Media communication involves messages that are transmitted from one message source to many. One source of communication, often institutional, sends either written/print or oral/broadcast messages to many at one time. This communication results in minimal or zero feedback from the recipients. Radio, television, magazines, newspapers and numerous web sites are examples of media. For example, television and radio provide the medium (singular) for large institutions/organizations such as NBC National Broadcasting Corporation), ABC (American Broadcasting Corporation), CBS (Columbia Broadcasting Corporation), BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), Fox News, and CNN to reach the general public.
This one-to-many form of communication also occurs in social networking where one person may via Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In or MySpace, or some other computer applications reach a large network of friends through combinations of communication loops. Such applications are also useful for persons in the job market as they are venues for recruiting and marketing. Persons may post credentials, resumes, endorsements, and recommendations on some of the sites. As news media and private corporations use these social networks to get feedback, they attempt to establish a two-way communication with the viewers or listeners. Many people reported networks of friends or special interest groups that reach hundreds for the average person and thousands or millions for celebrities. Individuals are responsible for the management of their own spaces and these may or may not be managed. Major networks, for example, employ gatekeepers who control the flow of information in an intermediary role, much like the floodgates at a dam control the amount of water that passes through the floodgates and moves on. These gatekeepers may also function as opinion leaders commenting on particular information and news. Whether in print or broadcast journalism, editors prioritize the vast amount of information submitted by reporters and citizens. Editors who serve as gatekeepers determine which information will be shared. Other editors serve as the agenda-setters who prioritize the news that flows from the gatekeepers. The amount of airtime indicates the significance and priority of the news as do the size of headlines and story location in print journalism (front page, bold headline or small story on page 32, etc.). Is this the lead story or the final human interest story of the evening on the broadcast news? An oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico receives major coverage compared to an area traffic accident and so on. Because of these reporters, gatekeepers, and agenda-setters, we are able to stay informed about an earthquake in Haiti or Chili, tsunamis, war events, or the destruction of the World Trade Centers on 9/11. This information is communicated and disseminated by the media.
Computers and webcasts and live streaming of videos provide alternative means for accessing these broadcasts. IPods and smart telephones provide further recent extensions of personal access to media. Reading devices such as Kindle and Nook provide access to millions of books and access to blogging sites. Message posting and blogging of one’s personal thoughts provide a recent extension to electronic print journalism. The public is able to view and listen to current events through multiple mechanisms. Political candidates may now reach voters through social networks. Advertisers have extended beyond print and television/radio broadcast, especially to social networking sites.
To some I-Phones and I-Pads may seem merely toys or gadgets but they have further facilitated news gathering and social networking along with many other activities (games, downloading music, etc.). George Gerbner’s cultivation theory addresses how media effects build up over time. Marshall McLuhan recognized in the late 1960s that technology has key effects on its user from extensions of the senses (glasses/eye, cars and planes/feet, computer/brain, etc.) and as such remolds societies from agrarian to industrial to electronic. The world became a “global village” through television, then split into “cultural islands” via Cable (cooking channel, weather channel, sports channels, sitcom reruns, NCIS reruns, etc.). Social networking has reduced some social stratification and linked people separated by thousands of geographical miles.
Media can have positive effects by providing information about storms or hurricanes that are approaching, by providing information about health and nutrition, cultural events, entertainment opportunities, keeping a person connected to one’s homeland, and so on. However, it can also have negative effects through advertising or behavior modeling in comedies or dramas that encourage bad eating habits, poor money management, or other irresponsible behaviors. Media is often more influential in times of stress.
Under normal, day-to-day condition, the media may be taken for granted. In times of stress, the media connect us to homelands, provide information from points around the world so that we can be up-to-date on natural disasters and other events that affect us, loved ones, friends, and homeland. The media coverage is often very specific to immigrant interests – new immigration laws in Arizona, related court rulings, immigrant protest about laws, profiling, or working and housing conditions. Internationally, media coverage of disasters and political events, for example, directly affects the health and safety of immigrants. Culturally specific talk shows from Hispanic to Chinese report specific news, provide social networking, provide talk, cooking, shopping, or game shows, and other venues of special interest. These reveal ways that they might participate in special language news and social networking. All of these increase opportunities for native language communication and provide critical health and social information to immigrant populations.