Media Effects

media effectWe put a kettle on, the water boils. So who is responsible, me or the kettle? For years people have been blaming media for their problems. The media says I’m too fat, the media says I’m too thin, the media made me more violent. But who controls the media? Is our society run by secret intelligent assigned monkeys to play some kind of sick trick on us? Or are we too in denial to admit that we, ourselves, in fact influence what we see and read?

Media effects are usually perceived as negative, video games such as ‘Manhunt’ have been banned in countries like the UK and New Zealand after a fourteen year old boy was cruelly stabbed by his friend who was supposedly obsessed with the game. Ever since more and more video games have been linked to violent and antisocial behaviour. Interesting enough a research by psychologist Christopher Ferguson, published in the Journal of Communication, argues otherwise. Ferguson and his team point out that many laboratory-based studies into the effect of media violence have measured aggression in test subjects through “less aggressive outcomes ranging from filling in the missing letters of words through delivering non-painful noise bursts to a consenting opponent.”

We gain a lot of knowledge from reading newspapers, books, articles and visiting websites. We use music and videos to shape our moods and often to trigger a wanted emotion. With the advance of social media, Facebook and other methods of online communication have grown dramatically and improved our way of interaction by allowing us to connect with people we might have not seen for years, family members and friends who are overseas.

So how do we define the effects of media being positive or negative in our lives? And most importantly, who do we blame?

As human instinct, it is always easier to blame our problems, insecurities and mistakes on someone or something else. In chapter 3 of Media Effects by W. James Potter, he talks about four media-influenced functions that are; acquiring, triggering, altering, and reinforcing. The one that interested me the most, is altering because he talks about an exposure during the media that can alter something that’s already present within ourselves. So for example, if I was angry at my Mother while playing ‘Manhunt’, I might get an aggressive and cruel thought or attitude towards her, however, if I was content with our relationship while playing the same game, it would not have an impact on my thoughts or attitude at all.

James Potter then goes on to explain the forth influenced function which is reinforcing, again he points out that media is simply reinforcing an idea or an emotion that is already present in ourselves, making it harder to change our own opinion as we are carefully selecting parts of the media that best agree with our feelings and morals.

This, however, is a very broad term that can be argued either way. Being a 21 year old teenager very dependent on all kinds of media, I fear it’s our own ignorance and lack of profound knowledge and research that leaves us exposed to the effects of media. A strong and intelligent mind would not be easily affected or corrupted by anything, perhaps only opened to new perspectives and point of views.

Putting the kettle on, and complaining that we got burnt by the boiling water is the perfect metaphor for media effect today.


BBC News 2004, Game linked to hammer murder, available from, accessed 18/03/2015.

C, Ferguson 2014, ‘Journal of Communications’, Does Movie or Video Game Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When, International Communication Association, Vol 65, Issue 1, pp 193–212.

W, J Potter 2015, ‘Media Effects’, What is media effect?, Sage Publications Inc, pp. 41-46. Available from Sage Journal Articles.




In a world conformed by the media, web browsers, bloggers, tweeters among other means of buzz feed have been able to gain access to an audience that was once only available for professional, graduated journalists. But what really is our jobs as journalists? To chase the facts and display them around the world for public knowledge. As the web grows faster, so does our stream of audience. Our news, our discoveries become freed from its confines and are available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  And this is very powerful.

Yes, this does leave a path for coming across bad researched news that has failed in some ways, like when Reddit users identified the wrong man as the Boston bomber in 2013, for example, or when a network of media sites perpetuate obvious hoaxes and misinformation because they care more about clicks than the truth, something Craig Silverman described in detail in his recent report for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

However, it’s not all bad. With the increase in network journalism, we have been able to gain access to stories and perspectives who would have otherwise been unknown to us. A great example comes via a piece in the New York Times magazine which is available online. It tells the story of a group of residents who live in one of the worst slums in Rio de Janeiro. A group that calls itself  “Papo Reto,” meaning “straight talk.” Armed only with phones, they have been documenting police violence in the Rio favela, at great personal cost, because the Brazilian media apparently isn’t interested.

Other news like these are often seen from places like Ukraine where it is difficult for media outlets to devote that kind of resource that would be required to document every sighting of every Russian vehicle, or spend weeks analyzing different types of missile, or the blast marks that they leave when they are fired from a truck.

In the case of the Rio favela, the existing media doesn’t seem interested if a few people happen to die suspiciously, since that happens all the time — but it is of extreme interest to the residents of the Complexo do Alemão slum, and also to human-rights groups like Witness, which is trying to help more “citizen journalists” document that kind of behaviour in similar situations.

