‘Witness’ and Media Effects

Changes of ‘Mass Society’

  • Rapid growth of population numbers.
  • Technological advances enable industrialised cultural repetition of media products.
  • New urban class developed with more disposable income.
  • Popular commodity culture grows (creating things to sell).

Does ‘witness’ encourage audience action or passivity? Probably passivity because you see so much and become desensitised to the images in the media.


  • Ebola
  • Wars
  • Syria
  • Sport Relief
  • Comic Relief
  • Children in Need
  • Ice Bucket Challenge

With all of these things, it feels like you have to be involved due to the publicity and the extent to which these issues are dispersed throughout the media on different platforms.

‘Hypodermic Model’ Of Media Effects

  • The media injects messages directly into the bloodstream of the public.
  • This model is frequently revisited during moral panics.

What is a ‘moral panic’?

A moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.


Key problems with media effects models

  • Effects models tackle social problems ‘backwards’.
  • Effects models underestimate the intelligence of audiences (particularly children).
  • Effects models are characterised by barely – concealed conservative ideology.
  • Effects models focus on negative media effects rather than positive ones.
  • Effects models are not really grounded in any theory.

From Effects to Influences

(Lazarfeld, Berelson and Gaudet: The People’s Choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944)).

  • The media’s direct effect on the public is weak and short-lived.
  • Media reinforces ideas rather than changing them.
  • Social characteristics are more influential than the media.
  • TWO STEP FLOW EFFECT: The media transmits information via opinion leaders.

What are/who are ‘opinion leaders’?

An opinion leader is a well-known individual or organisation that has the ability to influence public opinion on the subject matter for which the opinion leader is known. Opinion leaders can be politicians, business leaders, community leaders, journalists, educators, celebrities, and sports stars.

The Press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.’ – Bernard Cohen, The Press and Foreign Policy. New York: Hercourt 1963.

‘Agenda Setting’

  • The media’s agenda is set by government and corporate forces to protect their interests.
  • Wikileaks revealed CIA pressure on TIME to present images of Afghan women’s suffering to encourage support for the war.

These are notes from my Semester One seminars and lectures.
I do not own the above image, it is from: http://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/13128

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s