developed world where democracy is on a sound footing. In the case of Nigeria where democracy is at its infancy, the argument is fragile. Nigeria has had a string of intermittent democratic rules and the current democratic dispensation is only about ten years old. Most electoral verdicts do not carry the general will but exemplify the views and interest of powerful groups who wield enormous economic power and perpetrate anti-democratic acts. Therefore, not factoring the interests of such powerful interest groups in media public policies in such a political setting has been a major
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challenge in the implementation of such policies, especially when the number of such interest groups is significant. When a policy is not working, buck-passing ensues between the policymaker and policy analysts as regards where things went wrong. An area of disagreement is often that a critical sector of the population has been missed out. The continual prioritization of the journalist and her audience by policymakers elicits constant error, “which is a consistent pattern that marginalizes or overemphasizes certain sections of the population (Deacon, Pickering, Golding, & Murdock, 1992, p. 42) especially when those sections are vital to the overall population.
Media Policy Examples in Africa Nigeria Media policy has been a contentious issue in Nigeria since independence in 1960, it started as antagonism between the colonialists and the press (Mgbejume, 1991, p. 49). The postcolonial administration did not see the media as agents of development, a concept which McQuail (1987, pp. 109-134; 1994, p. 69) preached but later abandoned. The matter came to a head in 1975 when the government nationalized all the television and radio networks as well as the major newspapers, which had hitherto been under the control of regional governments. The military regime took the fight to the constitution when it refused to visualize the media as development partners, as the original draft of the 1989 constitution did not define the role of journalists and their freedom. It took a fight back by the press before a vague and lean amendment was done to correct the deliberate error. While government was spending money to upgrade facilities in the acquired media organizations, it did not come up with any clear cut media policy because it felt it was not the duty of the Nigerian government to formulate such. Rather, “Nigerians can flirt with any ideology of their choosing” (West Africa, 1977, p. 408). The seven or eight military regimes (one had a military president and civilian governors) which dominated the polity between 1966 and 1999 regulated the media through decrees. The decrees were designed basically to protect the military rulers from false accusation and punish journalists who dared the government through their pens. One of these decrees, the Nigerian Press Council Decree of 1978, established an 18-member council which did not recognize the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ)—the country’s umbrella body for all journalists—as a trade union, which meant NUJ could not be allowed to register or delist members as well as declare trade disputes with government. Out of the 18 members, four could form a quorum and take decisions, which was undemocratic. This heightened tension between the government and stakeholders. However, since 1999 when Nigeria changed to a civilian regime, Nigeria’s economy has massively expanded with a corresponding expansion of private media establishments. There are more functional and prosperous privately owned newspapers than government-owned while the same feat is set to be achieved in the broadcast sector. The government exercises little or least control over the Internet while Nigeria’s private sector-driven movie industry is the world’s second largest, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) rating. The expanding opportunities seemed to have helped in drastically reducing the friction between government and the media, as the government has begun to appreciate the need to respect the rule of law and make itself accountable to the citizenry. The Nigerian Press Organization (NPO), which is the private sector arm of the Nigerian media industry, has three visible member associations—The Nigerian Union of Journalists
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(NUJ), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE). This organization has met with the government representatives—the Nigerian Press Council (NPC)—on a number of occasions to fashion out a Mass communication policy for the country, which would be in alignment with the Nigerian Press Law. In most meetings that were held, other stakeholders who sustain the livelihood of journalists were never or hardly given a voice. It is hard to see the group meet with the Advertisers Association of Nigeria (ADVAN) from where the media in all categories get their adverts and commercials. Likewise, there were not at the meetings representatives of newsmakers and news content consumers whose interests the government and journalists claim to be protecting. It was a case of cutting somebody’s hair in his absence. Furthermore, media scholars (as a group) and media NGOs did not have a voice there. The constant target population, indexed by the absence of these crucial stakeholders where they matter most, reflects in the contents of both the Nigerian Press Law and NPO’s Code of Practice (1998). Common to these two documents were themes such as journalists’ relationship with their audience, registration, editorial independence, objectivity, public interest and so on. The two documents do not address the oneness or harmony that should exist in order to have a better media industry; neither do they give any insight into the relationship of journalists with these crucial stakeholders. It is ironic that while government keeps seeking ways to make the media an agent of the country’s unity, it refuses to appreciate the harmony that must drive the industry in order to achieve that unity. Kenya It is not only in Nigeria that the role of the media is indistinctly defined. Section 79 of the Kenyan Constitution “defines the right to freedom of expression, without specific reference to the media. The formulation is convoluted and vague, which allows for the violations of the right” (Moggi & Tessier, 2001, p. 4). This constitution as well as a couple of civil and criminal law statutes that formed the basis of administering the media in Kenya, proved incapable of making the media centers of excellence. In 1992, when the political space widened with a multi-party system, government proposed the introduction of press laws. But the mistrust of the government by journalists led some top editors to make a preventative move by saying they preferred a self-regulatory system that puts them in charge. To demonstrate this, they set up a task force to address a range of contents for an eventual press law. Unlike the case of Nigeria, the Kenyan task force was more open. Besides the mainstream media practitioners, it consulted with several interest groups including media owners associations, political parties, some NGOs, advertising associations and went as far as media practitioners in Tanzania, Uganda and a few other countries. The task force submitted its report to the country’s Attorney General who transposed the document into Kenya Communication Act, which set up the Kenyan Communication Commission to do the regulation. In addition to this, the Code of Conduct for Journalists and the Mass Media was also crafted in 2001 to complement previous efforts. It, however, turned out that the various consultations carried out to ensure that the controls systems have universal appeal, did not reflect in the eventual document. A public media policy should not be a mere reflection of the stakeholders’ interests but a demonstration of those interests. The contents of both documents zero in on journalists and their peculiarities—information access and dissemination, ethical and professional standards for journalists and their enforcement etc.. The documents did not spell out or detail the nature of the relationship between the stakeholders in the media industry.
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Malawi Malawi became independent from Britain in 1964 and did not have any visible media policy for about 30 years. The one party state structure blurred the boundary between the political party and government both of whom are convergent with regard to the tight control of the media. After these turbulent years for the media, political pluralism was given a chance and that birthed the quest for media policy whose main objectives were the freedom to practice journalism and to safeguard the rights of media audience. A list of the objectives of the policy shows similarity with what obtains in Nigeria, Kenya or Tanzania. This includes the facilitation of free flow of information, sustenance of an atmosphere free of censorship and arbitrary controls on the flow of information; and the promotion of the existence of free and pluralistic media, which reflects a diversity of ideas and opinions and so on. It does not spell out what is in it for stakeholders, on whom whose journalists rely for smooth practice. Egypt Under the Egyptian constitution, freedom of the press and the mass media is guaranteed in normal circumstances. Nevertheless, this is subject to some form of censorship in case the government is not comfortable with what is being published or broadcasted, especially when the matters at issue involve public safety, national security or state of emergency. Besides the constitution, Egypt also engages the Penal Code, Publications Law, Press Law, Emergency Law and Public Records Law to control the press. According to Ibrahim, Lachant, Nahas (2003, p. 4) one of these laws “allowed for the detention of journalists pending criminal investigations for breaking censorship laws, together with a stiffening of the fines and prison sentences imposed for relaying ‘false news’, deemed harmful to the state, public officials or the economy”. The constant visible personalities in the application of these laws are audience, journalists and government. The laws do not reckon with media scholars while advertisers do not have a say. NGOs have not been seen to be relevant in the scheme of things. The only visible organization that played an active role in media policy review, the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate (EJS), is not included in the list of NGOs operating in Egypt, and was in fact, part of the review as friends of government and could rather be described as one of the “GONGOs, or government- organized NGOs” (Carapico, 2000, p.15).
Recommendations and Conclusion It is ironic that many governments in Africa are vigorously pursuing policies that would make the media in their countries agents of unity and development but are failing to harness the possibilities that harmonious operations among the stakeholders in the media industry can offer. An all-embracing framework, in the form of a comprehensive media policy, enables the platform to define how these stakeholders can relate with another and troubleshoot in the case of face-off. A vibrant media industry that appreciates its stakeholders will enhance the performance of journalists’ responsibility to their audience. A typical government in Africa seems to be carried away by the manner in which the journalists present their news to their audience in order to safeguard the position of the authorities against any reaction from the citizens. The same governments, however, seem to be oblivious of the fact that journalists do not depend on the peanuts they generate as income from subscribers and news content consumers, many of whom even have access to these contents free of charge. Without the contributions of advertisers and their agents, as well as other media users, the media industry cannot survive.
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Likewise, media scholars have vital contributions to make with regard to the destiny of professional communicators. One of the qualifications of the contemporary journalist is that he or she must be a graduate of some tertiary institutions of journalism or communication. Scholars are those who make that possible. It is also a fact that without newsmakers, there will be no news. Practical, sound reasoning then dictates that whenever journalists and their audience become an issue, all these stakeholders should be carried along especially in the formulation of a functional media policy. To bring about such a document, the following points are recommended: Government must regard the media industry as an agglomeration of stakeholders, all of whom are important to the business. It is improper to assume that all that is important to the formulation of media policies are government, journalists and their audience. Before media policies are constructed, formulators should hold stakeholders’ conferences, seminars and workshops where representatives come together and share their experiences and the organizers then articulate each stakeholder’s position with a view to making it available for policymaking. There is a note of caution here. At these meetings, no stakeholder is expected to display any preponderance, arrogance or superciliousness. All the stakeholders are appearing as equal partners who are meeting for the common good. Government agents or representatives should not see themselves as masters but as servant leaders. Journalists should bring under control “their proclivity for assigning blame” and extend their “limited range of their temporal interest” (Ungerleider, 2006, p. 71). A sense of urgency is indicated in this initiative. Alternatively, do we wait until newsmakers wake up, get conscious of their immense influence, go on strike and let the journalists’ pen run dry?
