Category: Mass Comm


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It’s coming up to the end of my school semester and that means I have all this wonderful work that I’ve completed! In my Media Writing Class we looked into a lot of different styles of writing and how each piece needed to change slightly to fit into different areas of media. So, here are some samples of the work I did! In this portfolio I have my resume, inverted pyramid news stories, a mapped story, a query letter for a profile story, a press release, a broadcasting story and some potential blog ideas.

Portfolio

Photo Tutorials

After talking so much about the downside to photo manipulation, I thought it would be a nice contrast to talk about the upside. Lately, it seems like the damaged look of old photos has come back into style. Therefore, I’ve gathered a few fun tutorials that will give photos a vintage look.

The first two tutorials I chose demonstrate the HDR effect. I love the way HDR looks on a photo, especially the way it changes the sky and makes the clouds more defined. The first of the tutorials shows how to create the HDR look with three* photos in different exposures. This is the best way to do it. However, sometimes there’s no access to three* photos, so the second tutorial shows how to fake the HDR effect.

For the HDR effect I used an original photo taken from the top of the Empire State Building. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take two different photos for an HDR effect, so for my photo I used the fake HDR tutorial. It didn’t turn out quite the way that I wanted it to, but I love the colors and the clouds. In reality, any Photoshop effect takes a lot of tweaking and even little adjustments can make a big difference.

The next tutorial I found was one that I call the “old effect”, basically it makes the photo look washed out and cracked from old age.

The second group of photos are the Parliament Building in Victoria Canada. I thought this building was very majestic and it would fit well as an old photo. Again, I made a few changes from the tutorial, but I like the overall effect.

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Lastly, there are two other tutorials that I think would be fun to play with. The first is giving a photo a green tinted vintage look. The second tutorial shows how to give photos a gritty effect and define the lines and wrinkles in a person’s face.

I hope you’ll enjoy exploring and playing with some of these effects as much as I did.

*4/11/12 EDIT: I wrote two instead of three here. HDR actually needs three photos. One underexposed, one overexposed and one with the correct exposure.

Anyone who has experimented with photography knows that there is an ongoing debate about the use of photo manipulation. Should it be used to enhance images or does it only distort reality?

The few photography classes I’ve taken have all be based around Photoshop. It was normal for me to take a photo and then immediately put it on my computer and at the very least adjust the levels.

Looking back now, I feel as if adjusting a photo for the sake of adjusting it is not what Photoshop should be about. Photoshop is there to artistically change a photo, not just cover up mistakes.

In this way I think that it is fine to change a photo however you want. Photography is a way for people to take what they see in their minds and combine it with reality. A lot of photographers realized this a long time ago and that’s where we get those amazingly creative photos of fantasy and sci-fi scenes.

However, there is one aspect of photography where people seem to disregard reality in a very harmful way.

What I’m talking about is commercial advertising. Photo manipulation is used to distort bodies and not in any artistic way, but in a way that is trying to convince consumers that an image is real.

In advertisements skin is smoothed out, necks are elongated, eyes are made larger, and waists are slimmed down. Ultimately it creates a look that no one can achieve, not even the actual model.

When photos are manipulated in this way it is damaging to society. The advertisers are not trying to be artistic. They are trying to change the image of beauty in the minds of their consumers.

Photographers will have their own opinions on the subject, but before we manipulate a photo to change the appearance of a person or even an environment I think it’s important to ask ourselves a question. Am I doing this just because I can?

This short video shows the difference between a manipulated image and the actual image.

Leonard Pitts on Truthiness

Although this is definitely not on the subject of photography I think it’s just as important if not more important, because it impacts us all in one way or another. The other day I was lucky enough to hear Leonard Pitts from the Miami Herald talk about truthiness and why it’s something that our nation should be worried about. If you’d like to know more about the subject and/or Leonard Pitts check out the Storify page I used to summarize the event.

The Music Video Dilemma

If I could change anything in the media world, it would be the way women are represented in media, specifically music videos. I’m sure that when many musicians are thinking about what to sing they’re not thinking about what standards they should live up to or what morals they should represent, but what how much money they can make.  Even if it’s not the musician’s choice to represent women in such a way, there’s someone out there who is making those decisions.

