Human societies consist of individuals and groups of individuals with different needs, interests, and aspirations. Furthermore, different individuals are endowed with different qualities. For instance, some are physically stronger than others while others are intellectually well endowed than others. Some have special talents and abilities which distinguishes them from the rest of the members of a society.
In addition, we all belong to different and unique socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds which profoundly impacts up on our social standing (Perry & Perry, 2005). Interactions between and among individuals and groups of individuals takes place within matrices that are made up by these diverse features which more often determines our social status as well as how powerful we are as individuals or groups in a society.
In our endeavor to satisfy our basic need of power and influence, some people take advantage of their privileged status in the society to intimidate others and assert their power in relation to others who are ignorantly and blindly considered less important.
Schools are perfect examples of institutions consisting of individual students and groups of students who are different in power and status despite the principle of equality before the eyes of the school rules and regulations and laws of the land. Available statistical evidence shows that senior students in public schools bully new and junior students a trend that is common in most of our public schools and that have reached alarming rates prompting an outcry of concerned stakeholders.
Covert or overt bullying in words or actions is definitely a bad and an unacceptable behaviour in all schools and other social set ups consisting of different people. It is a result of misguided efforts of the senior students to achieve, assert and re-affirm their power (Holt & Kysilka, 2005). According to Glasser, one of the greatest psychologists of our age, all of our behaviors (good or bad) and choices are motivated by our desire to meet six basic needs including survival, belonging, love, power, freedom and fun (Glasser, 1998).
Through harassment in words and actions, senior students in public schools seek to confirm their seniority and power in relation to new and junior students (Crime in America.Net 2009). Bullying results in to devastating, dehumanizing and destructive consequences up on junior students including loneliness, stress, low self-esteem, poor self-confidence and lack of self-assurance among others which ultimately distract students’ concentration in their studies.
This results to poor academic performance as well as poor social and emotional development of the bullied students (Crime in America.Net, 2009). The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the media influences public opinion on social issues of concern like bullying which is rampant in our public schools and establish similarities and differences of reporting on Bullying by two articles from a broadsheet and a Tabloid newspaper, that is, ‘The Guardian’ and the ‘The Star’ respectively.
How the media influences public opinion on social issues
Information is a critical ingredient for unity, stability and socio-economic and political progress of a society. In fact, mature and genuinely democratic cultures grants and safeguards the constitutional rights of individual citizens to access all information on public affairs except any information that can compromise national security of a country. Equally important is the means and avenues through which information is relayed to individuals and groups of individuals in the society.
Therefore, the media (both print and electronic media) plays a significant role in democratic cultures of providing a means through which information on social, political and economic issues at national as well as international levels is relayed to the citizenry. The media enjoys a very influential status in democratic countries where there is freedom of the media from unnecessary and unconstitutional state control. Consequently, media tends to have immense influence up on public opinion on social issues.
Mass media is significant given the way they represent the outer world influences in our minds. In other words, the way mass media represents an issues influences our perception and understanding of the issue. Siegel, Siegel & Lotenberg (2007) point out that what we see on the internet, television, newspapers and magazines and hear on our radios influences us in two ways. First, it tells us what to think about.
Secondly, it influences how we think about it (Siegel, Siegel & Lotenberg, 2007).In a nut shell, the media plays a significant role in the formation of people’s awareness on issues as well as their opinions of what issues are important. The mass media also plays an influential role in setting the policy agenda, that is, priorities of law makers, senior government servants and policy influencers such as think tanks, political parties and lobbyists (Siegel, Siegel & Lotenberg, 2007).
Most scholars believe that media’s greatest influence on public affairs and politics is found in their power to put in place political agenda, that is, a list of political and socio-economic issues that the public classify as needing urgent government attention (Janda, Berry & Goldman, 2011).
In the United States, tremendously believe that the media puts a strong influence on t heir socio-political institutions and about nine out of ten Americans believe that the media strongly influence public opinion (Janda, Berry & Goldman, 2011).For example, pictures of cheerful Iraqis destroying an effigy of Saddam Hussein impacted up on the American public opinion about war in Iraq. However, it is important to note that establishing general effects of the media on public opinion about more general social and political issues is difficult.
Sometimes the media force the government to act on distasteful social issues such as child abuse, wrongful execution of death sentence, racial discrimination as well as violence and bullying in our learning institutions and work places (Janda, Berry & Goldman, 2011). It can also force the government to deal with issues regarded as exclusively a preserve of the scientific community like cloning, HIV/AIDS and climate change (Janda, Berry & Goldman, 2011).
A Comparison and Contrasting of Two Articles on Bullying from a broadsheet and a Tabloid newspaper
How a piece of Information on an issue is passed on to an individual news consumer or the public is critical in determining efficiency and effectiveness of communication in a society. In most cases information about a given happening or issue differs in terms of language, style, content and presentational features used by an individual media outlets (Robertson, 2006). Despite reporting on the same event or issue different newspapers, magazines or television stations differs in the above mentioned aspects.