References Benditt, T. M. (1973). The public interest. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2(3), 291-311. Bentham, J. (2005). An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation (1789). Boston: Adamant Media. Bruce, W. (1994). Ethical people are productive people. Public Productivity and Management Review, 17(3), 241-252. Brumback, G. (1991). Institutionalizing ethics in government. Public Personnel Management, 20(3), 353-363. Deacon D., Pickering, M., Golding P., & Murdock, G. (1999). Researching communications. London: Arnold Publishers. Domhoff, W. G. (1998). Who rules America: Power and politics in the year 2000. Mountain View (California): Mayfield. Held, V. (1970). The public interest and individual interests. New York: Basic Book. Hirschman, E. C., & Thompson, C. J. (1997). Why media matter: Toward a richer understanding of consumers’ relationships with advertising and mass media. Journal of Advertising, 26(1), 43-60. Ibrahim, N. M., Lachant, A., & Nahas, L. (2003). NGOs as civil society actors on media policy change in Egypt: Capacity building within a contextual framework. London: Stanhope Center for Communication Research. Kollman, K. (1998). Outside lobbying: Public opinion and interest group strategies. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kumar, K. (2003). Mixed signals: Radio broadcasting policy in India. Economic and Political Weekly, 38(22), 2173-2182. Manzer, R. (1994). Public policy making as practical reasoning. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 17(3), 577-594. McQuail, D. (1987). Mass communication theory (2nd ed.). London: Sage. McQuail, D. (1992). Media performance: Mass communication and the public interest. London: Sage. McQuail, D. (1994). Mass communication theory: An introduction (3rd ed.). London: Sage. Mgbejume, O. (1991). Constraints on mass media policies in Nigeria. [ACCE’s] Africa Media Review, 5(2), 47-57. Miller, R. A. (2002). The Frankenstein Syndrome: The creation of mega media and ethical modeling in journalism. Journal of Business Ethics, 36, 105-110. Moggi, P. & Tessier, R. (2001). Media status report: Kenya. Nairobi: Friedrick Ebert Foundation (Groupe de recherche et d’échanges technologiques). Nigerian Press Organization (NPO). (1998). Ethical code for Nigerian journalists. Ilorin (Nigeria): NPO.
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Omojola, O. (2008). Toward global ethics: Exploring the perspectives of local media stakeholders. Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies, 29 (2), 173-187. Rausser, G. C., & Foster, W. E. (1990). Political preference functions and public policy reform. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 72(3), 641-652. Rausser G. C., & Zusman P. (1992). Public policy and constitutional prescription. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 74(2), 247-257. Roth, A. L. (2002). Social epistemology in broadcast news interviews. Language and Society, 31(3), 355-381. Sorauf, F. J. (1957. The public interest reconsidered. The Journal of Politics, 19(4), 616-639. Stack, M., Deirdre, M., & Kelly, D. M. (2006). Popular media, education and resistance. Canadian Journal of Education, 29(1), 5-26. Ungerleider, C. (2006). Government, neo-liberal media, and education in Canada. The Popular Media, Education, and Resistance, 29(1), 70-90. Williams, N. (2004). How to get a 2:1 in media, communication and cultural studies. London: Sage Publications. Wright, J. R. (1996). Interest groups and congress. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1, 317-328
Personal Communication Freedom as a Problem and a Research Project Sergey G. Korkonosenko Saint Petersburg State University, St. Petersburg, Russia This paper considers the integrated concept of personal communication freedom which did not appear earlier in the scientific literature as independent object of research. The author puts forward some hypotheses concerning the maintenance and the humanistic importance of communication freedom. The special attention is given to a category of the person which unites in it so-called writers, readers and all other people who have been not included in process of a mass communication. As a result of the theoretical analysis, he offers the program of complex research of this phenomenon and construction of model of mass communications which should be based on an ideal of personal freedom and should reflect national-cultural features of the social environment. In particular, it is a question of national-cultural model of media in Russia. Keywords: person, freedom, mass communication, national model
Introduction The complete and literal meaning of our theme is personal freedom in mass communication: humanitarian, political and communicative aspects. In its treatment the researcher should be ready to meet some substantial complexities. They are incorporated, first of all, in the formulation of the theme. This chain of words includes some concepts, each of which deserves a special, profound, and multidisciplinary analysis. A great variety of research is devoted to each of them, and the process of studying them will hardly ever stop. These themes are forever. They touch fundamental principles of existence of the person and society; and consequently generate a wide variety of viewpoints and never-ending polemic. From our side it would be an extremely self-confident task to open any unknown aspects of concepts of freedom, person, communications, etc.
Communication Freedom: Logic of the Analysis At the same time we hope to find our own “secrets”, and even to solve them. On our representation, the special subject of the analysis is included already in a combination of concepts. Though for a long time each of them has been separately mastered in a science, the question on personal freedom in mass communication as such does not belong to traditional subjects. There is not a universal designation of this phenomenon. Therefore, it is necessary to use a long descriptive name. In order to prevent technical inconveniences we suggest using in the future the short name—communication freedom, with all comments concerning its conventional nature. We can find this concept in works of other authors, but they usually mean only its technological or legal aspects. Below we give a brief description of the project on this subject which is partly published (Korkonosenko,
Sergey G. Korkonosenko, professor, School of Journalism, Saint Petersburg State University.
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2010) but not finished in all components. Levels of analysis of the theme, made by these or other researchers, can be varied from operating by philosophical abstraction to empirical data gathering. We make an attempt to combine some of the levels of the analysis. As it should happen within a responsible attitude to a multilevel theme, our work begins with a review of existing sights and concepts included in the theoretical area of the project. This essay has some special purposes. Firstly, it is necessary to reveal those basic ideologies in a style of which modern researchers can follow; sometimes they do not realize such a dependency. There is not a large number of such conceptual approaches, despite a seeming fragmentary plurality of statements, and they are suitable for more or less strict ordering. Here we deal with the recognized authorities in world social sciences and the humanities. Secondly, it is necessary to open the central points of contradictions and different interpretations by which the coexistence of several scientific traditions is marked. In particular, they arise owing to the various disciplinary affinities of authors. We mean, the view of mass communications from cultural science will open those ideas which are not organic for political science; and, in turn, that will not find full mutual understanding with economic research of the same phenomena. In our work we aspire not to reconcile opponents, but, on the contrary to show the inevitability of disagreements and the necessity to consider real multi-paradigmatic essence of the subject of the analysis. To a certain extent, the subject field of the project, as well as its debatable intensity, are presented in the thesaurus collected by our group of authors. It was included into the project as an independent section and can serve as the brief directory of concepts on studied subjects, though it certainly does not apply for the status of absolute completeness. Further, in the process of lowering the level of the analysis, the choice of the leading approach to a material is made. If to limit ourselves by ascertaining the multi-paradigmatic nature of approaches to each of the key concepts and to their set, it would mean depriving the research of its integrity and analytical prospect, let alone its applied, pragmatic effects. Looking forward, we must say, that we choose value estimation as a general integrating approach to the phenomena and tendencies of mass communication and a person’s behavior in this field. Using axiological criterion, we have an opportunity to weigh and compare not only the separate social facts and behavioral acts, but also conceptual decisions which bring intellectual basis under those or other mass communication strategies. In the axiological understanding of a theme leading hypotheses of research are formulated, we shall show them below. On the next phase of the project there is a synthesis of basic concepts. According to the general plan, the subject being studied consists neither of independent concepts, nor of their conglomerate received as a result of mechanical assembly, but of a qualitatively new formation. It is possible to make a figurative analogy to a lake that incorporate river water and rains, or to a culinary dish in which all possible ingredients are inseparably combined. In a similar way the direct subject of studying looks as a merger of elements which only in a “cookbook” may be described in such a scheme as “personal freedom + value + mass communication”. Actually, there is an integral phenomenon of life and a homogeneous phenomenon of consciousness—a personal freedom as a value of mass communication, and only it, finally, interests us. Meanwhile, the disparity of disciplinary systems of coordinates stated above is not cancelled with decision-making on the integrity of the subject of the analysis. Without the refined argument, one can confirm confidently that a personal freedom as a value of mass communication differently exists in this or that scientific context. It is difficult to define a number of such potential contexts: legal, economic, psychological, social,
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educational, etc.. Let us listen to those experts who reveal theoretical features of studying communications, corresponding to their multi-disciplinary nature. Here is what the President of the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) François Heinderyckx writes in this connection. The article has been published under a characteristic name The Academic Identity Crisis of the European Communication Researcher: In fact, communication may not be a discipline in the classic institutional sense of the word… Maybe communication research… is consubstantial with multi- and trans-disciplinarity… the combination and sometimes the confrontation of diverse disciplinary and paradigmatic perspectives and angles… Communication would be cross-sectional to social science and humanities if not to all sciences. Communication studies could then be seen as holding a status not dissimilar to that of mathematics: although present in one form or another in many scientific disciplines, mathematics require and maintain a strong core of dedicated specialists providing the larger frame and refining the tools… of interpretation for all. (p. 359)
We realize that we enter into a gigantic field and consequently are forced to reduce the outlook to its several fragments. In accordance with the general name of the project, the humanitarian, political and communicative aspects of the theme have been chosen. Accordingly, the level of consideration of materials once again comes down, or to be more precise—the analysis is concretized. Actually, the selected aspects certainly have a complex nature, and assume an additional narrowing of spectrum of the studying questions. There is a danger of making violence over the reality or logic of the research, but it manages to be avoided if the most essential problem units are found, which are significant in theoretical and practical dimensions. A following step to concretize the analysis is an arrangement of the interconnected empirical procedures. Theoretical conclusions cost a little for understanding the real processes of mass communication, if they do not correspond with the facts of this reality. In our case such facts are, on the one hand, rather objective data (reflection of value of a personal freedom in media texts) and, on the other hand, subjective positions of participants of communication interaction—means media employees and a great bulk of the population which used to be called an audience of media (an incorrect expression, in our opinion). Both those and others not only realize personal freedom in the limits of given opportunities, but also reflex in this occasion—usually sporadically and even beyond ones comprehension. As they say, other is not given, if we deal with mass communication as the environment of a constant being and a field of the person's activity. An ignoring of media’s role in this respect radically contradicts the circumstances of the life of a social person and to the order of the modern world. Finally, the plan of research includes an attempt to turn speculative constructions and results of supervision directly into a mass communication practice—already generated in the Russian reality, and even more to that which is formed before us and with our participation. We suppose to develop a model (models) of mass communications which would be based on recognition of personal freedom as a valuable priority, and includes guarantees of the saving of this value. Most likely, we wish to speak about a nationally specific model. Firstly, we share a position with those experts who consider that valuable priorities are being differently ranged, and combined in different national-cultural and social-civil environments. Secondly, one of conditions of viability of the model consists in the presence of opportunities and resources for its realization. This is already a question which is not a subject for consideration in isolation from the analysis of a political and legal conjuncture, financial and material support of communication processes, a level of corresponding culture of participants of a mass information exchange, etc.
