Media Coverage shows Media Influence

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A question in the minds of media professionals is, what is the role of the media in the spread of world events and as a venue of public influence?

The Quran burning event has been a major topic in the media and has sparked the question of what the media should cover when it comes to something that could have a worldwide effect. Many news organizations have refused to print pictures and extended articles about Terry Jones' extremist threats because of their perceived ability to have a harmful worldwide effect.

Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, said in response to decisions to not extensively cover the story, "The freedom to publish includes the freedom not to publish."

The question of the role of media as public influence is hard to answer, especially when extensive coverage of a topic like the Quran burning would exasperate civil or religious extremists world wide and even endanger Americans overseas.

Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of ProPublica, discussed the idea of media as public influence at the Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop 2010. Steiger discussed how modern news outlets have a goal of promoting stories that have a "high process of going viral" rather than topics that are "thought provoking...or challenging."

The question that the newspapers had to answer was whether the Quran burning story was a harmfully viral story or an important and thought provoking story worthy of public recognition and ultimately a form of public influence. Some decided that this story would become harmfully viral and would endanger the public as it influenced it if the story was printed in whole.

In this case, the reader can judge if these media outlets made the right choice in refusing to print this story. It can be the reader's job to keep the media outlets in check with the values of journalism and also to allow or not allow these media outlets to influence the public.

It comes down to personal judgment and an ability, or inability, to be influenced.


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