Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Discussion for Chapters 19-24

Class, below is the discussion for Chapters 19-24. Please review.

Chap. 19: The Entertainment Media, 1900-present

Since 1900 entertainment has expanded its role in American society, and in the process it has introduced a number of changes into the lifestyle of the nation. As we draw farther away from the beginnings of the American recording and broadcasting industries, more historical work is being done on these areas of mass culture that have so affected the way people spend their leisure time today. Yet, many historians are still awed by the magic of music making and broadcasting, and they tend to hold a romanticized view of the industry. Others who were part of the industry, either in management, production, or as performers, write on their area of expertise, but with a hidden agenda: to vindicate themselves, to expose others, to brag about their accomplishments, or simply to bring up fond memories. Although historians have used a number of approaches in studying this phenomenon, they have been mainly interested in its development, its purpose, and its interaction with national culture.

1. By centering on how the entertainment industry evolved, have historians romanticized its history?

2. What social changes in American life help to explain the emergence of the star system in the silent film era?

3. How has the evolution of the entertainment mass media affected 20th-century American culture?

4. What connections can be seen between the new entertainment media that have appeared in the 20th century and previously existing ones?

5. Did the entertainment industry exist to provide and promote culture or to make money? If it existed to promote culture, then who decided what that culture was to consist of? Was the deciding force talent, origi¬nality, charisma, or money-making ability? If it existed to make money, then who decided which forms of entertainment would make money? What role did public opinion play in such decisions?

7. What, if any, major changes did the enter¬tainment media bring about in society?

Chap. 20: The Age of Mass Magazines, 1900-present

As mentioned with the questions for chapter 13, magazine history is a relatively new field. It is, however, one of the richest fields of media studies to explore, and the history of 20th-century magazines merits attention for many reasons. In this age of mass circulating media, magazines have both fourished and failed. This fact has attracted considerable attention among historians. Throughout the century, magazines have enjoyed a special place in American culture, but once again it appears that historians disagree about the nature of magazines and their connection to society in general. To grasp the historical debate about magazines in this century, it is necessary to address some basic questions.

1. How can the rise of mass circulating magazines be explained?

2. What difference does the ability of editors and publishers have on the success of particular magazines?

3. What has been the relationship between advertising and magazines?

4. How did the appearance of radio, and later of television, affect the mass magazine's potential from the points of view of both publishers and advertisers?

5. Why have some magazines managed to survive despite changes in the communication environment?

6. As with other mass media, the key question in magazine history deals with the essential nature of magazines. What was that nature? Were magazines essentially products of culture or of economic forces? Was their purpose, in the context of the 20th century, basically informational or literary? Or, was it mainly perceived as a form of entertainment?

Chap. 21: Modern Advertising

A large part of advertising history has been written by histori¬ans with a business, social, cultural, or political axe to grind — and often while the historians were on the way to doing something else. As a result, many traditional concerns of history have not been ad¬dressed; and a number of fundamental questions remain unanswered.

1. The most basic question is this: Is the history of adver¬tising the history of business and economics, or is it the story of culture and society or some combination of the two?

2. Is adver¬tising the history of an institution that has steadily improved or that has been constantly in need of reform? Or, as Marxists have ar¬gued, is it the political, social, and economic sys¬tems that must be reformed?

3. Can the history of the United States be told, as historians favorable to advertising have suggested, in terms of business ac¬tivities with an occasional hand from advertising?

4. Questions about historians’ perspectives raise questions about how methodological approaches have affected the writing of adver¬tising history. Has the Developmental approach relied too heavily on often minor changes in the advertising process to the exclusion of environmental factors? Has the use of a “Great Man” approach granted too much im¬portance to decision makers and not enough to evolution within the process?

5. Have historians credited too much power to advertising to manipulate the pub¬lic? What evidence would be adequate to demonstrate such influ¬ence?

6. Have historians spent too much time in either defending or attacking advertising, and too little in examining the process of ad¬vertising and its place in soci¬ety?

Chap. 22: Public Relations, 1900-present

The topic of public relations has concerned writers and thinkers since the early 1920s. Yet relatively little historical research has been conducted on the subject. Furthermore, the field has only re¬cently been accepted as a professional area of study.

Despite the lack of research, or perhaps because of it, historians disagree on several fundamental questions. While attempting to examine the origins of public relations, some historians maintain that the beginnings were during the period of the Roman Empire, and that the American Revolution led to public relations practition¬ers such as Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson. Others state that the railroad industry in the early 1900s laid the foundation. Still other historians suggest that the field was not de¬fined until the 1920s and did not become an organized, widespread profession until the 1930s.

The confusion appears to arise from a lack of definition over the term public relations. There¬fore, historians have shown consider¬able disagreement in their def¬initions of the term and in their in-terpretations. They confront a number of questions.