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Hypotheses of the Project Here we enter the area of a formulation of hypotheses of the research. The basic hypotheses follow from the general plan of the project, and are directly connected with the characteristic of its subject which we have just given. The first hypothesis is that personal freedom and mass communication are in inseparable phenomenological unity. This unity appears actually as the integral property both of persons and communication processes. In turn, there are necessary bases that the scientific consciousness reflects not separateness, but a merger of these matters. In general, the degree of a personal freedom serves as an indicator of authenticity of a person’s existence in a social world, it is impossible to think of the person outside a category of freedom. Another matter is that the attitude to freedom and its borders will change depending on the basics of the given theoretical school or on personal belief, and sometimes it will change in a rather wide range of estimations. So, the modern thinker of national-patriotic orientation declares the following: We, Russian people, do not represent today a united nation, we are a conglomerate of free persons—therefore, we cannot overcome… the negative phenomena in our life, and it is a result of bourgeois freedom that mercy is given to us… Only becoming “slaves” to a society, only having recognized its interests above personal ones… it is possible to feel ourselves protected and free from danger to be deceived, plundered, humiliated and offended! (Smirnov, 2007)
Obviously, the author denies postulates of the liberal ideology which have been spread in the Western world (bourgeois freedom) and which glorifies personal freedom as a corner stone of social life. Distinctions in understanding of mutual relations of the individual and social system for a long time are recognized in a science. Swedish sociologist Per Monson has thus described the diametrical contrast of sights: … opinion, that the society is something greater, than simply sum of individuals and that is a certain higher “essence”, generally is inherited from early conservative understanding of a society. And on the contrary, representation about a society consisting exclusively from separate individuals is very close to liberal views on a society. (Monson, p. 52)
For our analysis it is essential that conservative-patriotic ideas correspond with religious ideologies for which a worship of the person is not principally peculiar. According to one of the Christian forums, within the development of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Concept of missionary activity, the results of special sociological research have been taken in consideration. In particular, elements of traditional values have been named, which remain as priorities of public consciousness and on which missionaries can rely. As an example, the offer of a choice between a personal freedom and the native land was referred to, and the answers of the majority of participants of interrogation have been regarded as “patriotic” (Dlya Pravoslavnyh, 2009). That is the fidelity to the native land was admitted as an antithesis to a personal freedom. In publications of some media researchers in Russia, only one kind of freedom is admitted—a fidelity to Orthodoxy. So, existence of freedom is being recognized, but its spiritual matter is known in advance, and freedom becomes not free. In such a statement of a question, the settled representation of freedom which semantic kernel is the opportunity of a choice is actually denied. In the classic frame where the founders of existentialism philosophy and ethics worked, they perceived the person as the active and creative subject making the choice of own vital way, and bearing responsibility for this choice. The individual can consciously not choose a patriotic line of thinking, and be ready for moral and official judgment. For supporters of rational and liberal views in this situation there is not a collision, as for patriotism and
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spiritual independence are not antagonistic to each other, they lie in different “planes”. One may be a true son of the fatherland by inertia, without comprehension of this value for him personally, but such blind fidelity will hardly bring to the native land a real prosperity. In its turn, the slander on the native land and culture under influence of “fashion” or on rage is an attribute of low spiritual maturity of the person. So, as we once again could convince, the idea of a personal freedom inevitably arises in a discourse about the arrangement of public life, and it is put forward more as topical questions become a point of discussion. We need to agree only that communications (and mass media too) represent one of the brightest manifestations of social life, not only the form, but also a way of existence of a society (and the person), in indissoluble connection with the idea of freedom. This idea does not belong at all to the category of theoretical innovations. The practical task is how to adopt the thoughts of classics (see Jaspers, Heidegger, etc.) in rather narrow and practically focused research. Earlier we put this question, while analyzing one sufficient component of mass communication problematic. In the analysis of the essence of the press we concluded that in understanding journalism it would be a mistake to limit discourse by functional approach and that journalism invariably appears as both the environment and the form of existence of a public life (Korkonosenko, 2009, p. 37). Expanding the context, we should speak about communicative space, which, on modern representations, actually coincides with social space, and about the theory of communicative action (behavior) developed by Y. Habermas for an explanation of the mechanism of people’s association in community, etc.. Not without a share of polemic simplification, some researchers confirm that: We live in a culture in which all problems, as a matter of fact, are considered as a problem of communications (it means, to decide and “to adjust attitudes”, it is necessary “to agree”). That is, communications should be perceived as unique real links which can connect… a diverse modern society…. (Romanovskaya, p. 47)
Finally, if a reference to culture has been made, it is necessary to recall a position of philosophers of culture. As Mosey Cagan wrote, “The philosophical sight at culture… sees in culture a product of its multilateral and complete activity of the person…”. Undoubtedly, the person broadcasts the process and results of the multilateral activity outside, not less than he continuously receives counter impulses. As a result, from a philosophical-cultural position, the human society looks as a spontaneously developing system of connections between commonly living and operating people (Cagan, 2000). Connections are being established and supported due to communications, including mass media for functioning of which modern civilization has created a powerful infrastructure. Thus, there are bases to speak about indivisibility of freedom, persons, and mass communications. At least, a comparison of sources gives grounds for making such a statement of a question. Our second hypothesis is formulated as though it is a continuation of the first one, namely, personal freedom in mass communication represents value of a high qualitative level. Due to the given statement we deliberately sharpen and actualize the problematic of the research. According to our assumptions, on a level of declarations, not many authors are eager to deny this value—mainly, those who are inclined to extreme demonstrations, to paradoxes or shocking acts. However, while going deeper into a theme it is not excluded at all, that the logic of the certain ideology or administrative or economic interest is capable of leading to denial. Here the conflict of values proves itself. It is organic to a society to the same degree as spiritual unity on the basis of the common beliefs and traditions. And really, adherence to ideals of spiritual freedom is not
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necessarily shared by all members, groups and institutes of a society. A deviation from them, on the one hand, can find expression in real actions, including political practice, simultaneously with formal declaring of high democratic values. On the other hand, the owners of freedom refuse them for whatever reasons. The first case relates to an estimation of censorship politics during the Soviet time, given by sociologists of culture: … censorship controlled the certain features in an image of the person, in system of its values and reference points… There was one general principle here—restriction, and even suppression of independence, the initiative in ideas, feelings and actions of the separate individual, a circle of people, a group—in interests and for the flourishing of the whole. (Dubin, p. 275)
The second anomaly is revealed by researchers of the ways of democracies in Russia: modern “… practice… testifies that citizens not only do not value a freedom, but also frequently are not able to master it…” (Baranov, p. 28). The relatively general conclusions given above are precisely projected on a situation in mass communication. Here, too, there is also a vigorous apologia of personal freedom, and frank denial of this value. And, as we already observed earlier, representatives of rational and irrational cogitative traditions converge in their conclusions. For example, in a philosophical essay, which is an obviously liberal-rationalistic experience, the evolution of ideology of freedom as values of the “Western” civilization are being traced. It, in the author’s opinion, is gradually leveled under influence of political and technological transformations. Realization of the person’s right on an independent choice is extremely unsuitable and difficult task… recognition of such right leads to a reducing of controllability of a community… The majority… usually prefers much more material things, such as comfort, prosperity, shows and bread... an idea of “a cancelling of the person” [appears], and together with it—an elimination of the problematic of freedom … The consistent non-conformism demands …to clear oneself of all forms of social dependence. One has to leave away further and further… in subcultures, in small groups, in traditional communities where "the death of the person" for the present does not appear to the full. (Polonsky, 2007)
We see a distinct opposition of social to humanitarian, and the author’s sympathy is given to individualistic tendency. Nevertheless, the real problem consists in an optimum combination of these two matters because their isolation from each other can be imagined only in a highly abstract context. Crushing of society on subcultures is equivalent, on the one hand, to its splitting into individual human units, on the other hand, to destruction of social nature and forms of its existence (nations, states, and mankind—any macro communities). Once again we meet an infinitely repeating benefit performance of romanticism, with its cult of the single hero, or a variation on a theme of “the poet and crowd” which turns into a burgher tendency towards a private life. It is important that valuable links between a personal freedom and social dialogue are disconnected. A destination of mass communication is “to gather”, to consolidate communities, leaving space for a group and individual autonomy. Researchers of psychology of a person’s behavior in the newest information environment offer strong arguments in favor of value of communication freedom, maybe with a little bit of unexpected formulation. As they suppose, For the modern person mass communication is process already intrapersonal. As though the person in a mass communication remains alone with himself. And reflects himself alone with mass communication. This is so new mental condition that traditional for a mass communication “effect of presence” develops into “effect of participation”. The person
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not simply absorbs data, but operates with information. Also essentially important is that it is an individual interactivity…. (Aktual’nye Pproblemy, pp. 59-61)
These supervisions reflect both an inherence of personal matter from mass communication, and the antagonism of two value categories, and also a prospect of their balanced coexistence. In its turn, as we know, the media try to manipulate the person. So, in this arrangement of accents it is necessary to search for the answer to a question, whose freedom makes a paramount value. The priority of the person for us is not a subject to doubt, and it is not only a cold research hypothesis, but also a deliberately chosen position. We join the opinion of researchers of journalism axiology which determine the basic concepts of their own analysis: During many centuries thinkers tried to answer a question on essence of values. Thus frequently behind complex theoretical designs the person and his internal inner world were being lost. Meanwhile, the question on values can be solved exclusively within the limits of a humanistic problematic. In this sense [is absolutely true] an axiomatic thesis of Protagoras “The person is a measure of all things”…. (Sidorov, p. 25)