Are there flaws in citizen journalism? Of course there are. Is there a downside to giving everyone a video camera and a Twitter account and telling them to become reporters? Definitely. But there is also a massive upside to doing so, Papo Reto in Rio makes that point.



Controversies about issues like journalistic objectivity and fairness continue to rage in a world where press freedom is constantly under threat and even non-existent in some countries, where newspapers are drastically downsizing, due to web journalism being on the rise, taking many forms to shape what we call journalism today. Real questions remain about whether it can really uphold its standards and replace newspapers.

Among the pieces of conventional wisdom that get trotted out whenever the subject of the newspaper industry’s decline comes up, one of the most popular is that the internet is the main culprit: in some cases, it’s the entire internet, and in some cases it’s specific web services like Craigslist. But while the democratization of distribution and the atomization of content have definitely accelerated the decline, journalism professor George Brock argues that newspapers have been on a slippery slope for some time, and that what journalism is going through is a natural evolution rather than a disaster.

Brock — who runs the journalism program at City University in London, England — makes these points in a book he recently published, but also laid some of them out in a blog post entitled “Spike the gloom — journalism has a bright future.” Everyone has a favourite example of the decline of the industry, he says, such as the sale of the Boston Globe for 97 percent less than it sold for two decades ago or the massive rounds of layoffs that continue to sweep through the business.

It’s certainly easy to find that kind of evidence of doom, but I think Brock is right when he argues that “this picture of deterioration is one-dimensional, incomplete and out of date,” and that journalism is flourishing if you know where to look.

In many ways, Brock’s arguments are similar to those advanced by Business Insider founder Henry Blodget in a post about how we are in a “golden age for journalism” — a phrase that Arianna Huffington has also used a number of times to describe the innovation that is occurring in online media. Even New York Timesmedia critic David Carr described the current environment that way during a Q & A last year in Toronto, saying Twitter and other forms of citizen journalism are having a largely positive impact, despite their flaws.

COOPER; A life outside journalism


Sitting at 1 meter and 42, Cooper is a handsome blonde male whose hobbies include daily afternoon runs, differentiating types of flora, such as grass, plants, barks and dirt. He also enjoys freshly poured water, long walks on the beach and any kind of sport that involve bouncing equipment.

No, Cooper is currently not a student at Wollongong University, but one day, someone like him might be. At 14 months of age, Cooper is feeling a little excited about graduating from Puppy pre-school into the next chapter of his life: He will now leave his owner Nick, and begin his intensive 20 weeks training course where he will transform from an adolescent into a fully grown, trained guide dog.

Ever since Nick learned that his uncle suffered from glaucoma (the result of abnormally high pressure inside the eye) and was slowly losing his vision, he began searching for simple things he could do in order to improve his uncle’s way of living.

Nick began to learn braille and with the help of his mother, they decorated his uncle’s house with braille embroidered signs, in hope that his uncle would slowly begin to learn braille himself.  Sadly, the increased pressure of Nick’s uncle’s eye eroded the optic nerve tissues, which lead him to total blindness sooner than expected.

Although the family came together at this difficult time, his uncle felt alone and secluded from the outside world. Being of age, he felt he would now spend the rest of his life alone, often doubting his ability to continue easy, everyday tasks without his sight.

Being a busy 21 year old student, Nick began lacking time to visit his uncle and a feeling of guilt took over him when he overheard his uncle talking to his mother one night.

‘I can’t even see the colour black anymore. It’s as if you place the palm of your hands in front of your eyes and held them there. Its just blank.’ I heard him say that and my heart broke, I knew I had to do something, I have so much, and he has… well not even darkness’.

After that night, Nick contacted Guide Dog Australia and went in for a meeting. This is where he met Cooper, a tiny little pup weighting a merely five kilos.

He would turn his head to the side and wiggle his tail, and I know that’s what every dog does, but he just knew he was coming home with me’.

After receiving the qualifications to become a trainer, Nick took Cooper home with the happy approval from his mother, who cried when meeting the friendly pup.

She cries about anything these days’. Laughs Nick.

Nick’s uncle was so thrilled with the news and has been living with Cooper who is now a very much loved member of the family. Even though he is not completely certified yet, Nick and his uncle will farewell Cooper for the next 20 weeks in hope that he passes all his skills test and training with colourful grades and come back to what has become a changed life for all of those around Cooper.

Before my interview with Nick and his uncle ended, I took the liberty of asking his uncle a quick question:

-How would you describe the colour yellow to a blind person?

Cooper, that’s how. He has given me back my sight’.

* Please scroll down to the bottom and refer to my Vox pops #2 ‘How would you describe the colour yellow to a blind person?’.