Take me out to the ball game…

Ahhh… We’ve made it to that time of year again… Halcyon days, verdant, pristinely-manicured turfs where “the boys of summer” beguile leisurely spectators tucking away peanuts and cracker jack and… beverages. The “Great American Pastime” is in full swing (pun) in renowned parks all over the landscape. Just relax, and take it all in…

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

What’s missing?

Umm, let’s see… Got my glove (just in case!), my over-worn and under-washed cap (soap dilutes good luck), flip-up shades (that’s how I roll), smart phone (duh!), XL cup of Dr. P (yeah, I will drink it all!), foot-long carcinogen-filled, cardiac arrest inducer (I mean, hot dog). That should do it. Still, I can’t shake this feeling I’m missing something… Wait, I know what it is! It should be here anytime now! I’ll just sit back and wait for

the melee!

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

the almost inevitable brawl, the brouhaha,  the fracas, the altercation, the scuffle, the skirmish, the… kurfuffle? Yes, I’m talking about that other Great American Pastime… watching a good fight! (or even a bad one)

Where did the halcyon go? I can’t see the verdant turf for all the… Wow! That shortstop has a mean right jab! I wonder what that guy said about his mother?

Wait, I digress… I was talking about the all-too-common tendency for disagreements among “professional,” “adult” baseball players to be settled like children on the playground, complete with foot stomping, theatrical arm (and hand) gesturing, and tete-a-tete bad mouthing at the top of their lungs. And let’s not forget the wrestling, punching, and rolling on the ground. What recess rumpus would be complete without those?

Sports commentators–and the media in general–generally give a wink and a nod to these demonstrations of poor judgment, and that’s when I come off the bench to critique broadcasters’ apathy and general misunderstanding of the troubling attitudes that major league fights belie.

  1. You’re making 6 and 7 digit salaries, so…. Shut up and play!
    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    In 2013, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million, while the average U.S. salary in 2012 was $42, 500.  (Why don’t they talk about that on the nightly news?)

  2. You’re role models to thousands of young people! (Do I really have to mention that?) Here’s a list of 10 players who ARE doing it right.
  3. This is not going to last. Enjoy playing baseball while you can! This requires the humility to understand that, even if you’re Babe Ruth, you won’t be forever.
    Leave a positive legacy.
  4. You’ve beaten the odds. Why jeopardize that? (Is anybody still reading this?) A college baseball player has only about a 11% chance of making it in the MLB, and the average career length is about 5 1/2 years. Why are you so angry?

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

While the typical textbook tells budding journalism students that their highest calling is objectivity in reporting, the reality is that hardly anyone ever practices it. At best, some broadcast journalists practice selective objectivity, carving out a niche of issues on which they feel comfortable riding the fence and making a show of detached professionalism on largely irrelevant topics. The vast majority of broadcasters these days likely couldn’t define objectivity. Never mind do they know why it’s important. So yeah, that’s not happening. But we’ll keep teaching it, just in case a few of our students are listening.

Most of our students are at the age where they would find video clips of baseball brawls hilarious, not discerning the implications for the sport, the audience, and society in general. That’s why broadcasters must not simply report about fighting in sports; they must help educate viewers about the negative effects of bad behavior. One small way to begin making a difference would be for sportscasters to resist the urge to editorialize on camera after reporting these stories, especially with the typical tongue-in-cheek approach that conveys lighthearted disdain, but also their enthusiasm for having a sensational “get” story. Tosses between anchors at the news desk are usually brief, but laughing and vocal inflection gives the impression that nothing that happens during a game is to be taken too seriously.
What a shame!

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

A wonderful benefit of Christian liberal arts education is that it challenges students to apply moral values to practical career situations. In this vein, I would encourage my students to temper their enthusiasm for all things raffish with reading from Scripture, such as the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself
(Proverbs 22:24-25, NASB)

 

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

Tonight at 10: Mack the Knife!

Do you remember

Photo Credit: Devin.M.Hunt via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Devin.M.Hunt via Compfight cc

that iconic song made notoriously famous by Bobby Darin, a tongue-in-cheek parody of the 1920′s German play, “Die Dreigroschenoper” (“The Three Penny Opera”)? The song was first made big in the U.S. by jazz legend Louis Armstrong in 1955, but it was Darin who made it a night club-style “classic,” winning a Grammy for Best Record of the Year in 1959 and becoming that year’s second best selling song, taking it to #1 for nine weeks.

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ken Bondy via Compfight cc

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear…

But can you imagine

Photo Credit: Shavar Ross via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Shavar Ross via Compfight cc

a TV news anchor dancing atop the desk, SNL-style, gyrating his hips to a swingy beat in an irreverent mash-up of the day’s top stories? (Maybe you can, actually.)

And it shows them pearly white…

Agenda-Setting
An abundance of research has shown that the news media, while not telling us what to think, clearly tell us what to think about. McCombs and Shaw did seminal work in this area in the 1970s, and their findings are still highly regarded–and have been rigorously emulated–in the academic field of mass communication through the present. This body of work has been directing our attention to—and illustrating how—some issues, values, video clips, and a milieu of daily highlights are shuffled and re-shuffled in order of importance in our minds, some decreasing and some increasing in salience and prominence among our thoughts de jure.