If we disagreed with this thesis, all further research would become a mirror of the insoluble value conflict. Moreover, an opportunity would disappear to compare the facts arising in different societal systems and dimensions of public life. Even from a superficial view, it is apparent that in each dimension mass communications are used with the special purposes: social dimension—integration and self-knowledge of society; economic—efficiency of business in information branch; cultural—preservation, distribution and enrichment of culture; political—optimization of power relations, realization of the civil rights and freedom; technological—perfection and use of equipment; spiritual-personal—self-identification, self-expression, self-development of the person, etc.. “Inside” a certain system, with its own targets and tasks, a special understanding of the value of freedom in mass communications is formed, which is not coordinated with the value world of neighboring systems. But let’s remember, we pursue the aim to find ground for balance and harmony. Otherwise, attempts to create a model, viable in the Russian society, are in advance doomed to failure. An opportunity to construct an optimum model of mass communication that is organic for Russia, we put forward as the third hypothesis of the research project. Our attention is turned to the realization of a person’s communication freedom which represents a basic value for the given nation. For the beginning it is necessary to explain which meaning of the word “model” we use. In this case the most close for us is the sense which corresponds with a concept of the type of phenomenon that is in its basic matter differing from others with own original, steady, interconnected attributes. We do not risk using modeling as a special method of scientific investigation widely practiced, for example, in social prognosis. Such work would need a high degree of formalization of used parameters and, most likely, special mathematical apparatus. Mass communication in Russia interests us as an internally complete formation. But this integrity includes an ability to develop; It includes the moments of ambiguity, discrepancy and debatable potential. Such a model is not a dogma and not a Procrustean bed for researchers and experts: It is an offer to agree on the certain approaches and strategic decisions. Criticism for insufficient clearness and weak technological adaptability of final constructions are inappropriate in this case. We work in a space of humanities, which give a wide freedom of interpretations and
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research positions. Looking back at never-ending disputes between physics and lyrics, the authors of methodological publications write that: A feature of language of humanitarian knowledge consists in its essentially open character. While experts in “sciences on the Nature” try to come to as much as possible completed result of the researches… it is hardly meaningful to speak about final completeness of the researches which are carried out in humanitarian sphere... To understand for the humanist means to define the situational logic defining a character of conditions in which interesting individuals make their actions, and also to estimate a degree of adequacy of these actions to real conditions. But the understanding process assumes the certain involvement of an understanding person in a studied situation. The humanities researcher cannot successfully operate, standing on a position of “detached onlooker”. (Gusev, p. 115)
And we too, not masking the inclusiveness in the Russian context, are going to be guided by our own understanding of value reference points existing in this context. But while the idea of theoretical modeling, most likely, it will find many supporters, with its belonging to a domestic reality will be agreed with by not all experts. Representation on mass communication as a phenomenon that is mainly technologically determined has very strong roots. As technologies have no native land also mass communications are ostensibly created and function on a universal model. Supporters of similar views freely or involuntarily pick up the basic theses of a technological determinism—a popular conceptual direction. However, the time of its almost exclusive domination now has gone to history, and this conclusion is clearly shown in the newest European researches on the theory of mass communications. Some conclusions of this kind were made, for example, by Denis McQuail. He wrote in 2007: Significant historical and social change in our time does not have any close chronological relationship to ICT or media developments. Both types of change have a high degree of independence from each other, notwithstanding a mutual influence… The search for consequences of technological innovation is not a waste of time but cannot occur in isolation of other factors. (p. 87)
We expect also other objections connected with the specifically Russian understanding of the value of personal freedom. In a wide professional consciousness the stereotypes of universal values were fixed, first of all the stereotype of international unification of human rights. On this occasion in a clever essay about the rights and freedoms is offered the whole chain of the interconnected judgments. Firstly, Universal public conventions do not exist… It is impossible to act humanly in general, nobody knows, how it to do. How it is for the custom to behave humanly, the person finds out, observing public conventions of those communities which he belongs to. (Averkiev, p. 228).
Secondly, Mankind has not created and nobody will ever create uniform “moral field”… For example who can be against a freedom of speech—certainly. Simply there are people who are against freedom of speech in its concrete displays because in different societies different things are understood as a freedom, in various cultures representations about admissible publicity differ, as well as people's relationship with authorities… As freedom of speech is declared the universal human rights for mankind; this means that in all countries freedom of speech should be “as in the West”. (Averkiev, pp. 247, 272-273).
Also it is a fundamental mistake. We have bases to search for the national specific ideal of communication freedom.
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Personality and Mass Communication: Specification of Concepts Let’s consider that we have explained about the intentions and plans. At the same time there were ambiguities with the use of some central concepts. We must emphasize: not terms, namely working concepts. For example, what do authors mean when using the word person within mass communications (in this case it is better to say personality), more precisely speaking, what kind of person is placed in analysis and whose freedom directly enters into the subject being studied? It is possible to answer briefly: each and every one. Explaining, we shall specify that we do not agree with a widespread representation, as if in mass communication there is an unequal division into active and passive participants. The supporters of these ideas mean that the passive side (masses, an audience and the like) stays as though in a Passive Voice, and its destiny is to be influenced by sources of information. Accordingly, attention is being concentrated exclusively on the “active” side. Certainly, it would be strange to deny the influencing effects of mass media (we see it in the materials of our common project). But, firstly, the mature person is obliged to build responsibly his own information behavior and to defend his own spiritual safety. Secondly, the facts show that in practice citizens do not obediently swallow the offered information food. The reader, the TV viewer, and the listener participate in the creation of an effect of information flow together with the author; and each of them has a special perception of the material, subjective world outlook, and a certain level of literacy and general culture. Here is one example. Supporters of the erection of an enormous skyscraper in St. Petersburg—The “Okhta-center”—have collided with the ambiguity of the reaction of citizens. They have shown on TV a film produced to convince numerous opponents of the project of its attractiveness. However, Lenizdat.ru referred to sociological researches, and stated that after the film the attitude to the skyscraper had worsened, rather than improved, and opposition still prevailed among the townspeople (Vertikal, 2009). Thus, both in methodological and in pragmatic senses, refusal of dictatorship in relation to citizens and aspiration to equal in rights cooperation with them seem much more perspective. In this spirit the editor-in-chief of “Novaya Gazeta” Dm. Muratov argues: Our remarkable audience supports us... Clever, highly intellectual, advanced. I love very much… old men who read us, unlike media sociologists believing, that the newspaper should serve those who can buy goods which are promoted in it. Our reader is a life! He is pleasant to us. And we shall serve to our audience intellectually… and by giving information. (Muratov, p. 27)
An ordinary private person lives in the world of mass communications under his own laws and reasons, and he is equal in this dimension to the person of the sender of information messages, moreover—the reader renders counter influence on the sender, even though he forces the media to reckon with him. At the same time the abstracted figure of the person is concretized not only up to equality in rights of writer and reader. It exists also in the third manifestation as the person who has excluded himself (was excluded) from communication, at least excluded from its all multidimensionality. The list of such outsiders is not so short: asocial on mood individuals; escapists; the people who have been discharged due to the lack of time or technical opportunities; the poorest citizens who are deprived of access to mass media, invalids, children, etc. They do not have room within one-dimensional schemes of communication, accepted by some theorists (like: a source—coding—the message—decoding—the addressee). Their communication freedom is either
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realized in the form of refusal of participation, or has no opportunity to be realized by virtue of external circumstances. The subject of studying remains though it is present in a latent form. We have no right to ignore, for example, the secondary, mediated communications, namely situations, when mass information reaches the person discharged of it through interpersonal contacts and when situations around of the person change not without the participation of media, namely social conditions, motions in tastes, customs, standards of behavior, etc.. The outsider only by external characteristics appears in isolation whereas actually he is constantly in a power field of mass communications, and necessity of a personal choice pursues him during actually all of his life term. Special explanations are also demanded for the concept of mass communication which in our project occupies a parity position with the concept of the person. Let us consider that science knows at least some tens of approaches to the definition of communication and more than hundred definitions, and approximately the same happens to mass communication. It would be desirable to prevent its unlimited expansion by the absorption of other phenomena of reality and phenomena of consciousness. One of the most characteristic cases is when a concept of communications includes in full an intercourse—an attribute of human existence. In Russian and in the Russian science there is a differentiation between these concepts. Neither completely European nor completely Asian, Russia has been caught in the middle geographically, historically and culturally. As a result, its connectedness to the world, to the Other, has been complex and contradictory, full of fear and fascination. There are even two words in Russian expressing the idea of connectedness: obchenie, understood as personal interaction based on common and shared values, and kommunikatciya, understood as transfer of information. (Klyukanov, p. 5)
So, communication is not actually equivalent to dialogue, intercourse, joint action of people, moreover, it can be constructed in such a manner that it becomes an obstacle to dialogue. As a reaction on such attempts of delimitation the idea of the “true” communication appears which assumes an active work of consciousness and purposeful search for truth (Pronina, p. 212). Meanwhile, mixing initial, institutional attributes with qualitative characteristics may only confuse a question. Mass communication initially does exist, and only then already receives estimations as good or bad, as a dialogue for the interests of the person or as a mechanical exchange of signals. It is more important for taking into consideration, the sooner we agree, that any moral-ethical estimations has the subjective nature, and the true communications have few chances to become a commonly accepted fact. More particularly, the convergence of the concepts communication and journalism produces more danger than benefit. It leads to the simplified understanding of the complex phenomena and to unification of all mass communications on the basis of management influence, and even ordinary marketing strategy. Let us listen to the French professor Bertrand Cabedoche. It is not uncommon in French academia (and beyond) to distinguish or even oppose information and communication. A majority of journalists claim that their social legitimacy lies in defending democracy against every kind of power, whether it be economical or political. From this perspective information is isolated from communication, whether it be in relation to practices or products. Journalists often state that this is a question of their professional identity… According to them, information refers to “critical thinking” (which expressively designates journalism), while they see communication as linked to propaganda. (p. 87)
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In Russia there was a deep tradition of qualitative definition of journalism in any cultural and information field. However, in Europe too there are many experts who are strongly supporting the sovereignty of classical journalism. So, the Portuguese professor Joaquim Fidalgo presented at the conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research the report on a theme “What Is Journalism and What Only Looks Like It? In a conceptual part of the work he wrote: We can say that professional journalists… no longer have the monopoly of this activity—of this public service, we should say. Still, many new actors trying to enter this field or to mix with it, very often not seem to respect some of the basic standards and ethical demands in which journalism is grounded, although they tend to use its technical tools and usual forms and models. (Fidalgo, 2007)
It is necessary to reckon with such views and statements when there is a temptation to declare on the limitlessness of mass communications as a phenomena and concept. It is especially important to take into consideration when we try to understand a personal communication freedom in all its mixed and various content.
