Multi-Faceted Media Culture By Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
Media is the creation of just about anything in an organized society which encompasses experiences and sensations at different social levels where discrepancies and dissimilarities create or expose of media institutions, media industries or individuals. Its ultimate character is influenced by the interaction of the media organisation with other social and governmental institutions.
Finally the culture in which it is produced influences the media. Sri Lankan media, for example, are similar to the media of other developing and industrial countries, but there are varying differences between Sri Lankan media and those found elsewhere.
Media form an integral part and confine to one's own society influenced by it. In other words, if culture did not affect the media, then there would be no difference in every society; for example, TV news in Sri Lanka would be pretty much the same as it is in the United Kingdom, but this clearly is not the case. It is not only TV news, but most other media as well differ in dissimilar forms in content, treatment of content, and even in the assumed relationship writers have with the readership.
In the present context of communication, electronic media are focussed and telescoped to the forefront. Mention the word 'electronic media,' the first thing that comes to our mind is the smart phone, radio, television, cinemas, films and of course the computer.
To gain far-reaching knowledge on the development of the electronic media one needs to refer back to the nineteenth century and the 'telegraph' which introduced a completely new structural mechanism by observing and identifying the community's sensitivity on space and time.
Telegraphy in Greek means the long-distance transmission of written messages without physical transport of letters. A telegraph sends electric pulses in a special code composed out of short and large marks. In 1844 Samuel Morse invented a telegraph using only one wire, thus it was named as the Morse code, in contrast with the existed system of the 'Pigeon Post.'
The telegraph enabled almost instantaneous transmission of messages across the universe and cultivated a balanced officialdom of time. Synchronization of time around the world gave rise to the standardisation of time sectors of Greenwich Mean Time in the UK to be
defined as the correct time at anyplace in the world.
In the process of pigeon post, a special kind of pigeons called "homing pigeons' was used as a means of communication. The Romans used 'pigeon messengers" to aid their military over 2, 000 years ago. Julius Caesar used pigeons as messengers in his conquest of Gaul (an ancient part of Europe encompassing modern France, Belgium, the South Netherlands, South and West Germany and Northern Italy). Greeks transferred the names of Olympic game winners to their various cities making use of "homing pigeons." Pigeons have also been used to great effect in military situations and were called "war pigeons."
With the dawn of electronic means of communication, instantaneous transportation of messages around the globe became a reality. A new form of empire expanded across space and became possible, according to Harold Adams Innis, the eminent Canadian Professor, who explored the role of the media in shaping the culture and development of civilizations.
Traditional critics have been asserting that the media are liberally biased focusing particularly on American journalists of major newspapers and a few well-known TV presenters. Many individual characteristics of mass communicators can indeed influence the content and character of the products they create. For example, at least since the 1960s, women and minority groups have actively argued and worked against their under- representation in the media industry.
American Society of Newspaper Editors (1997) reported that in 1996, only 11 per cent of daily newsroom workers were members of minority groups (5.4 per cent African American, 3.3 per cent Latino, 2 per cent Asian American, and .04 per cent American Indian). Why was it a matter of concern?
For at least two reasons – the desire for the members of minority groups to have equal access to jobs and fair consideration of promotion and advancement and with the belief that minority groups should receive fair and accurate exposure in the news with minorities represented in newsrooms. In other words, this argument led to the personal characteristic of the journalist. Ethnicity or race can make a difference in what news gets covered and how.
In universities when students are ascribed to concentrate on their research papers, first it becomes a startling experience for the student to identify what an appropriate subject would be; its length and the word content; how to go about in his research; organizing and prioritizing data; the length of the complete thesis, assigning of chapters and finally whether a footnote is necessary, with a glossary indicating all the sources that helped the students to complete the thesis.
Here of course, the professor becomes the guiding star that could elucidate some of the doubtful areas of his students. So he rather expressly advises his students thus: "Choose a subject or an area close to your heart, it should have a minimum of X thousand words, it needs an introduction, your point of view supported by a summary and conclusion." The professor's other answers could be open ended.
The writing of the first chapter for students would be confusing, the second chapter becomes somewhat simpler and so forth, until the students begin to learn the procedures and how to go about in the research along with the organising and writing techniques also by conforming to the boundaries of rules and regulations of the university.
The same principle could be applicable to media organizations because not a single journalist ever sits down with a blank sheet of paper or glares at a blank computer screen and asks himself: "What am I going to create for the media today?" Instead, he sits down with a set of ideas, which are governed by the laid down procedures of the organization. The rules, techniques and practices then make the journalist to be constructive and thereby media too becoming creative and efficient.
'John of Arc, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi, among others, kindle all journalists. Those pundits loved the constructive and the positive, but they also spoke out and struggled against the failings of the rulers. Most of the modern media men and women will always be poor followers of those figures, but let them at least be followers!'