Thursday, June 23, 2011

News Media Theories and You: Part 2

Viewers of television news are often bombarded by stories of doom-and-gloom. It is the act of Agenda-setting that is helping the violent stories take precedence over any other tamer subject matter. These are the stories, of course, that hook the audience from a previous show into watching that ultimately equates to ratings and ad revenue. There is, however, a relationship that has been studied between light and heavy television news viewers and how one perceives the world around them. As you might expect, heavy television news viewers perceive the world as scarier and gloomier than viewers who don't watch much news. The theory and relationship is referred to as CULTIVATION THEORY or SCARY-WORLD THEORY. Local television news might be the best example of how this theory works. Local television news programs, like national news, put their most pressing and often violent stories up front.  Violence is being localized for many television viewers creating the Cultivation effect, but on a much more personal, regional level. Moreover, major national or international news events like coverage of earthquakes or hurricanes from across the world become local interest issues in your town. Many of these stories become "what if it happened here" scenarios where all the information conveyed is purely speculative. This certainly brings home destructive events occurring elsewhere for viewers and creates a brief heightened sense of awareness in everyone.

Piggybacking off Cultivation theory is another theory that attempts to discover what people get out of watching television, such as gratification. This theory or construct is called the USES AND GRATIFICATIONS APPROACH. Expected consequences of using the medium is that viewers have psychological or sociological needs to be fulfilled by watching TV, and are only fully gratified when a pattern of watching television is developed and is used habitually. This approach is finally broken down into three areas of study: information or surveillance gratification, personal identity gratification and cognitive gratification. The viewer could watch a program simply to be entertained, or with an active involvement where they become briefly affected and may even respond more strongly to ads during the program. Keep all this in mind next time you're watching TV, just don't become like this kid:   

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