References Averkiev, I. V. (2004). Drugoe horoshee otnoshenie k pravam cheloveka [Other good attitude to human rights]. Budushee Prav Cheloveka v Rossii [The Future of Human Rights in Russia], 1, 226-278. Baranov, N. A. (2008). Evolyuciya sovremennoi demokratii: Politicheskii opyt Rossii [Evolution of modern democracy: Political experience of Russia] (Doctoral dissertation abstracts, St. Petersburg, 2008). St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg State University. Cabedoche, B. (2007). Information and communication: Do these terms constitute absolute opposite practices and concepts [Remarks on Online Municipal Bulletins within the context of everyday life]? In N. Carpentier, P. Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, K. Nordenstreng, M. Hartmann, P. Vihalemm, B. Cammaerts, & H. Nieminen (Eds.), Media technologies and democracy in an enlarged Europe: The intellectual work of the 2007 European media and communication doctoral summer school (pp. 87-101). Tartu: Tartu University Press. Cagan, M. S. (2000). Grazhdanskoe obshestvo kak kulturnaya forma socialnoi sistemy [Civil society as cultural form of social system]. Socialno-humanitarnye Znaniya (Social-humanitarian Knowledge), 6. Retrieved from http://www.countries.ru/library/texts/kagan1.htm Dlya pravoslavnyh missionerov ponyatie rodina bolee svyashenno, chem spravedlivost’ i svoboda lichnosti [For Orthodox missionaries the concept the native land is more sacred, than justice and personal freedom) (2009, May 18). In Dobro pozhalovatna otkrytyi hristianskii forum JesusChrist.ru [Welcome to the open Christian forum JesusChrist.ru]. Retrieved from http://jesuschrist.ru/forum/234200 Dubin, B. V. (2001). Slovo—pismo—literature: Ocherki po sociologii sovremennoi kultury [Word—writing—literature: Sketches on sociology of modern culture]. Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie. Fidalgo, J. (2007). What is journalism and what only looks like it? [Manuscript presented to the scientific сconference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, Paris, July 23-27]. Gusev, S. S. (2004). Kontekstualnost gumanitarnogo poznaniya [Contextual nature of humanitarian knowledge]. In Yu. N. Solonin, & B. I. Lipskii (Eds.), Filosofskie nauki. Specialnyi vypusk “Filosofskii Peterburg” [Philosophical sciences. Special issue “Philosophical Petersburg”] (pp. 101-115). Мoscow: Gumanitarii. Heinderyckx, F. (2007). The academic identity crisis of the European communication researcher. In N. Carpentier, P. Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, K. Nordenstreng, M. Hartmann, P. Vihalemm, B. Cammaerts, & H. Nieminen (Eds.), Media technologies and democracy in an enlarged Europe: The intellectual work of the 2007 European media and communication doctoral summer school (pp. 357-362). Tartu: Tartu University Press. Klyukanov, I. E. (2008). Inaugural essay. Russian Journal of Communication, 1 (1, Winter), 5-6. Korkonosenko, S. G. (2009). Sushnost zhurnalistiki, otkrytaya ponimaniyu i nepodvlastnaya scheme [Essence of journalism, open to understanding and superior to schemes]. Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta Zhurnalistika [Bulletin of the Moscow University Journalism], 2(10), 31-50.
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Korkonosenko, S. G., Kudryavceva, M. Y., & Slutskii, P. A. (2010). Kommunikacionnaya svoboda lichnosti [Personal communication freedom]. In S. G. Korkonosenko (Ed.), St. Petersburg: Publishing House of the St. Petersburg State Electrotechnical University “LETI”. McQuail, D. (2007). Communication and technology: Beyond determinism? In N. Carpentier, P. Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt, K. Nordenstreng, M. Hartmann, P. Vihalemm, B. Cammaerts, & H. Nieminen (Eds.), Media technologies and democracy in an enlarged Europe: The intellectual work of the 2007 European media and communication doctoral summer school (pp. 27-40). Tartu: Tartu University Press. Monson, P. (1995). Lodka na alleyah parka: Vvedenie v sociologiyu [Boat on avenues of park: Introduction to sociology]. Moscow: Ves mir. Muratov, D., & Aleksandrova, T. (2009). Iz zhizni balovnei sudby [From a life of minions of fortune]. Zhurnalistika i Mediarynok [Journalism & Media Market], 3, 26-29. Polonsky, A. (2007). Svoboda: ponyat i obezvredit... [Freedom: understand and neutralize...]. Novaya Diatriba: Stereotipy [New Diatriba: Stereotypes]. Retrieved from http://www.kastopravda.ru/kastalia/europe/svoboda.htm Pronina, E. E. (2002). Psihologiya zhurnalistskogo tvorchestva [Psychology of journalist’s creativity]. Мoscow: Publishing House of the Moscow State University. Romanovskaya, E. V. (2009). Vlast v sisteme communicacii [Authority in a system of communication]. Vlast [Power], 6, 44-47. Sidorov, V. A., Ilchenko, S. S., & Nigmatullina, K. R. (2009). Aksiologiya zhurnalistiki: Opyt stanovleniya novoi discipliny [Axiology of journalism: Experience of creation of a new discipline]. In V. A. Sidorov (Ed.), St. Petersburg: Roza Mira. Smirnov, I. P. (2007, June 1). Svoboda [Freedom]. Portal Sozidanie (Leningradskii Comitet Uchenyh) [Creation (The Leningrad Committee of Scientists)]. Retrieved from http://sozidanie-lku.narod.ru/dem_svoboda.html “Vertikal” ponizila chislo storonnikov “Ohta-centra” [“The Vertical” has lowered a number of “Okhta-Center” supporters] (2009, June 3). Retrieved from http://www.lenizdat.ru/a0/ru/pm1/c-1075331-0.html Zasurskii, Y. N., & Sergeev, V. V. (Eds.). (2008). Aktualnye problemy obespecheniya kulturno-informacionnoi bezopasnosti naseleniya Moskovskogo megapolisa: Kompleksnoe issledovanie [Actual problems of protection of cultural-information safety of the population of the Moscow megalopolis: Complex research]. Мoscow: Serebryanye Niti.
Journalism and Mass Communication, ISSN 2160-6579 January 2012, Vol. 2, No.1, 329-341
Polish Media 22 Years After Socio-Political Breakthrough—The Road to Professionalization and Democratization Adam Szynol University of Wroclaw, Wrocław, Poland Over two decades have passed by since Poland took the course of democratic changes. In the early 1990s the press sector was re-established as a consequence of de-monopolization and has been taken over by foreigners. The electronic media sector has been restricted for 15 years and foreign companies could only have one third of the ownership. The complexity of Polish media system reflects the long way from communism and governmental media towards free democratized market with some remnants of the previous era. It is hard to predict when it will be shaped in a brand new way and if it is generally possible. Keywords: media system, democratization, ownership
Introduction After the World War II Poland was taken over by the soviet regime and exposed to a strict control. Not only was the social and political life subordinated to the communists’ rules but also the media system was used as a tool of the propaganda. One might say that it was a kind of sophisticated machinery to run the media business which, however, did not have anything in common with a free independent and economically driven venture, not to mention the journalism per se. Almost everything in print had been issued by one of the biggest publisher in this part of Europe, namely Working-class Publishing Cooperative (RSW) and thoroughly checked by workers of the censorship institution, Central Office of Publishing and Events Control (GUKPiW). Both of them were dependent on the ruling party, i.e., Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR). The press sector was organized similarly to the structure of PZPR. Thus, the nationwide daily resembled the Central Committee of the party and regional titles were subordinated to the voivodeship committees. Consequently, the network of regional newspapers was divided into a dozen or so departments, accordingly to what W. Pisarek (1996) described as a socialist model of the press. As a result, the biggest cities were equipped with three types of regional or local dailies. A newspaper with the biggest circulation, named in this model as an “A-type” or “newspaper-organ,” was packed with political issues and full of propaganda coverage. Weekends’ editions of the newspaper had a few hundred thousands of circulation, which meant that each sixth inhabitant of the region was supposed to buy it. However impossible it was, there were no signs of returns. This word did not function at all during the communism era in Poland. The second title, “B-type”, was directed to another class of the society—the intelligence. The circulation was few times less than the first one and even the language and the content suggested that the audience is different—better educated and interested in foreign affairs. The last one was the afternoon daily, “C-type” with the smallest circulation and available for purchase
Adam Szynol, senior lecturer, the Institute of Journalism and Social Communication, the University of Wrocław.
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about three p. m. Although each of the newspapers mentioned above were under the censorship control, the strictness was the strongest for the type A and the weakest for the afternoon ones. As M. Jachimowski (2001, p. 203) notices “The organization of press in Poland was influenced not only by the concentration of press titles in the hands of a communist party publisher. This centralized model defined a centralized system to administer the press, in both organization and finance-related aspects”. It was going to change after the socio-political breakthrough in the year 1989 and afterwards. The electronic media sector developed in due course. Even though the Polish Radio was established in 1925, after the World War II had to be rebuilt and soon became one more tool of socialists’ regime. The Polish Television started to broadcast in 1952 and for almost two decades there was the only one program accessible in the whole country. In the meantime the government established the Committee for Radio and Television (sometimes maliciously and contemptuously called radio-committee). This institution functioned as a coordinator and controller over the electronic media sector and quickly became a political servant or hostage of the ruling party. In mid 1980s the richer citizens could afford to buy and install satellite television, however, still a dominant role exercised governmental Polish Television with its two programs and regional departments. First licenses for nationwide broadcasters were granted in 1994. Next year the first Polish portal was launched. The paper is based on a variety of sources and methods. First of all, the author has 10 year experience working as a journalist in the printed and electronic media. Understandably, participatory observation was one of the methods. Secondly, as a scholar, the author had an opportunity to analyze agendas, individual news and commentary programs. Thirdly, there were several official documents such as: acts, bills, decrees, and governmental projects connected with the subject of the matter, which were to be examined. The literature survey of the subject was a completion of those analyses.
