COMM 101 "Study Guide" for Exam 2

Lots of definitions of terms. References to our class discussions. References to videos.

This is a very quick collection of barely formatted notes. These notes are not intended to be a substitute for your own notes, regular attendance at class and the textbook. Questions on the test will come from all those sources including films we have watched in class.

The Exam Review

There will be 25 multiple choice questions (worth 4 points each)

Media and Ideology

An ideology is a system of meaning that helps define and explain the world and that makes value judgments about that world. A dominant ideology is when that system is the most pervasive one.

We all have this feeling that the media contribute to our world view. And we’re right.

You do see other views. A “dominant ideology” in struggle with other views.

Much of the controversy in contemporary culture wars focuses on what kinds of images are in our media. Critics on both the left and right chastise the media for their portrayals in both news and entertainment.

People worry that the media can promote ideas that are objectionable. Therefore, most people don’t complain about the programming that supports the views they support.

The accumulation of media images tells us what’s “normal” and what is “deviant”. Those who fear depictions of pre-marital sex have the same fears as those who fear depictions of a perfect, white, middle class lifestyle. Both fear that such depictions will define “normal” and set limits.

Hegemony connects questions of culture, power and ideology. It is “The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others.”

Ruling groups can maintain power through force, consent or a combination of the two. There are plenty of historical Force examples. But consent also plays a role.

Hegemony operates at the level of “common sense”. Things that are so obvious that we need not critically evaluate them. Things that “everybody knows” Deeply held cultural beliefs. EXAMPLES: Women are more nurturing; men are more competitive.

People also talk of “natural” ways. “It’s only natural.” “People only want to hang out with others of the same type.” There is a danger that this can be used to legitimize economic inequality or segregation. Sometimes, we can think this way without even realizing it (the female surgeon exercise).

Media images

Attacks from both sides make the center a defensible place. Everybody likes to be in the middle. Bigger audience. But that place itself becomes the promotion of an ideology since it strives to represent what is and maintain the status quo.

News doesn’t reflect the consensus it does the active work of defining the consensus.

News focuses on the powerful and institutions with established interests. One guy Herbert Gans, did a study that says the most common themes in news were:

• “social order” and
• “national leadership”.

Order and leadership are ways of supporting the existing structures.

More attention paid to the doings of elite individuals. Not very diverse in its views. Insider politics – presented as something that is not for us. Keep out of politics. And only views that are very mainstream.

Economic news

We are workers, consumers, citizens, and investors. Every paper has a business section. Why? Where’s the labor section? Where’s the consumer section.

Our news equates the health of investors with the health of our economy. Covering the business news seems “natural”….

Media Organizations and Professionals

Constraints on news selection

• Economic

Organization of Media work

• News routines
• Selecting important stories
• Objectivity

Economic Constraints

Profit demands shape programming decisions. But, it’s the structure of economic constraint vs. agency of producers, writers, programmers, etc. Do well and live, do bad and die. It’s human action influenced by the desire to succeed and stay employed.

That’s why programs all look the same . "The Logic of Safety."

Organization of media work

Many people working together to make the decisions relying on earlier decisions to help decide what is normal.

A media convention is a practice or technique widely used in a field. For instance magazine covers all have the name at the top of the page and a big picture in the center. All evening news casts look the same.

News Routines

What is news? How is it chosen? What is important? What detail about it is important? Have to fill a newspaper or TV show everyday. Good or bad there must be news. “Slow news day?” Thousands of things “happen” every day but not all news.

Very often reporters anticipate the news through:

• Bureaus
• Beats
• Contacts

So much news focuses on the activities of official organizations.


Press is routinely criticized for not being objective. But what is objectivity, why do we like it? It’s a belief in “facts” vs. “values” and their segregation. But “facts” can be misleading – PR “facts” don’t tell all.

We think of Objectivity as having 6 parts.

1. political neutrality
2. decency and good taste
3. documentary reporting using evidence
4. standardized formats to present info
5. reporters who are generalists not specialists
6. internal editorial review to enforce all the above

The News Corporation, run by Rupert Murdock, consistently offers a biased one-sided Republican view via their Fox News channel. Viewers who get most of their news from that channel tend to have incorrect "facts" about the reality of news, especially international news. This demonstrates the dangers of concentrated media ownership and an expectation of journalistic integrity that is not borne out in reality by all broadcasters.

Representation of "others"

Three critical issues emerge when we look at portrayals of race in the media.


Initially, no serious roles for blacks

Is Racial Narrowcasting of Programming a Good Thing? 94-95 season only 1 out of top 20 shows was shared between blacks and whites. Today it’s 9 out of the 20


Most roles for minorities have been very negative

Servants, evil geniuses, criminals, or just plain dumb

Sometimes childlike and in need of help

But things are getting better… Blatantly racist images are now rare

Representation of "class"

Working class characters are shown as dumb and therefore “deserving” of their economic status

Reinforced by idea that working class characters are dumb. Message is that working class families are poor because they deserve it.

Representations of LGBTQ+

Out of the Closet and Into the Media

Homosexuality in Film

In the early 1930s, homosexuals in movies were used as “comic devices…erotic titillation… or to depict deviance, perversion or dependence.” From the mid ‘30s to the early ‘60s, images of homosexuality were strictly censored.

When the images of homosexuals appeared in the mid ‘60s, the message was mostly negative. (Homosexuality = “sickness” “unhappiness”)

Fejes and Petrich’s Research

Research of films made between 1961 and 1976 that featured a homosexual main character were studied.

Cultivation Theory

TV has a homogenizing role on viewers of many cultures. Do TV programs show us the real world? But for many, that’s where opinions about the real world are formed. People who watch a lot of TV see the world as having more crime than it really does. 

They believe in a "mean and dangerous world". They also form more conservative political views based on those concerns. Those views can make them more likely to give up some legal protections for safety.

Agenda Setting Theory

"The Media may not be able to tell you what to think, but it is stunningly successful at telling you what to think about." is a statement used to describe the ideas behind which theory? Agenda Setting Theory.

The idea was that the media was influencing what we considered important by leading with stories or putting them on the front page.

To test this, researchers asked two groups of people what they felt the most important issues of the day were. The answers varied from climate change to the economy. The groups were then separated and over a period of time were shown different cuts of the news. Some of the viewers saw a version that showed stories on particular topics early or late in their broadcasts, others saw different versions of the same stories cut in different order. The result was that the people changed their views to match the agenda of the news source they saw. The stories that led seemed like the most important issues of the day. Those views did not necessarily match real world importance.

But were the news outlets controlling viewers to advance the media's interests, or were the news providers simply following the interests of viewers by giving them what they wanted?

Questions of Cause and Effect

A test of Agenda-setting hypothesis must show that public priorities lag behind the media agenda. Yale researchers established cause-and-effect chain of influence from media agenda to public agenda. Viewers who saw media agendas that focused on pollution and defense elevated those issues on their own lists of concerns. This confirmed cause-and-effect relationship between media agenda and public agenda

Internet Media Social media tends to focus on social issues (birth control, same sex marriage) and public order issues (guns and drugs). Broadcast tended to focus more on economics and the process of governing


Based on class notes from 4/7