24 June 2007
My awesome paper
Here is my final paper for social problems. I got all 250 points. Cool 3 It is all about how the news media (read: FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC etc) is a social problem in itself.

Gunman shoots elementary students and kills himself; gunman shoots college students, videos a manifesto that is eventually seen by millions, and shoots self; girl buried alive within 200 feet of her own home by sexual predator; entire families slaughtered at the hands of known or unknown killers; police catch armed robber that led them on a two hour car chase. Is this the latest airing of any CSI, Law and Order, or a new best seller? No, this is the average airing of the news media that is broadcast during family programming when children are watching television with their parents. The news media is now a social problem. Cartoons, dramas, television movies, and documentaries all have ratings applied that help Americans decide which show is right for them or their children; all programs have ratings except the news.

A social problem is defined as “a condition [that] exists...threatens the quality of [our] lives and [our] most cherished values, and they also agree that something should be done to remedy that condition” (Kornblum and Julian). As a society we would like to promote peace and non-violence. We strive to eradicate abuse, rape, and other violent crimes. Still, society turns on the television to watch the local or national news during the five or six o’clock hour in the evening and bring the violence into their home; Americans bring the very social problems they wish would disappear into their living rooms and into the view of their children. Instead of reinforcing the beliefs, laws, and values that our society holds the news media acts as a stage for those that break our laws and this, in turn, mocks our values.

While some will choose to argue that a conflict perspective should be used when labeling the news media as a social problem, we will come to see that a more accurate sociological perspective is an interactionist perspective. The argument can be made that bad things happen to good people (be it rape, abuse, murder, or robbery) because of certain groups in society having little power. They will say it is because of racial inequalities or inequalities based on gender that crime happens (Kornblum and Julian). It is a struggle for power between different classes and people. If we get rid of the inequalities that exist we will get rid of the crime. We can see and perhaps even understand why a conflict perspective fits in describing why criminal activity takes place. However, this does not describe why our society puts such behavior in the spotlight.

Using an interactionist perspective shows us that actions that happen occur because of an individual’s response or behavior (Kornblum and Julian). For instance, not everyone enjoys a large party. If someone is there that does not enjoy that type of atmosphere they can make one of two basic choices. The person can either leave the party or stay and be uncomfortable and perhaps say or do something they may later regret. If the person chooses to leave, they interacted with the scenario by leaving. If a person leaves (or does not attend) enough big parties, the person or people that hold such events will stop inviting them. Yes, the party will probably still go on (because that was an action or decision made by another person). However the person that does not like big parties is just that much less likely to spill red wine on the tie of his best friend’s boss.

We use laws, churches, and families to construct our values and beliefs. It is wrong to speed. If someone gets caught, they get a speeding ticket. It is wrong to murder someone. If the killer gets caught, the killer will be punished. It is wrong to shake babies. If someone shakes a baby, different kinds of punishment (ranging from legal consequences to physical harm if the caught by the right person) could result. Our society has rules and limits. We interact with the rules and limits. If we break them we have disregarded society’s values and we will pay the consequences.

Different parts of society may have different beliefs and values, but overall our country defines criminal behavior the same. It is not a matter of how one group may see someone as acting in an eccentric manner if a bank is robbed; a bank robbery is a bank robbery. Kornblum’s and Julian’s article states that “a behavior or situation becomes a social problem when someone can profit in some way by applying the label ‘problematic’ or ‘deviant’ to it.” News media such as CNN or Fox News receive revenue from advertisers. Advertisers receive revenue from consumers. Consumers watch the news. In a never ending circle it is important to point out that news media will look for and broadcast the most sensational story available to draw in more viewers. Viewers become desensitized to the violence because of how much we see in drama shows and in the news media. Some will argue, however, that it is different to see the violence on the news because that is realistic violence.

So how do we, as a society, raise a TV-Y generation in an NC-17 world? First it is important to understand what the rating system is and how it works. The television rating system was instituted in 1997 (E., 2005). Along with ratings that indicate age appropriateness of a show (i.e., rated Y for young viewers, G for everyone, 14 for those 14 and older), under the rating small letters exist that code whether a show has sexual content, inappropriate or adult language, violence, or suggestive dialog. The system has helped parents determine which evening or primetime shows, cartoons, and television movies are appropriate for their family. All shows, except the news media, have a rating; including cartoons that include fantasy violence such as Pokemon.

We rate cartoons anything from G to PG with maybe even sub-ratings for language or suggestive dialogue. The news is not rated regardless of what is shown. Parents became very upset when Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s shirt. The public at large was so upset that the FCC and local channels were bombarded with complaints. Yet daily we allow murder, rape, kidnapping, police chase, and bank robbery into our homes. The Virginia Tech killer was broadcast into millions of home on NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and CNN. His manifesto and his message made it out into homes with vulnerable, impressionable minds watching. Afterward, many news channels debated the use of the footage and defended their action. This broadcast was not rated. Family members of a victim that was at VT cancelled their appearance on NBC because they were angry and hurt over the broadcast (Learmonth, 2007).