Socio-Political Breakthrough and the New Order The year 1989 opened a new chapter in Polish history. B. Rogowska (1998, p. 7) claimed that “Parliamentary election, which were carried out in June that year, began a phenomenal process of changes in all the aspects of social and national life, euphemistically called as a political system transformation”. W. Roszkowski (2001) took into consideration that former regime collapsing in Poland was important but a piece of wider context. First of all, the Russian empire was unsteady on its legs and had no longer enough power to keep other soviet countries under the strict control. Secondly, international activity of president Ronald Reagan and George Bush became more visible and efficient. “From the Russian side dismantling of the communism in Central-East Europe did not run up against difficulties and from the USA—gained complete support” (Roszkowski, 2001, p. 391). Thirdly, Poles could count on their pope, John Paul II. And the last but not least, the opposition (Solidarity) grew up in power and became probably the biggest trade union in Europe with 10 million members. Bloodless regain of the power was attentively observed all over the world and this extraordinary example of a peaceful revolution gave a spark to other countries in the region as it led to political changes in Hungary, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Historians and media scientists call it the “People’s Fall” (Roszkowski, 2001, p. 391) or the avalanche effect (Dobek-Ostrowska, 2006, p. 23). First necessity in such situation was to create a new socio-political system or rebuilt the existing one. It is worth mentioning that even in those historical circumstances Polish public opinion did not change its attitude towards politics. E. Mlyniec (1998, p. 21) noticed that about 40% of the respondents showed no interest
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in that issue. Moreover, this figure stayed at the same level since 1980s. This was probably one of the reason why the process of institutionalization of the political parties in Central-East Europe did not engaged the society in the similar way as it took place in West Europe. As P. Sula (2008, p. 153) concluded, It implies there did not appear the interest groups which would spur establishing new parties. Not only were the societies not interested in ensuring themselves the political representation but they also did not show any enthusiasm towards acting in the functioning parties.
Nevertheless, according to M. Gierula (2001, p. 191) the political change started with the Round Table talks, when the opposition made an agreement with the ruling side and this … brought serious changes in the power system at the local level in the Spring of 1990. The parliament passed a new law on local self-government and the municipal council electoral law. These laws changed the local government system in Poland totally by making this system democratic.
In W. Chorazki’s (2001, p. 234) opinion, “The most important decision, however, was the decision on liquidation of censorship […]”. This meant the abolishment of the political party and governmental monopoly for press publishing and broadcasting of radio and television programs. These two acts allowed communes to establish small range titles and soon after hundreds of them appeared on the market. W. Chorazki (2001, p. 238) estimated that in the period 1989-2000 there were 4,236 local and sub-local periodicals and newsletters. Among important legislations two more has to be mentioned. March 22nd, 1990, Polish parliament passed an act of RSW liquidation. Though it was a long lasting process, this law had a crucial meaning for dismantling press monopoly in Poland. Due to this act over hundred the most recognizable newspapers were sold on auctions and 72 were taken over by the journalists’ cooperatives (Schliep, 1996). Thus, first phase of privatization was began. Because this process carried out simultaneously with the rapid grow of small titles, R. Filas (1999) suggests to name it as a “phase of spontaneous enthusiasm and forced transformation”. The second act played a similar role for the electronic media sector as the liquidation of RSW in the press. On December 29th, 1992, Act of Radio and TV Broadcasting was passed. Although introducing that law and carrying it out lasted over one year, it became the foundations of a new order in the electronic media sector. Illegally broadcasting stations were closed down and the first licenses were granted. Three nationwide radio stations and the only one TV broadcaster entered the free commercial market. Much more licenses were awarded on the regional and local level (e.g., 156 for private radio stations). This was the beginning of establishing a competition between public and private radio and television in Poland. It has to be kept in mind that these two sectors, namely the press and the electronic media, had been developing on the other legislatives grounds. The most important difference was participation of foreign capital investments. The Polish parliament gave a free hand to foreign entrepreneurs in the press and did not legislate any limitations for them. As a result, majority of Polish newspapers were taken over by foreign investors (Examples will be given in due course). The electronic media sector, unlike the press, was restricted. Foreign companies could own only one third of the broadcaster’s shares or in general meetings. This caused that the Polish electronic media market for dozen or so years was held in Polish hands and this was going to change when Poland joined the European Union in 2004. It is beyond question that financial engagement in the radio and especially in the television industry is distinctly higher than in the printed media. Consequently, if one might not have a chance to own the majority shares in the company just did not invest. To sum up, above considerations, it is worth quoting after R. Filas (2010, p. 51) that “If we deem Polish
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press market, in comparison with Western Europe, as a relatively mature it is not in the case of the electronic media, however, in last two years we are catching up in this field”.
Catching Up the Lost Distance Early 1990s in Poland was a period of rebuilding each of the fields. After the communism era Polish economy looked like a wreck. Galloping inflation reached dizzying level (249.3%) and the currency was left completely powerless and worthless. The political agreement, which seemed to be the priceless achievement of the transformation, soon became a cause to quarrels between parties. However, the newly established government had a certain support from its voters. Another thing is that 44 years of soviet suppression, dependency and communist propaganda resulted in lack of trust and in vanishing of real public sphere. T. Harcup (2009, p. 5) claimed that “The idea of the public sphere rests on the existence of a space in which informed citizens can engage with one another in debate and critical reflection; hence its relevance to discussions of the media”. A. Noga-Bogomilski (2004, p. 130) in turn points out that “In contemporary society media is the basic link mediating in process in which citizens control the authorities and the guarantee of free mass media existence is the one of civil society foundations”. For over 40 years neither space for open debate nor independent media existed. That gap affected the Polish media and political system for many years. Furthermore, it seems to be one of the reason why some remnants of the previous system are still visible. K. Jakubowicz (2007) suggested to name such a complicated situation a “negotiated transformation”. Press Sector Development One of the Round Table agreements was to allow the opposition to establish a newspaper. Solidarity did it on May 8th, 1989, i.e., “Gazeta Wyborcza”. The title alluded to the parliamentary election in June and was the platform to advertise and promote Solidarity’ candidates. The broadsheet turned out to be the most successful debut over the following decade and soon reached the top in the sale ranking. The strategy of the owner (Agora, domestic investors) was to provide a product based on independent journalism, quite obvious in Western Europe but unknown for over 40 years in Poland. Moreover, beside foreign affairs and national matters put in one back the newspaper also published regional or even local news in an insert (another spine included inside the main back). In two years “Wyborcza” had 13 such local additions and couple years later 18. This pattern of joined nationwide and local newspaper in one seemed to be the key to success. Early 1990s was the crucial period, which hugely decided about today’s shape of the press sector. Firstly, privatization was carried out under the pressure of the Liquidation Committee (due to the act of RSW liquidation). Rules of those proceedings were unclear and one of the most important thing was not to let the leftists (maliciously called post-communists) run media business in Poland. Secondly, in many titles the first step of privatization meant that from then on journalists themselves would become the management staff as well. However, this period did not last very long. Foreign companies proposed them to sell the shares and most of the journalists’ cooperatives did so. As a result the majority of Polish newspapers, especially regional dailies were taken over. During the phase of spontaneous enthusiasm many new titles appeared. This tendency weakened gradually as well as the daily press condition. In 1993 sale and readership of this press segment collapsed. There was a couple of possible reasons. First of all, dailies still looked like in the previous era: colorless, with blurry photos,
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printed in an old way. Secondly, foreign cheap and colorful magazines began to enter the Polish market. Among them the German groups were the most visible, such as: Axel Springer, Grüner + Jahr, Burda and Bauer. The third cause was the expansion of the electronic media. Furthermore, when in 1994 the first license process was carried out the popularity of information press decreased and this trend was going to be irreversible. Mid 1990s was called by R. Filas (1999, p. 46) a “phase of the market development after the first license process and German weeklies invasion”. On the one hand, the new order in radio and television broadcasting was setting up, on the other hand, German magazines flooded the Polish market. Those two trends overwhelmed other segments of the media sphere. As a consequence readership changed into “viewership”. One might say that the newspaper business became much more similar to television. Moreover, this probably influenced broadsheets to be lighter and sometimes as easy in reading (or rather watching) as tabloids. It is indisputable that the time for easy debuts in printed media was over. Late 1990s became a period of selection and specialization. To reach the audience publishers had to precisely shape their products. In truth there seemed to be no audience any more but just the target. Thus, new products were much more specialized, e.g., in economy or sport or even chosen discipline. According to official statistics (e.g., statistical yearbook, quoted after: Filas 1999) and comparing the circulation and the number of titles in each groups of periodicals in the year of socio-political breakthrough and eight years later (1997) changes were significant. Although the number of dailies increased from 53 to 61 their circulation dropped from 7.5 to 4.4 million copies per year. This figure visibly shows how strong the migration of the readers was. Regularity of the contact with daily newspapers became unimportant and readers’ preferences changed into magazines, such as weeklies and especially monthlies. Statistical data prove it undoubtedly. The numbers of weeklies grew from 239 to 338 along with circulation, i.e., from 16.8 to 19.7 million copies per year. Also periodicals issued twice a week became much more popular. The number of such titles doubled from 130 to 262 and the circulation increased even more—from 3.3 to 7.4 mil. But the most significant growth was observed in the segment of monthlies. In 1989 there was 108 such titles and eight years later 260. Circulation picked up from 13.8 to 32.5 million copies per year. The greatest beneficiary of these changes were the German companies mentioned previously. It is worth adding that the number of dailies was the highest in 1992 and amounted to 80. Following years proved that the interest of the readers and their preferences diverted towards periodicals. Thus, some of the daily newspapers at the end of the century had to close down. Regional Dailies Market and Foreign Investors’ Activity Regional dailies market in Poland is amongst the author’s expertise. However, this is not the main reason for treating this part of the press market with greater attention. First of all, barely any regional daily in Poland is still owned by the Polish investors. Most of them were taken over by two foreign groups, namely Orkla Media (replaced by Mecom in 2006) and Verlagsgruppe Passau (VGP). Secondly, it clearly shows important trends on the press market and also in journalism profession. Lastly, this is the closest daily medium to the readers. When the Liquidation Committee started its proceedings in the middle of 1990 there were a few crucial motives. First of all, to put the communists and their supporters away from the Polish printed media. Secondly, to gain funds for further existence and development of this sector. It was also connected with know-how and
