In hearing the recent news of Penn State Coach Joe Paterno's death, I couldn't help but be reminded of our recent discussions on communications and the readings for this week. A apologize in advance for bringing up a topic we've heard ad nauseam over the past few months. However, the false early reporting of JoePa's death shows a great downfall of the art of journalistic communication and the written (or tweeted) word.
If you're unfamiliar with the stories surrounding JoePa's death this weekend, or you just want to read the full story, you can check it out here:
This intense oversight and lack of source-checking makes me wonder what Charles Horton Cooley would have to say. Peters and Simonson, in their description of Cooley, say that he believed in "the moral and political superiorities of print over the more "prehistoric" oral tradition." (Peters and Simonson, pg. 21)
First, do you consider digital type in the same category as print? While it is written and distributed to the masses, it can be easily altered at any time. However, digital type is similar to print in that the message is rarely targeted to a specific person, but instead to a large audience.
Many of the essays in the readings for this week tout the great ability for mass media, public opinion and communication to free people from the ideas of those solely in their close vicinity. As Cooley says in his essay, The Process of Social Change, "he is not merely, as in primitive times, a member of a social group which tends to shape his thought and action; he is the point of intersection of many groups..." (Peters and Simonson, pg. 23)
While this particular example about Joe Paterno may be an exaggeration on the norm, it does call into question whether different communication avenues are beneficial, or if mass communication has digressed to an art of fighting to be first, imitating information and acting on gossip. If it has, it is no better than the spoken word. In the JoePa case, the breakdown of information occurred even more quickly than in speech, due to the ability of new technology to instantaneously communicate.