1. The first question they face is, What is meant by the phrase public relations? Did public relations in some form or fashion ex¬ist during the Ro¬man Empire? Or, if the field is defined as a profes¬sional science, did it originate before the 1900s?

2. Furthermore, how can the historian properly delineate the ar¬eas covered by such an extensive subject as “public relations”? Such a broad subject is difficult to centralize and often overlaps into other areas such as politics and business man¬agement and into related areas such as press agentry, publicity, and advertising. Is it possi¬ble for the historian to separate the subject of “public relations” from those areas? Should areas such as publicity and business manage¬ment properly be a part of historical studies in public relations? Can such functions as distributing press releases and organizing spe¬cial events be included as a part of professional public relations, or are these activities merely publicity attempts?

3. What was the essential difference between public relations and pub¬licity?

4. Can the evolution of public relations be credited to particular individuals such as Bernays and Lee, or should it be attributed to the entire cultural en¬vironment?

5. In particular, what role did economic considerations play?

6. In attempting to answer that question, how can the historian determine the intent of American business leaders? Did they hon¬estly see the value of social responsibility, or did they adopt public relations simply as a profit-making tactic?

Chap. 23: The Media in Transition, 1945-1974

The advent of television was a landmark event in the history of mass communication in the post-1945 decades. Rapidly accepted by all sectors of the American population, it surpassed all other media as the most-used and most-believed source of information. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, it became a major source of American perceptions of society and politics and of pressing national and international crises—by means of both its news and entertainment content. Despite its relative newness as a mass media, historians are confronting a number of questions abut its nature and role in society. They have also taken an interest in the effect it has had on other media. They have, moreover, found great significance in studying media performance during these decades, which involve events and movements that have left their imprint on American life in many ways.

1. In which public matters during these years did the news media acquit themselves with the best distinction? Why?

2. Did television raise or lower cultural standards?

3. Has television fulfilled its great expectations as an information medium, or do the natural tendencies of an intensely popular mass medium in a free market system prevent it from doing so?

4. Can historians continue to interpret television journalism without defining precisely what it is?

5. How did other media affect early television and how did television affect other media?

6. What was the essential nature of the journalistic media? Is they best explained in terms of professional journalism practices and progress, as some historians have argued, or as biased and ideological tools?

7. When did the news media perform best—when they operated in a bal¬anced, detached manner or when jour¬nalists viewed their role as adversaries of other established institu¬tions such as government or business? Should the media have been an adversary? From where did that concept arise—from the news media or from other institutions?

8. In a democratic society, what should have been the preferred role?

9. If one believes it is an adversary role, what is the basis for de¬termining that a professionalized press serves the interests of the public better than elective government rep¬resentatives do?

10. Should historians bring an ideological perspec¬tive to their study of the past? Is it possible for them not to do so?

11. If one accepts an ideological role as appropriate for the press, as liberal historians did for the post-1945 period, on what basis does one determine what the preferred ideology should be? Is there any reason to believe that a liberal ideology, the type advocated by the majority of media historians, should be preferred over a moderate or conservative one?

Chap. 24: The Contemporary Media, 1974-present

The recent past is a difficult and uncertain area for historical inquiry. Restrictions on records and the fact that some of the crucial sources that historians use have yet to materialize for these years make the study of this time less than complete. Moreover, the absence of sufficient time lapse and the attachment one has to present convictions and passions make it more difficult yet for historians to practice the canons associated with historical scholarship. In some cases, the use of historical analogy and the search for continuities help to overcome these difficulties. In some other cases, the concern that historians have had in trying to determine the nature of the journalistic media in a definable past period has guided them in probing that same proposition as it relates to recent years. Regardless, media historians display an intense interest in recent journalism history. While they have provided some understanding of the media in the last several decades and have suggested interesting questions about it, their interest encourages speculation about the nature of historical study.

1. In terms of his media relations, to which two previous presidents can Ronald Reagan be best compared?

2. How did the government's treatment of journalists in the Grenada invasion (1983) and in the Persian Gulf War (1991) resemble that in earlier 20th-century conflicts?

3. How does the criticism of the news media in the 1970s and 1980s resemble that of the press in earlier periods?

4. Does the essential nature of the media appear to be different in the 1980s from what it was in the 1960s? The 1920s? The 1890s?

5. What effect has historians’ interest or involvement in recent events had on their ability to explain the recent past?

6. Is it appropriate for histo¬rians to be more deeply motivated by their interest in the present than in the past? Can the past be studied fairly if the historians’ pri¬mary interest springs from the present? If historians are deeply motivated by their interest in the present and are influenced by their own times, is it possible to pro¬vide accurate assessments of recent events, or must we wait until a length of time has passed?

7. What must be done for historians to provide meaningful assessments of events that occurred during their own lifetime and in which they may have been seriously involved?

8. Since journalism is sometimes referred to as instant history, what can be gained by asking the following: What are the similarities and differences between journalism and history?

No comments:

Post a Comment