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educated management staff that newspapers lacked. Even if the rules seems to be quite clear proceedings of de-monopolization were not. For example, as Z. Bajka (1998, p. 22) claimed a British investor, i.e., Maxwell was excluded from this procedure because of publishing a book about a prominent communist politician. Another example, during privatization of a regional daily the auction had to be cancelled because one of the tenderer turned out to be an officer of the former security service. It was pretty hard to find a domestic investor who was not discredited and foreign entrepreneur willing to invest in an uncertain and unstable market. In addition, with non-leftist affiliation. Furthermore, the Germans were perceived with a reserve due to historical matters. One of the investors who could meet all these requirements was French tycoon, Robert Hersant. Paying small amounts of money for the shares and using unknown firms he managed to buy majority holdings in eight newspapers. In 1994 Hersant ran into financial troubles and convinced by Franz Xaver Hirtreiter, CEO of Verlagsgruppe Passau, sold regional dailies out for 100 million Deutsche Mark (DM). In one day unwanted investors from Germany became one of the most powerful group in this segment of the press market. It is worth reminding that the Germans were aware of Polish audience attitude as a few months prior to the mentioned transaction they invested in disguise. Verlagsgruppe Passau used a Swiss company, namely Interpublication buying shares in two regional dailies. As one of the CEO of regional branch of Passauer admitted “It was done on purpose to avoid the media and audience hype” (Szynol, 2004, p. 62). Thus, when they made a deal with the Frenchmen in September 1994 their assets gave them the leading position. For almost two decades of presence in Poland, German investor applied various modes of business operations (Szynol, 2011). During their eighteen years’ presence they conquered six regions and a few dozen of smaller districts. Currently VGP sales about 320,000 copies of nine regional titles per day. The second investor, which appeared in 1990, was Orkla Media. This Norwegian group started with this brand new daily and failed severely. In due course they changed the strategy and began to follow a verified one: Buying shares in well-known titles existing on the market for many years. Although the Norwegians were not so aggressive as the Germans they succeeded in buying a dozen or so dailies in eight regions with a current sale of about 275,000 copies per day. They also managed to buy majority holdings of a nationwide broadsheet, i.e., “Rzeczpospolita”. It is worth adding that the Norwegians allowed the employees to found trade unions (unlike VGP), furthermore, they tried to implement some ethic codes and transparent rules of managing, yet with a little success. Both mentioned companies during early and mid 1990s were competing quite fiercely. However, at the turn of the century the rivalry was replaced by duopoly (Szynol, 2008, p. 138). Competition was partially restored when Orkla withdrew and its assets were taken over by British fund, i.e., Mecom. The Norwegians made their decisions in the headquarter and their managing was very centralized and far from the regional business. Moreover, their media assets constituted more less 10% of the whole company. Thus, the observant researchers were not surprised that in 2006 they sold media business out. But the transaction was strange to everyone. As the Brits did not have enough money to buy all the Orkla’s shares they borrowed the missing sum (about 100 million Euro) from Orkla itself. For Polish journalists the change of the owner meant tightening their belts because David Montgomery, CEO of Mecom, announced that newly bought assets should be more profitable. Soon it turned out that a few dozen of journalists in Poland had to quit their jobs. To sum it up, the regional dailies market in majority was taken over by foreign investors. There was a huge debate in this matter and media researchers were in two minds. On the one hand, German and Norwegian
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entrepreneurs brought new technology and know-how which Polish market could not offer at that particular moment. Secondly, there were no qualified staff in Poland and the level of managing was disastrous. Lastly, Polish newspapers gained a completely new look, i.e., design, colored photos etc.. On the other hand, as J. Flankowska (2002, p. 124) noticed there were several vital disadvantages of foreign investors presence. The most important were Polish capital marginalization, difficulties in determining who owns the media, mercenary attitude, commercialization and losing of independency. There was also a threat to pluralism and attempts to manipulate the public opinion. Electronic Media Sector Development It has to be mention that the electronic media were changing in due course after the press sector. Thus, when the de-monopolization of the printed media was at the final stage Polish parliament just passed the Act of Radio and Television Broadcasting (December, 1992) and established the National Broadcasting Council. However, the period before granting first licenses was packed with important facts. In 1990 two big commercial radio stations launched the market and soon from local/regional became nationwide channels. Incidentally, these two are today the top stations according to listening ratings. In the meanwhile also numerous smaller stations appeared. The television market grew in the same way. At the beginning private local stations appeared and later on the first nationwide commercial broadcaster—Polsat TV (December, 1992). It is worth adding that before the bill was passed some of the stations gained permission to broadcast from the authority, but some did it illegally without any permission. During the first license process this argument was used to kick the pirates out of the market. This was the case of Nicola Grauso, Sardinian investor who was trying to establish a network of local TV stations around the country. As some of his stations broadcasted illegally, he was not granted the license and had to leave the market. Owing to that fact, Zygmunt Solorz-Zak, the owner of Polsat TV could develop the first commercial country-wide television. On the verge of the first license process as R. Filas (1999) estimated, there were 55 illegally broadcasted radio stations and 19 local TV stations, also functioning without permission. In 1994 the National Broadcasting Council (NBC) granted four nationwide licenses: three for radio stations and one for TV. Two regional radio programs were also granted permission. Yet the most numerous group of licenses were the local ones. The NBC allocated 156 such concessions to radio broadcasters. That is how the revolution in electronic media in Poland started. Unlike the press sector, radio and TV market is divided into two segments: public and commercial. As it was mentioned before, during the communism era Polish Radio and Polish Television were subordinated to the government and were used as a tool of propaganda. Both institutions were generally treated as a one organism and controlled by the Committee for Radio and Television. When the communism collapsed it was quite obvious and vital to separate these two media and tear them out of the politics. This process lasted a couple of years, however, some remnants of an old structure and habits or even workers behavior remained. Although transformation of public media began simultaneously with the socio-political breakthrough, a milestone was made in December, 1992. On the strength of the Act of Radio and Television Broadcasting, the National Broadcasting Council was established. The prestige and power of this institution were built up by adding a separate chapter in the Constitution of Polish Republic. One of the most important sentence sounds The National Broadcasting Council standing on guard of freedom of speech, the right to information and the
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interest of public radio and television. Even though that another constitutional regulation says that the NBC member must not belong to any party, mostly they have political sympathies or affiliations. It was due to how the NBC is constituted, i.e., two members are picked up by the Seym, one by the Senate, and another two members are nominated by the president. This construction was indicated as a threat to political independency by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe together with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2008) in their report devoted to parliamentary elections. During the late 1990s the second license process was carried out and new competitors appeared. However, those who were the first on the market later on won the battle in the listening and viewing ratings. In 1997 the second commercial television was established, namely TVN. Although it gained license to broadcast over-regionally, TVN tried to compete with Polish Television and Polsat all over the country successfully. It is worth emphasizing that local television business did not develop in Poland. There were several attempts to enter the market but the number of stations were always very small. The audience showed not enough interest and the advertising market turned out to be too weak for such an expensive medium. Regional departments of public broadcaster seemed to fulfill this niche sufficiently. Additionally, at the end of the age there were hundreds of cable TV providers and two digital satellite platforms were launched. Thus, the competition increased significantly. The radio sector was developing visibly faster. After the second license process broadcasters began to use the scale effect and they started to set up networks of radio stations. This, however, caused that single private stations started to evaporate from the market. The bigger companies were trying to buy them up, unfortunately efficiently. In the meantime nationwide radio channels were fighting for more frequencies and possibilities to spread their signal. As soon as they reached the similar technical range with the public broadcaster they won the competition for the listeners.
