Media: The world’s window or mirror? (Poll)

In my theory of mass communications class this week we talked about Walter Lippmann’s notion that newspapers give people a window to the world. (Naturally, this was in the context of framing theory.) Then, in my producing community journalism class, we discussed the idea that a mirror could represent the role of the press in reflecting community. (Hey, some mirrors have frames, too.)

The images that each metaphor evokes help us construct valuable models as we try to discover the nature of the transformation taking place in journalism.  One, however, gives the impression of the media being apart from the world it is revealing to its audience (the window), whereas the other claims media are the very part of social reality that we can see (the reflection in the mirror). I would have to go with the latter, because media are not simply floating above or outside their communities. In fact, they are more than just shaped by society; shaping them is the very process of negotiating meaning of our social reality. I’m glad to come to this realization because it means that I am engaged in something that is fundamental to human advancement.

So, please take a quick second to answer the poll. It will interesting to see the different thoughts out there.

Window or mirror?

Window or mirror?

I’ve shared parts of the following quotes before. They are some of my favorites and offer insights into the meaning and usefulness of the media-as-a-mirror metaphor.

Quote No. 1:

“In this Day the secrets of the earth are laid bare before the eyes of men. The pages of swiftly appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world. They reflect the deeds and the pursuits of divers people and kindreds. They both reflect them and make them known. They are a mirror endowed with hearing, sight and speech. This is an amazing and potent phenomenon.”

(This next part makes me think of cleaning the mirror…)

“However, it behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing.”

-Baha’u’llah, Tablet to the Times

Quote No. 2:

“The primary, the most urgent requirement is the promotion of education. It is inconceivable that any nation should achieve prosperity and success unless this paramount, this fundamental concern is carried forward. The principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples is ignorance. Today the mass of the people are uninformed even as to ordinary affairs, how much less do they grasp the core of the important problems and complex needs of the time.

“It is therefore urgent that beneficial articles and books be written, clearly and definitely establishing what the present-day requirements of the people are, and what will conduce to the happiness and advancement of society. These should be published and spread throughout the nation, so that at least the leaders among the people should become, to some degree, awakened, and arise to exert themselves along those lines which will lead to their abiding honor. The publication of high thoughts is the dynamic power in the arteries of life; it is the very soul of the world. Thoughts are a boundless sea, and the effects and varying conditions of existence are as the separate forms and individual limits of the waves; not until the sea boils up will the waves rise and scatter their pearls of knowledge on the shore of life.

“Thou, Brother, art thy thought alone,
The rest is only thew and bone. [Rúmí, The Mathnaví, II 2:277]

“Public opinion must be directed toward whatever is worthy of this day, and this is impossible except through the use of adequate arguments and the adducing of clear, comprehensive and conclusive proofs. For the helpless masses know nothing of the world, and while there is no doubt that they seek and long for their own happiness, yet ignorance like a heavy veil shuts them away from it.”

-Abdu’l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization


2 thoughts on “Media: The world’s window or mirror? (Poll)

  1. Pingback: More mirror metaphor « Media and community

  2. Pingback: Challenging the media metaphor of a mirror « Media and community

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