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has a problem on his hands. The FCC has a goal to protect children from television violence. This is evident any and every time we watch television and see a copy of the children’s act that all television stations must file and comply with. Violent news, however, gets a pass because Chairman Martin feels it is more important to get the news out to the masses (Triplett, 2007). This sends a mixed message to concerned parents. The FCC and television stations are concerned enough about violence to issue a rating system, but realistic violence – the kind that a child could emulate is not rated and is allowed into homes without even a “parental guidance suggested” notation.

The government should not police what is on television; to do so amounts to censorship and impedes on the First Amendment for the companies and on the right of liberty and pursuit of happiness on the side of the families. This makes the social problem of the news media one that requires interaction from the parents. If the parents do not watch as much news, the news media will not make as much money from the advertisers. If the advertisers are not making money from the consumers they will not advertise as many of their goods on the news channels. This will send a message to the news media that we, as a society, will not sell our children’s mind for a cheap story. It takes action to change the pattern. The news is online, on the radio, and in print. We do not need to watch the news media at all hours (a la Fox News or CNN). It is obvious that during a time of natural disaster in an area close to our own that we need to stay informed. We do not need to over expose our children to violence.

A study was done in New York of 707 families. When the study began in 1975 and concluded in 1973. The families were interviewed four times during that time period. Boys at the age of 14 that watched three hours or more of television each day were 45% more likely to commit an aggressive act against another person. Girls were 17% more likely to do so if they watched three or more hours of television each day (Motluk, 2002). The study revealed that close to 25% of those in the three hour per day group went on to commit robbery or other crime. These children were exposed to violence on a daily basis. This is a logical assumption because not many 14 year old boys will watch Sesame Street or Barney.

The American Psychological Association has over 30 years of research on television and violence. A study in the 90s showed that repeated exposure to violence in the media places children at risk for aggression, desensitization of acts of violence, and experiencing an unrealistic fear of becoming a victim of a violent crime (McIntyre, n.d.). Much like adults have nightmares of a plane crash during a business trip or forgetting to bring the big presentation to a meeting, children worry about what they see on the news. Parents are the only outlet that can prevent or reduce the risks that come with the violence the news media bombards us with. Parents do that by changing their reaction to the news. Instead of buying the products they see advertised, they should buy the products they see advertised on an Internet news site or in their newspaper. Parents can turn off the television and find other ways of staying informed. This would be a good solution to the social problem the news media has become. Dr. Rowell Huesmann said before a Senate Commerce Committee that just as every cigarette will increase the risk for cancer, every exposure to violence a child receives raises the chance that the child may one day become violent (McIntyre, n.d.).

E.J., NBC adopts content ratings. (2005, May 2). Broadcasting & Cable

Kornblum, W., & Julian, J. Sociological perspectives on social problems

Learmonth, M. (2007). NBC faces vitriol over killer's vid. Daily Variety, 295(14), 1-13.

Retrieved Tuesday, May 08, 2007 from the MasterFILE Premier Database.

Triplett, W. (2007, April 30). Taking a whack at TV violence. Variety, 406(11), 4-4.

Retrieved June 4, 2007, from MasterFILE Premier database.

Motluk, A. (2002, April 6). Blame it on the box. New Scientist, 173(2337), 16. Retrieved

June 4, 2007, from MasterFILE Premier database.

McIntyre, J., Legislative, S., & Office, P. (n.d.). Effect on television violence

on children. FDHC Congressional Testimony. Retrieved June 4, 2007,

from MasterFILE Premier database.

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posted by -atomik kitten @ 11:38 AM  
  • At 7:56 PM, Blogger The Insane Writer said…

    I'm sorry to hear that your husband's ex is being immature. I hope that she comes to her senses soon or she may very well regret it when their son is old enough. Keeping a child away from their parent just because they are angry is not fair to that parent or the child. Sigh.

  • At 8:57 PM, Anonymous elona said…

    When I talk to the at-risk teenagers I teach about all the violence they see and hear in the media and in the games and music they see, listen to and play, they insist that it doesn't affect them. They tell me they know it's not real and they know better than to go out and shoot or kill someone. They tell me it's just words Miss. It's just words. I'm not convinced.

    I am very concerned about the violence and bullying that goes on. , especially the phenomenon of kids killing kids and have explored these issues in my own blog/podcast.

  • At 10:56 PM, Blogger Margaret said…

    Great paper. Great Job.

  • At 11:08 PM, Blogger David said…

    Bravo! A+! I really enjoyed your paper. I could go on and on about all the problems with the news media. But, you focused on one and had beautiful execution.

    It truly is a bore to think about all the news broadcasters who think themselves above the rating standards. I also can't stand when they use the "should we show this debate" as an excuse to show it some more!

    Don't get me wrong, I love me some news. But it doesn't get turned on until both our girls are in bed!

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