To illustrate this we shall look at the differences evident in reporting on a similar case of bullying by a broadsheet newspaper and a tabloid newspaper. The prime differences between a broadsheet and a tabloid newspaper are their sizes; a tabloid newspaper is half the size of a broadsheet (Franklin, 2008; Batchhelor, 2004; coursework.info, 2005). As a result, you require a junior reading age to read a tabloid newspaper articles because there are shorter articles, and more pictures (coursework.info, 2005).
On the other hand, to read broadsheet newspaper articles you require a senior reading age because they use long terms, they also tend to be more in-depth and detailed (coursework.info, 2005).Tabloid newspaper consist of the Mirror, Sun and Star. Broadsheet newspapers include the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and Times.
‘The Daily Star’ a tabloid newspaper and ‘The Guardian’ a broadsheet newspaper reported the incident of the girl who killed herself allegedly because of bullying on thirteenth October 2003 (coursework.info, 2005).
Despite reporting on a similar happening there were key differences in the articles that featured in the two newspapers in terms of language, tone, layout, content, style and presentational approach adopted by the two newspapers. In the Daily Star, the article was titled ‘Taunted to Death’ while in the Guardian it was titled ‘Bullied Girl Kills Herself’ (coursework.info, 2005).
The language used by authors of the two newspapers articles is different and has the potential to make different news consumers to create different mental pictures about a similar social issue. This becomes the source of differences on what different readers think about a similar issue as well as how they think about it and understand it. For example, a reader of the article in the Star may think of the issue in terms of mocking by just referring to the title of the article before reading more details.
Another reader who has been to a public school and is conversant with bullying may be curious to read the whole story in the Guardian in order to find out what kind of bullying it was that made the girl decide to take away her life. Such a reader may have been bullied or harassed others and may be shocked to hear that what he or she used to think was a normal school culture could have destructive consequences due to the clarity of the title in the Guardian and thus want to read more.
The title of the article in the Guardian can also arouse pictures and memories of bullying in readers during the days of their schooling faster than the title of the article in the Star newspaper. In short, by reading the titles of the two articles in the Guardian and Star only readers may think of different things about the same issue before inquiring into the details of the stories that follow.
The style used by the two newspapers also differs significantly. In the Guardian the heading of the article is bold and was written in white letters against a black background in order to attract the attention of the reader. The font of the story’s content is equally big and easily readable by a quick and good reader. On the other hand, the title of the article in the Star is in black against a white background .The font of the heading and the content of the story is relatively smaller (coursework.info, 2005).
The report in the Star is accompanied by more artist impression pictures depicting cases of bullying involving different grade school students. Much more important is the difference in the amount content of the two reports. The Guardian’s report is more detailed and includes a general public perception of bullying, opinions from psychology experts and reputable educationists about bullying besides a detailed coverage of the circumstances that culminated to the death of the girl.
Thus besides reporting the tragic death of the innocent girl, the Guardian report is to a certain extent more educating on the issue of bullying in public schools than The Star’s story. The Star’s story is made more emotional and sensational by its pictorial concomitants. All these differences in language, style and content acts to bring out their differences in the general layout of the reports which also affects the way the two newspapers affect public opinion about bullying in our schools.
In journalism, differences in language usually guided and determined by motives of an individual journalist, his or her knowledge and experience levels , specific formatting and writing style preferred by different newspapers in the market and much more important the circumstances surrounding the happening that is being reported.
The sad case of the bullied girl suicide came at a time when bullying in our public schools had reached distressing levels attracting great concern from parents, educators and other stakeholders including the media. Thus the language and the tone used by the two newspapers in reporting the incidence is effective in calling for attention to the fatality and seriousness of the unpleasant issue at hand from parents, teachers, educators, government and the general public.
The way the issue was reported not only by the two newspapers used as example in this task but also by other media outlets immediately and after the tragic death of the innocent girl played a major role in setting public opinion about bullying.
It might have instigated the public to exert more pressure up on school administrators and concerned government officials in order to deal with the problem of bullying in our public schools more seriously and sternly than ever before. It also played an important role in changing attitudes of those who regarded bullying in schools as an acceptable rite of passage for new and junior students.
Mass media is definitely an important institution not only in the democratization process of a society but also its socialization particularly in a democratic culture. Different media outlets play significant roles in forming public and policy agendas. It plays an important role in setting people’s awareness on issues and deciding what issues are more important.
Thus it enables them put pressure on the government to deal with issues they consider as requiring urgent attention. It is also important in setting policy agenda because of its inevitable influence up on the think tanks, policy makers, law makers, senior government servants and lobbyists regarding important and urgent socio-economic and political issues of a society.
However, it is important to note that different media outlets present their reports about similar happenings and issues in unique and different ways in terms of language use, style, tone, content and layout and thus they end up having differing influences up on opinions of individual news consumers about an issue.
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