Introduction to International Development Studies
5 March 2015
The Role of Media in Our Society
Media plays a significant role in our society nowadays. We are constantly bombarded with information without being aware of it for the majority of the time. It is all around us, from the news we listen to on the radio, the documentaries we watch on television and to the books and magazines we read each day. Poverty is an international issue that affects all nations, some more than others, and because it is a common issue, media tends to portray it in a more drastic way, in order to get our attention. The media marginalizes people by showing the public what they want to see, usually stereotyping different groups of people, and indirectly infixing a distorted view of reality in our heads. The information the media divulgates can be very biased about a story, advertisements, or coverage on different social issue, because its main goal is to make a story sounds interesting, outrageous and different, just so they can make money out of it.
As part of the audience, we cannot evaluate the accuracy of the stories we read or the images we view without direct personal experience or specific background knowledge of the issue. Furthermore, highly politicized issues are likely to reflect the interests of a dominant social group, causing less powerful groups to be stereotyped and devalued (Bullock). The messages conveyed by the media are important because the media has the power, to a certain level, to manipulate people’s feelings. Depending on the way they portray their point of view, it can make us feel all types of emotions, and easily affect our judgment. Although poverty is one of the most devastating problems faced by many countries, stories about the poor are relatively rare on television nowadays.
When exposed to so much information, from all around the world, our brains start to ignore it. In the article Famine as photo op by Will Braun talks about how media uses certain types of photos to show their audience what they want us to see. ‘’The distended belly is back in the news. It’s a shocking sight – a motionless, blank-eyed Somali child with emasculated limbs, a seemingly over-sized head and a swollen abdomen. Or maybe it isn’t shocking’’ (Braun), but we are so used to seeing these photos everywhere that we became numb to them. Will Braun brings up the question ‘’If the images numb us, is the fault the photographer’s or ours?’’(Braun). Because of the unlimited access we have to information, or attention span is becoming shorter and shorter each day, which causes the media to try harder to reach us. ‘’The average international story on national television news in the United States lasts one minute and twenty seconds. On that basis alone, it appears almost inevitable that there will be misreporting, even if inadvertent, on the journalist’s side and misunderstanding on the viewer’s’’ (Rieff). The lack of background information can lead us to make assumptions, and those assumptions can turn into negative beliefs and reinforce stereotypes.
The media has power. Disaster areas that are covered by the news tend to get our sympathy and humanitarian intervention. Media coverage is critical for the fundraising efforts of international development NGOs in times of emergency. ‘’When the media gets involved, the public is aroused and public emotion can become so intense that UN work is undermined – constructive