Some might argue that it’s not the responsibility of the musician to watch what they say and do, but if it’s not theirs then whose is it? We are all responsible for the types of messages we put out into the world and the types of messages we receive. If the treatment of women in music videos never played out in the real world then maybe it would be ok for women to be represented in such a manner, but the sad fact is that women are treated just as badly in the real world, if not worse. It’s not only the men’s responsibility to treat women fairly, but also women’s responsibility to treat themselves fairly. Those women in the music videos are not being forced to do anything they don’t want to, but I doubt they realize just how poorly they’re representing themselves and women in general. In the end it’s hard to point a finger at any one person in particular. People like you and me watch the videos, singers and dancers perform them, and businessmen make money off them. The main point is that we are all responsible for the representation of women in music videos and therefore we can all take a part in changing that representation.

Sut Jhally is an expert on this subject, check out a short clip from his video Dreamworlds 3.

WARNING: Spoilers

Mass media products like music, films, and TV shows are not only entertaining, but in many cases these products enlighten people about the many similarities and differences across cultures. Take, for example, Infernal Affairs (2002) and The Departed (2006). Infernal Affairs was a Chinese film directed by Wai-Keung Lau and Alan Mak and produced by Media Asia, one of the larger film producers in Asia. The Departed, on the other hand was directed by Martin Scorsese and also produced by a large corporation, Time Warner. The Departed is a remake of Infernal Affairs; therefore, the plots are very similar. Both films are about two undercover agents on different sides, who race to discover each other’s identities before they’re caught lying. Although the plots are the same there are subtle differences in each film that showcase American and Chinese culture.

The first and most noticeable difference in the films is the amount of violence. American movies are often more violent than foreign ones and The Departed is no exception. In almost every scene someone is being shot or beaten while blood splatters across the screen. Infernal Affairs is much less violent and although there are still shoot-outs between the cops and mafia there’s hardly any blood involved. It’s hard to tell which is better, because the use of violence in each sets an important tone for the film. In The Departed the constant presence of blood and violence lends the movie a harsh and gritty mood, but at the same time it desensitizes the audience to the point where the deaths at the end of the film leave less of an impact. The tone in Infernal Affairs is much lighter and it lacks the raw power of the other film, however, where violence and blood are used, the scenes become much more intimate and dramatic.

Another interesting aspect of both films was the sexual references. The Departed had more references to sex in the actual film, while Infernal Affairs was much less explicit. However, Infernal Affairs wasn’t completely devoid of any sex appeal. On the cover for the film there is the image of a scantily clad women holding a gun. Nowhere in this movie does one of the female characters hold a gun while wearing a tight-fitting dress. So what does this mean? It means that in either country, sex sells.

Music was also a huge indicator of the different cultures. The intense scenes in The Departed are accompanied by music that consists of screaming, the Irish jig and rap. Infernal Affairs, on the other hand, uses wind instruments and the soothing voice of a woman. These soundtrack choices are very different, but both are equally important in developing the tone of the film. While one is reminiscent of ancient Chinese culture and religion, the other reminds the audience of the city and the harsh life that inevitably comes with living on the street.

The romance aspect of each film is also very different. In Infernal Affairs the main characters have their own women to pine after, but in The Departed both men are sleeping with the same women. This seems shows that in China devotion and honor are the traits both men and women should share. The much different approach in The Departed shows that in America people are not necessarily disloyal to each other, but entertained by love triangles.

The endings of both the films are also noticeably different. In Infernal Affairs Inspector Lau Kin Ming, the mole for the mafia lives to see another day. However, the same character in The Departed, renamed Colin Sullivan, dies. This is a small, but very important change in the script that leaves the audience with a completely different message at the end. Infernal Affairs is more of a quietly tragic film. Lau Kin Ming lives, but he must live with the knowledge that he killed a man and betrayed his wife and friends. Nothing happens to Lau Kin Ming and he is regarded as a hero even though he was the reason so many people died. In some ways this is much more tragic than if Lau Kin Ming had been killed. The Departed, on the other hand, is much more theatrically heart wrenching, because not only does Colin Sullivan die, but his wife also leaves with his unborn child. This particular ending tells the audience that the villain always gets what they deserve. In some ways the Chinese version is much more thought provoking, while the American version falls into the stereotype; the good guys always win.

The same sort of theme mentioned above is represented in the death of the mafia boss as well. In Infernal Affairs Sam is shown dead in a puddle of water, his arms splayed out on either side. This image was somewhat reminiscent of Christ on the cross or even a baptism. It seemed to say that although Sam had been an immoral man in life, in death he found redemption. However, Costello, the mafia boss from The Departed, dies in the blade of a bulldozer as if he were a piece of trash or dirt to be tossed aside. This shows that Costello was a bad man through and through and reinforces the theme that the bad guys always lose.