New Age—New Challenges Crisis, Debuts, and Stagnation The new century began from an economic crisis. The national income decreased to 0.5% and it obviously influenced the condition of media businesses. Companies, trying to adapt to this situation, drastically lowered their advertising price lists sometimes offering dumping prices. For bigger media players this stage was bearable but some of the smaller entrepreneurs had to close their departments. As a consequence, Orkla withdrew from one of the region and sold two newspapers out to Passauer. The Germans merged them to their own newspaper. A few dozen journalists were dismissed and the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection started a long lasting proceedings against the Polish representative of Verlagsgruppe Passau, namely Polskapresse. After four and a half year trial Polskapresse won and the case was dismissed (Szynol, 2010). Despite the circumstances, Axel Springer launched two projects. In September, 2001, the Germans started with Polish edition of “Newsweek,” quite successfully. But the real hit of the decade was the tabloid, i.e., “Fakt”. None of the observers expected that the second nationwide tabloid would become such a great success. After two months of presence in December, 2003, “Fakt” deposed “Gazeta Wyborcza” with a sale of half a million copies per day. Paradoxically, launching the project at the end of the crisis was a brilliant idea. Competitors were dormant and advertising prices incredibly low, thus it was much easier than normally to issue a new title on the market. The beginning of the new age was also a time of free press expansion. Scandinavian “Metropol”, “Dzien
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Dobry”, supported probably by Swedish concern Bonnier, and Polish publishers titles on a bigger scale was something new on the market. Most of the media researchers claimed that unpaid press appearance weakened paid sector and not necessarily improved the condition of the whole printed media business. In due course foreign companies withdrew from the free press market which seems to be the prove that the business turned out not to be so profitable. The majority of titles left on the market were issued by these publishers for whom the free press was not the main issue but only secondary necessity in a fight with competitors. Even though stagnation passed by in 2004 and economic indexes went up a revival of the press sector was short. As R. Filas (2010, p. 43) noticed the number of daily press titles increased from 47 in 2003 to 58 in 2004, however, three years later there were only 43 of them and the circulation swung from 4.0 million copies to 7.8 and then dropped to 5.1 million copies per day in 2007. When it comes to regional dailies in 2006 Orkla sold all of them to Mecom and the Brits were trying to make it more profitable, thus a huge merge consisted of three newspapers was done. As a consequence each fifth employee was dismissed. In the years 2000-2008, both companies, namely VGP and Orkla (later on also Mecom) started to cooperate, which seems to be unique or even strange. They were gathering advertisements jointly. Such kind of competition was no longer fierce rivalry and would rather suggest establishing a pluralised monopoly. However, in October, 2007, Polskapresse launched a new project, i.e., “Polska The Times”. The German concern were trying to use the same pattern as in the Czech Republic when in 2006 all regional dailies were given a common title and departments had been consolidated. This idea turned out to be unsuccessful in Poland. Observant media researchers warned Polskappresse against unifying regional dailies, nevertheless the project was issued. After one year sale results could speak for themselves. It is worth mentioning that the regional newspapers share in whole paid dailies sector plummeted from 46% in 2003 to 29% in 2007. Unification and Foreign Affairs When in late 1990s one of the radio networks hired Jeff Holland to format a regional radio “Eska”, nobody could expect that that was going to be the beginning of the revolution in the radio sector. As the ratings doubled and the income multiplied, other competitors followed in their footsteps. As a result the number of independent local radio stations decreased significantly from 140 in 1998 to about 50 ten years later. They were taken over by the bigger players which were building up a new networks or developing existing ones. According to the NBC statistics 117 radio stations were gathered in nine networks. Leszek Koziol, the CEO of the Eska network owner, in an interview for the trade magazine (Slowinski, 2009, p. 39) stated that “this business reached such a stage of consolidation that nothing can stop it”. Next years proved that that was going to be a self-fulfilling prediction. In the new age the public broadcaster lost its privileged position. For over four decades Polish Radio programs were the only ones in the air. Since the socio-political breakthrough commercial competitors were trying to catch up the distance. It was mainly dependent on the frequencies granted by the National Broadcasting Council. As soon as the private stations gained a similar technical reach, they began winning the battle for the audience. In 2003 “Radio Zet” overtook the most popular Program 1 of the public broadcaster. Soon after the second commercial station did it the same, namely Radio Music Facts Frequency Modulation (RMF FM). It is unquestionable that public radio with four nationwide programs overlooked the moment when private competitors took over the market, especially the advertising one. The NBC data shows it clearly. In 1999 two
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most popular Polish Radio programs broadcasted about 100 hours of advertisements, while both private ones more than 300. Thus, 10 years later all four public broadcaster programs earned about 10 million Euro, whereas RMF FM four times more. In addition, public radio was known as a generous employer. In 2009 Polish Radio employed about 2,800 people with the average salary much higher than in national industry. More than half of them were hired for nationwide programs and the rest for the 17 regional departments. Excess employment was probably one of the remnants of the previous era. During the interviews with young journalists they claimed that in each regional department there was a couple of old workers who were keeping the full time job only because of the social connections or due to past merits. Such behavior did not happen in private stations. In the year 2004 Poland joined the European Union. This fact had a couple of vital consequences. First of all, Polish law had to be fitted to the EU regulations. For the electronic media sector it meant that limitation for foreign investors had been lifted. As a result, two the biggest commercial and the most popular radio stations were sold out. RMF FM was taken over by German group, i.e., Bauer and Radio Zet by French investors, namely Lagardere. There were not significant changes in the broadcasted content, however, from then on both groups could better use the cross-media activities, such as advertising campaigns. Convergence became the good way to upgrade media and journalists’ efficiency. One might say that it was carrying out with the benefit of the company not necessarily workers or even listeners. Specialization and Digitalization At the turn of the century popularity of television grew up visibly. Poles devoted almost four hours a day for this medium. Obviously, this fact was a threat to the press sector. In the period of economic crises industry was cutting all the possible costs leaving only necessary needs. This meant that advertising budget was limited to the most important media. Unfortunately, the press seemed to lose its prestige and reach in favor of television and soon also of the Internet. The first years of the XXI century were rich in new projects. Alike the press, though in due course, the process of specialization began. Broadcasters were launching their first thematic channels concerning the news, weather, motor or health issues. In 2003 catholic television (TV Trwam) was established as a part of extravagant priest (Tadeusz Rydzyk) realm, consisted of nationwide radio, newspaper and mentioned “TV Trwam”. Another manifestation of the TV sector development was the increase of the cable television reach. According to the NBC statistics in 2009 there were 600 providers and four and a half a million sockets. Furthermore, their offer became wider. Beside television content they started to provide access to the Internet and phone connections (triple play service). In addition, the proportion of people using digital signal was still rising. In 2006 there were three digital platforms in Poland operating via satellite with the number of recipients circa six million. Consequently, the market became very competitive and the offer was abundant. Thanks to that, to catch the target platforms were introducing technical novelties, such as: personal video recorder, video on demand, and high definition television. Although the strength of the commercial TV sector increased significantly, Polish Television with its two main programs (TVP1 and TVP2) and news channel (TVP Info) was still dominant. Their viewing ratings in 2009 were about 40%, however, step by step decreasing. Two commercial stations gained below 31% (TVN—15.9; Polsat—14.8). But it has to be kept in mind that private companies were developing thematic channels, while the public broadcaster did it with a huge reluctance and with a delay. It is highly probable that the public television will lose its privileged position in favor of the commercial
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sector, as it was the case of the Polish Radio. There are several reasons to advance such a hypothesis. First of all, managing efficiency. Polish Television employed in 2010 over four thousand workers (almost three thousand in the headquarter and the rest in 16 regional departments) and the salary was twice as much as the national average. Long lasting procedures of appointing the board of TVP and politicization of this process were other harmful factors. Apparently, the organizational matters influenced also programming issues and had an impact on the content. As media researchers pointed out in agenda settings measures it was visibly shown that public broadcaster was not politically independent. Especially during the election campaigns (Nowak & Riedel, 2010). New Medium—Old Problems Though the history of the Internet which began in late 1960s, the common use of this medium fall on late 1980s and 1990s. The first portal in Poland was established in 1995 and up until the end of the century the Internet spread out gradually. R. Filas (2010) stated that in 2000 only 7.8% of Poles had an access to the Internet. Moreover the transfer was slow and the service was quite expensive. It changed essentially in the leap of time. In 2003, 21.7% used the Internet and in 2007, 41.5%. The barrier of 50% was exceeded in 2009. From then on it might be said that the Internet was in common use in Poland. In the following years numbers of users did not change so visibly which means that there is a group of people not really interested in using this medium. Obviously, the elderly were the core of this cluster. In the late 1990s media companies were quite sure that the Internet would start a kind of revolution. They were also assumed that it would be an easy way to make a profit. Thus, entrepreneurs established a lot of branches and regional departments working for e.g., news portals. Unfortunately, economic crisis at the beginning of the new century caused that those expectations were not going to fulfill. Even the biggest portals had to close their local posts. If the business was based on other activities dismissals would not be necessary. But for the others sucking was the only chance to survive. For bigger media players it was obvious that running a newspaper is a necessity to show it on the screen in the electronic version. At the end of the 1990s almost each of the nationwide title had its equivalent on the Internet. Later on also regional dailies became visible online. Today there is no question whether to be on the Web, but rather how to be present there and even the most important how to earn money being online. Especially that the Internet was lately the only one medium generating dozen or so percentage progress according to the advertising revenues. On the other hand, publishers are still looking for a fair trade for printed content presented online. However, there is no one successful pattern to be applied everywhere.
Conclusions Polish media system went through a long way from the socialist, dependent, non-citizenship tool of political indoctrination towards democratic and free market model. This journey seems to be ending, however, some media researchers claim (Dobek-Ostrowska & Glowacki, 2008, p. 12) that none of the Central East European countries reached the mature transition stage of democratization and media reform because “Mass media turned out to be too weak to face political actors on one side and the market on the other. As a result, the media system acts under pressure from political and economic systems”. The remnants of an old and disgraced system, however, are still present in the law and, what is worse, in practice. Managing manners in public media are among them. Another one, discrediting Polish legislative
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system is the Press Law. Polish journalism is still working accordingly with the act from 1984 when there was no Internet and the independent media. On the other hand, some of the acts has been changed so many times that the current shape is no longer equivalent to the intended one. The press sector was privatized and thanks to that this part of the market transformed significantly. Along with the new owners or newly established companies technology changed completely and the technical quality of the newspapers increased immensely. For the nationwide dailies it meant also a huge progress in journalism professionalization. Although it was not necessarily the case of the regional and local dailies, German and Norwegian investments were so mercenary-minded that the quality of journalism receded into the background. The electronic media had been divided into the public and commercial sectors, however, the rules of the competition between them are still uncertain. Public radio and television are supported from two sources: advertisements and license fees. Politicians a couple of times announced abolishing of this dual system with no success. Moreover, both media are on the verge of digitalization. Analogue TV signal is going to be turned off at the end of July, 2013. Radio broadcasting will be digitalized in due course. This may change the market irreversibly. Three digital platforms of terrestrial television will give the power to the audience and their remote controllers not to politicians, as we might have observed for several times. The Internet did not change the media order upside down. Though traditional media had to adjust to its presence and made it useful complement of existing business. In the future it may happen that the traditional media will be the supplement of the online content. Media system in Poland is still shaping. Scientists are trying to fit this sophisticated structure to one of the three models of media and politics proposed by D. Hallin and P. Mancini (2004). Even though there are some indications that Polish media system is the closest to the polarized pluralism, the authors themselves after a couple of visits in Poland were not so sure of that.
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