This is a blog about how being a journalism student has ruined what was once my innocent, media viewing life. AKA, how three years spent taking classes from one James “Jim” McPherson has single-handedly paved the way for this travesty to occur.
While traipsing through the Newseum today and the Smithsonian’s American History Museum yesterday, I was struck that the items I paid particular attention to had shifted drastically since the last time I was in DC. Before, I wandered the exhibits soaking up information and photographs like a sponge, eager to take in everything that awaited me. However mostly recently, I actively critiqued the images and information I saw, applying media criticism and analyzing the historical context. In both museums, I ran towards newspapers, examining the layout, kerning, tracking and positioning of headlines and columns of text. I questioned the relevancy and style of putting a massive headline across all eight columns, at the top of the New York Times. The process of putting ten subheads underneath a single headline, and then listing four stories with butting headlines right by each other! Oh, my little journalist’s heart was aching and my eyes were burning as I saw the rules of design I cherish being chipped away right in front of me.
That was just the text; there was a whole other set of critiques found in the images displayed. The portrayal of the Vietnam War was especially telling, as in a barrage of images I saw a good 12 Jim had either shown in class or I’d stumbled upon in my research. I pressed my nose to the glass in these instances; reading detailed inscriptions to see if what the museum purported to know matched what I myself had learned via Jim. [On a separate chord, I shrieked with glee when examining a Native American exhibit, when I found an error pertaining to the Shoshone tribe and their projectile points, as learned by my summer of working for the US Forest Service].
While Jim may have taught me to question every thing I see or hear, mister Ronald Pyle taught me to question my questions, to find theories and define motives. Agenda-setting theory has legitimately permeated everything I have seen while in NYC and Washington, DC. Newseum had a section focusing on the corporate ownership of news media, showing how media has set and determined what people think about [media agenda -> public agenda -> policy agenda]. Then there was Bloomberg, Ketchum and others in NYC that also appealed to media theories, including semiotics and cultivation theory.
Beyond all this, Jessica and I discussed the little representation the West had on any of the exhibits we saw or museums visited. While it was interesting to examine the roots and history of America so in-depth, there was little to be discovered about the West, a geographic area that is still important to the development of the United States we know today. As a Nevadan, I was especially disappointed that there was no mention of the role Nevada played during the Civil War, as we were brought into the union for our mining industry and to make bullets for the union at a cheap and rapid rate.
On any account, being a journalist has provided hidden meaning as my education has shaped the way I view and define the world. While I long for the days where I could mindlessly watch content and pretend oblivion, I am grateful that I can no longer ignore questions that arise. So, I’ll grudgingly say “thanks”, and continue on this new path of media enlightenment.