There’s no doubt that both films are great. They both explore a lot of wonderful themes and each scene is well thought out and put together. Either culture, American or Chinese, would enjoy these films. Even so, each film demonstrates the cultural differences between the two countries. The Departed displays the tendency Americans have towards enjoying violence, love triangles, and seeing the bad guys lose. Plus, it is much more theatrical film and has some very jarring scenes because of it. The Departed shows that Americans like grittiness in their films and there must always be a clear line between good and evil. Infernal Affairs appeals more towards a Chinese audience by showing that honor and redemption are what is important in the end. However, even with all the differences seen in the films and the differences between cultures, one thing will always be the same, people are entertained by action, fast-paced plots, drama, betrayal, and romance.

Watch the trailers! They demonstrate a lot of the points I speak about above.

Infernal Affairs:

The Departed:

Sources:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407887/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338564/

The Mystery of Media

Recently in class we watched a video of J.J. Abrams from TED Talks. In this video Abrams speaks about the mystery behind film and it reminded me of when I was in high school and making films of my own. However, we had none of the special effects or nice cameras that big film directors have today. What we lacked in effects we had to make up in plot and creativity. Our plots had to be original and well written so that the point of the film would reach the audience in only five minutes and if there was something in particular we wanted done we had to figure out how to do it without the help of a computer. For example, the group I was in did not do this, but one director wanted to imply a car wreck, but didn’t want to stand in front of a car for obvious reasons. Therefore, they turned out all the lights in a gym and had two people holding flashlights walk towards the camera. This effect made it look as if there were a car coming towards the camera when in reality there wasn’t a single on in sight. I think that today this creativity and ingenuity is often lacking in films, because it’s so easy to make something with a computer and make money off of repeated plots and character archetypes. The biggest point I took away from J.J. Abrams and will apply to my own career one day, is that to be good at what you do, no matter what it is, you need to think outside the box, or as Abrams might say inside the box of mystery.

Like Abrams I’ll give you one of my favorite clips from a movie. The movie is Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Although this scene is famous for the intense murder, my favorite part is the shot of the showerhead from below around 1:03. Hitchcock was a genius and I still haven’t figured out how he shot this frame without getting water on the lens.

There are a number reasons why a journalist might decide to write an article in a particular way. In the past it has been a journalistic goal to watch over the government, to shed light on important subjects, and to make sure that everyone’s right to freedom of speech still holds up in America. However, it is impossible for any journalist to inform the public of everything that is happening, so journalists have to make important decisions. What to include and what to exclude.

Today these important decisions are still being made in the news and in particular the news for the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign. Take, for example, the article Cain Allegations: legitimate issue or political drama? written by Tom Cohen for CNN. This particular article is focused on the recent sexual harassment allegations brought up against Herman Cain.

Why did Cohen decide to write about this particular subject? There are a number of other candidates and issues that he could have focused on, but in this specific article the “Media Obsessions”, as explained in the text The Media of Mass Communication by John Vivian, factor into why Cohen decided to focus on Cain’s dilemma. Vivian gives a number of reasons why the media writes as is does, he calls them media obsessions, or stories that journalists tend to gravitate towards.

The first of these media obsessions is presidential campaign coverage and in particular horse races, or races between candidates. As seen in the article written by Cohen his first decision in deciding what to write was that he was going to inform people about the presidential campaign. Most likely the second decision he made was to talk about another media obsession; conflict involving fundamental values. This is definitely the case with Cain. His alleged sexual harassments involve difficult moral questions, both for Cain himself and readers. Lastly, Cohen probably looked for scandals and in Cain’s case, if the allegations are true, this is quite a big scandal and could have the potential to change Cain’s campaign. However, Cohen did not write about these media obsessions, because they interest him the most, but because they are the topics that readers find entertaining. So, although Cohen is probably writing about a subject that he enjoys or believes to be important, he is also keeping in mind his readers and what they want from him.

As mentioned above Cohen could not have possibly talked about every single detail pertaining to Cain’s campaign; therefore, he needed to decide what in particular he wanted to talk about. This is called framing a story. Sometimes framing stories is a very conscientious act by a reporter, but in many cases it is not. Most of the time reporters will frame a story based on routines, like deadlines and the number of words they are allowed. Journalists also base their articles off of standard story-telling structures, familiar narratives, and partisan perspectives. Cohen most likely had a given number of words he could use and also a deadline that influenced the way in which he framed the story. Even with these restrictions he was able to stay away from a few of the framing mishaps.

