You Be The Judge

Hi I’m Simon Cowell. Not literally, but this semester for the purpose of this class I will be playing the role of judge. My name is John Barr. I am currently a junior majoring in Political Science & Mass Communications with a track in Public Relations. I enrolled in Media Criticism 352 with the hope further developing my analytical skills. The course description states we will learn “Theory and practice of media criticism intended for various audiences, including consumer-oriented criticism, social criticism and scholarly criticism.”

Media critics are the score keepers of our society. Media literacy is essential to media criticism and the process of understanding and evaluating “text.” You may ask the question, why is it so important to think critically about media?

Today, there are more than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks. Historically, there were only three or four major national broadcasting networks those being ABC, CBS, NBC, and DuMont, which has currently been replaced on the list by FOX. Market research giant The Neilsen Company estimated that there were 115.9 million television households in the United States as of the 2010-2011 TV season. In the words of Vice President Joe Biden, it’s kind of “a big [bleeping] deal.”

Question your media. Is it biased, is it incomplete? Who is behind it and what are their motivations? Brandchannel and Clearchannel are two important tools you should become familiar with.  Brand channel will give you a complete list of product placement and featured brands in some of this year’s box office hits. Clear Channel leads in radio broadcast station ownership with 1,207 stations reaching 201 out of 287 markets in the United States. Chances are if you heard it on the radio Clear Channel had something to do with it. These websites are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transparency.

Media is powerful. Less than a week ago, on May 31, 2011, CBS News reported on a story of a teen that killed a young girl for money for a computer game. The bludgeoning with a rock of the young 7 year old girl by the 15 year old boy took place in Vietnam where violent crime is rare. An uptick in these sorts of incidents has cause authorities to tighten restrictions on online gaming.

We as the consumers of media should be responsible and critical enough to choose the right messages delivered by the media. We should look vigilantly for both sides of one issue not just one. We should have some research to know the truth. Don’t outright accept what is told to you as the truth. It doesn’t matter how much media is exposed to us, we must be able to decipher the messages sent by media and ask questions so we are not influenced in a negative manner.

This past spring semester while taking an Urban Government class my professor asked the class if they believed crime rates had risen or fallen nationally in the last decade. All the students in the class including myself believed that crime rates had risen in the past decade. Why wouldn’t we? Isn’t that what our news is dominated by today. He informed us that each and every one of us was wrong (according to the FBI) and that this was a common misconception.

The show The Secret Life of An American Teenager was first met with a lot of skepticism. The first season focused on a 15 year old girl, who comes home from band camp having had sex for the first and only time resulting in pregnancy. It explores how the pregnancy affects her life and the life of the unborn child’s father and also the strain it puts on everyone around them.

The New York Post commended the series for having a set of characters that are “… real and come from families of all stripes – from intact to single-parent households to one boy in foster care…”

On one hand the show can be viewed as a cautionary tale to the youth about teen pregnancy. In this instance one decision has forever affected the lives of many.

On the other hand some would argue that this show is further promoting teen pregnancy by placing it on the primetime stage and allowing the youth to think that this is supposed to be what the life of an American teenager is supposed to be like.

This speaks to the ambiguity of Media Criticism. Your personal experiences, beliefs, and ideologies will ultimately shape the way one critiques this show and others like it. Criticism automatically has a negative undertone because of its meaning but Media Criticism is not meant bash “text” but rather to dissect them. What I find most shocking about this show is that the show can be viewed on ABC family’s channel and their parent company is The Walt Disney Company. When I think of Disney I don’t picture of pregnant teens but rather Mickey Mouse.


About John Barr

Double Major Student @ Towson University
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One Response to You Be The Judge

  1. tgood515 says:

    What I loved most about your blog was the supplemental resources that you used. You really went above and beyond with conducting research about media criticism and how it can be analyzed. Furthermore, you gave direct connections for people to use, to explore the topics that you summarized.

    Additionally, you laid it out quite nicely. You tied in a lot of references that would interest a wide audience, from broadcasting stations, to providing a current events application of the fight over media, and rounding it out with the family favorite – Disney.

    If I had to offer some advice on how to improve further posts, I would touch upon the concepts we are learning in class. You did an awesome job of utilizing your own knowledge on the topic, but a lot of the material we learned in class would have fit in nicely, especially in your intro. Douglas Kellner and his article on media culture found at provides excellent in depth observations regarding media criticism and consumption. A quote of his that I plugged into my post stated, “The media are a profound and often misperceived source of cultural pedagogy: They contribute to educating us how to behave and what to think, feel, believe, fear and desire — and what not to.” This idea would tie into your argument about Clearchannel and Brandchannel quite well.

    Other than that I thought your writing was very intelligent and well constructed. You immediately lured me in with your introduction and held my attention for the length of the post.

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