Photo Credit: bionicteaching via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: bionicteaching via Compfight cc

Just a jackknife has old Mac Heath, babe…

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

In both print and broadcast journalism classes we repeatedly stress the eight “newsworthy” elements that make a purported news story worth telling. We give examples of these and ask students to identify them both in participatory activities and on exams. The eight newsworthy elements are, in no particular order:

  1. prominence (of someone in the story)
  2. proximity (to the audience)
  3. timeliness (newness of the information)
  4. conflict (between parties in the story)
  5. overall impact (on the audience)
  6. emotional impact (on the audience)
  7. magnitude (how far the impact reaches)
  8. oddity (getting the audience’s interest)

A good understanding of these elements is essential to our students’ success in creating good, engaging news that daily readers, viewers, and web surfers will want to consume. Frequently, however, classroom discussions about which story elements would be most effective and appropriate to focus on for any given story reveal that, at least initially, students are generally unreflective about their own motivations for how their angle on the story will affect their hapless readers/viewers.

And he keeps it out of sight…

Moreover, because of the very influential power of news media to direct people’s attention and even, ultimately, to affect their attitudes, budding journalists must take their responsibility seriously as purveyors of information. Careless Unreflective Reckless fact gathering and reporting will inevitably have deleterious effects on everything from losing credibility (on the “big” issues), to creating unnecessary alarm, to enervating democratic processes.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

You know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe…

Clearly, sensationalizing violence  and gratuitously feeding the basest needs of audiences for graphic “news” is not an appropriate default strategy for journalists. There is much more to informing the masses than simply being “ambulance chasers” and “doomsday prophets.” There is a far higher plane to which academia can direct its acolytes, instilling within them the desire to inspire with their writing and pictures, to create a hunger for greater knowledge of the world around them, rather than soliciting knee-jerk reactions time and again.

Photo Credit: madamepsychosis via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: madamepsychosis via Compfight cc

Scarlet billows start to spread…

Failing to instill this concern in the classroom setting, however, perhaps journalism instructors should convey to students the apostle Paul’s concern, wherein he reminds us that, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9, NASB)

Thanks for watching! Good night, and have a pleasant evening!

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

They can’t sleep…

Earlier this week in my Broadcast News Reporting class we were discussing how to write a hard TV news story about the recent spree of violent crimes known as “The Knock-Out Game.” This sadistic “game” is generally perpetrated by young males in urban settings, sometimes in broad daylight. Generally, one male from among a group (or even walking all alone) will sucker-punch an elderly woman or unsuspecting man, an innocent passer-by, perhaps someone carrying something. In every case, the victim is caught completely unaware and completely defenseless. Coming from the blind side (or even from behind), the assailants hit their targets with a full force fist punch in the head, knocking them unconscious and to the ground with such violent force that some have died from their injuries. All have suffered serious injuries.

Why is this happening?

There is no theft or sexual assault accompanying the attacks. Wallets, purses, and bags are left intact, even beside the victims. There is little apparent motive, other than a few miscreants wanting to amuse themselves. But again…

Why?

Solomon (inspired to write Proverbs) tells us that wicked and evil [people] “cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:14-16, NASB). This very clearly tells us the Who, What, and Why of the story. It’s enough to get a writer going. But in class discussion another culprit became apparent, one that sees the crime but doesn’t help the helpless, one that may be as much to blame as those who strike down the innocent.

Who’s watching?

Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hunnnterrr via Compfight cc

The CAMERA is!

Yes, the camera! Several students, as well as I, became increasingly convinced through our discussion that the cameras which captured the crimes for all to see, as well as the Internet and TV networks which repeatedly showed the attacks, were very much accomplices in the crimes. No doubt. First, there are the security cameras in many locations, all too effective in capturing the attacks, but not always clear enough to identify…

Who Done It?

In fact, at least one assault was videoed by the assailants themselves on a cell phone, which later got lots of TV “news” air time, having made it into social media streams faster than the news of the crime itself, far faster than any ambulance could arrive on the scene to help.

In previous blogs I’ve pointed out that research indicates that visual media inspire imitation. Vicarious learning may be a release for some, but for others, a cue to reenact and reinforce what they’ve learned. Pictures and video on social media are no exception to this, and they may, in fact, make the behaviors shared by others seem much more plausible and easy to carry out. Add the illusion of anonymity, and there is very little regard for the consequences of one’s actions.

How do we write about it?

The budding journalists in my class were clearly struggling with how to begin telling a serious news story for their audience. The challenge of crafting that LEAD SENTENCE can be daunting for anyone, especially when a story evokes a range of strong emotions, not only for the victims, but for the journalists themselves. Our discussions about WHO did WHAT to WHOM, WHERE and WHY became very spirited. But when I try to get students to nail down one strong, concise phrase that grabs our attention, sets the tone of the story, and compels us to want to hear more, many are stymied.

As I typically find in class discussions about issues that are highly evocative, there are several stumbling blocks that must be overcome.

  1. Victim blaming (lack of empathy)–likely an attempt to gain distance from the uncomfortable topic
  2. Joking–making light of the injuries and seriousness of the crime
  3. Prioritizing–inability to distinguish the most important facts from lesser important facts
  4. Newsworthy elements–inability to choose which angle to take on the story, such as impact, magnitude, proximity, oddity, etc. (There are 8.)
Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.