Cohen had to decide which quotes he needed in his article; therefore, framing had a huge influence on where he wanted to place a republican’s quote versus a democrat’s quotes. His writing seems to be unpartisan, because he gives both the democratic and republican opinion and he quotes people directly by using their name, instead of using the tricky phrase “some people say”.

Lastly agenda setting influenced Cohen’s writing and ultimately what information readers receive. Agenda setting often changes or influences the way in which people place their priorities. The large amount of coverage on Cain’s sex scandal boosts people’s interest in the subject and tells readers that this particular story is of importance. However, one of the most essential aspects of agenda setting is that the media does not tell people what to think, but what to think about. Although there are many articles out there that do in fact tell people what to think, or give people specific opinions on a subject, in this article Cohen leaves it up to readers to decide what they believe.

Cohen is able to keep his personal opinion out of the story by giving both sides of the issue. On one side he has the people who believe the scandal is important enough that the truth needs to be brought out and talked about and these people also believe that once the truth is brought to light it could have a big affect on Cain’s campaign. At the beginning of the article he first gives this side of the story, “Those opposing the former business executives campaign called for keeping the issue alive, saying the necessary scrutiny of presidential candidates requires Cain to answer all questions…(Cohen, 2011).”

Cohen also makes it a point to give the other side of the story, which is that there is not enough substantial proof against Cain to change the way people view Cain. “Conservatives, angered by the media attention to the potentially fatal accusations for the tea party favorite’s campaign, argued that the lack of specifics…showed it was all more circus than substance (Cohen, 2011).”

Like any good reporter should Cohen also goes beyond the simple facts and opinions of the issue and adds a little more substance to his article. He does this by digging into Cain’s background as a businessman and explaining why Cain is having such a hard time confronting the issues brought up against him; “Cain is undergoing a difficult transition from private business figure to public politician” (Cohen, 2011). In the end Cohen adds in one last quote meant to keep readers thinking about their own opinions and priorities, “’The real issue here beyond Cain is what candidate’s moral compass is and how that shapes their policy views” (Cohen, 2011). This quote is a perfect example of how Cohen is not telling readers what to think, but simply what they should think about. He’s telling readers to be cautious and listen closely to candidates to see how they are guided or not guided by they’re morals and if people can do that they will gain a better view of the presidential candidates.

In the end Cohen’s article was influenced by a number of different things each just as important as the next. Media obsessions fueled his interest in the Cain scandal, framing helped him to decide what aspect of Cain’s campaign he wanted to cover, and keeping in mind agenda setting he remained unbiased and didn’t tell readers what to think, but what to think about.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

 

 

Cohen, Tom. “Cain Allegations: Legitimate Issue or Political Drama? – CNN.com.” CNN.com – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 06 Nov. 2011. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/06/politics/cain-allegations/index.html&gt;.

 

Vivian, John. The Media of Mass Communication. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. Print.

Psych And Beyond

Every day people flip on the TV to watch their favorite drama, reality TV, news, sports, or comedy, but is what they’re watching really all that different? TV show in existence is apart of something bigger and they can all be traced back to at least one large corporation. So if this is true how is the audience affected? To help answer this question I’ll be using the television show Psych as an example. Psych airs on the USA Network, which is a part of NBC Universal. NBC Universal owns a number of different media firms such as, NBC News, Hulu, E!, Syfy, Bravo, A & E, Fandago, and Universal Pictures. They also own some local new stations and a few major theme parks. Also on their webpage NBC Universal says that Comcast holds a 51% interest in the company and GE holds the other 49%.

To many people this might not seem like such a huge deal, but Comcast’s somewhat recent decision to buy holds in NBC brings up the question, how does Comcast effect the content of TV shows? To answer this I’ve found the article How Will NBC Change Under Comcast Ownership? by Scott Harris. In this article he lists a number of changes, a few of which I will outline here. He believes that NBC will have more sports, more coverage of the Olympics, more Jay Leno, and move cable hits to television network.

So what effect will this have on the audience? The audience could potentially get less of a variety in programming and the same values or beliefs will most likely be repeated, even if the shows are different. The result of Comcast having more connections to the audience also means they have more of a potential to influence audience beliefs.  Also, cultural references and American ideals will be repeated and referenced often enough that it reinforces the already present values of our culture. Take for example, Psych. In Psych a number of Harry Potter, Star Wars, and other movie references are made which sends the signal to the audience that if they want to be on the same wavelength as the rest of society these are the topics they need to know.