Monday, January 23, 2012

False Communication – Faster Isn't Always Better

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.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've pointed out a really interesting example of what Cooley was talking about in his essay when he said, "the invention of writing opened the world to the competition of social institutions" (Peters & Simonson, p. 24).

    Your comparison between digital type and actual print (along with Cooley's comparisons to the oral tradition) provides a great example of the competition and unique boundaries between the social institutions that separate these methods/styles of communication from one another.

    With digital type and print, I was struck by the differences you pointed out between the two. I sort of think the ability digital type has to be easily altered at any time almost makes it more like oral communication verses print in a way.

    I also agree that it's easy to perceive journalists as glory hounds thanks to media articles (like the one you posted) and to movies like Shattered Glass with Hayden Christensen that reinforces these types of perceptions/stereotypes. However, maybe because news sources/websites/outlets are somewhat decreasing in popularity, the stress placed on a journalists to be the first one to get that good story makes it more likely for them to make mistakes when source checking. Maybe, in an attempt to sustain themselves or their workplace, some journalists are simply succumbing to hegemonic forces.

    Cooley said that "it is the tendency of communication to give human nature a fair chance, leveling before it the barriers of ignorance, blind hostility and constraint of place, and permitting man to organize his higher sympathetic and aesthetic impulses" (Peters & Simonson, p. 24). I guess we all make communication mistakes! :)

    I really like your reflections and comparisons to the reading.

    P.S. Thanks for letting me know JoePa DIDN'T die...I was more mindblown then when I thought he DID die!