Our addiction to the myth | The media and the public sphere

Going into my third year at university I’ve written my fair share of posts on the Public Sphere. Lecturers reiterate the notion of coffee houses and an idealised public that is egalitarian and an open place where everyone has a voice. So please sit tight, sip on your coffee and enjoy my blog.

The broadening media landscape in society today has resulted in a shift in journalisms social role. Conventional journalism is now becoming obsolete and the term must be looked at from a new angle. There has been a blurring of the lines between media and pop culture, traditional media drew a clear distinction between news and entertainment however now we are struggling to define what counts as journalism (Berkowitz 2008).

What the growth of new media forms has done to our cultural media-scape is not to increase erosion of the journalistic soil, but to accelerate something more akin to glacial movement of the journalistic terrain – Dan Berkowitz (2009)

What we can take form Berkowitz, is that journalism is not dying, as many are saying, rather the industry is adapting to new media in order to survive. Out with the old and in with the new.

Lets now take a look at how a current moral panic and adapted to the new form of journalism.

Since Saturday March 8th the world has waited in anticipation. The conspiracy of Malaysian airline flight MH370, has lead news bulletins, trended on Twitter, filled Facebook news feeds and sparked great dinner table conversation for 4 weeks now.  If you type ‘flight MH370’ into Google it shows 220 thousand results, it seems like a topic worth debating in the public sphere.

This concentration of media in such as short period of time leads me to believe we have an infatuation with conspiracy and the events surrounding flight MH370. The Public sphere of imagination, places an individual in the myth, our interest in innate death, the possibility that we could die crossing the road tomorrow or the idea of being on the flight that crashed, enhances our interest, “it could have been me”.

The idea of improvisational millennialism uses a collage of media sources to prove a holistic and comprehensive picture of the world, in this case, the event of MH370. Conspiracy theories have lead to improvisation to get a solution, damaging the credibility of sources. Mainstream news senationalises the coverage of the event to gain viewer ship and citizen journalism plays upon these false leads. ‘what does the spec on the radar mean’, ‘what does the last message from the pilot mean’?

Further out cry from the public sphere has been shown by relatives of Chinese passengers protest at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing. The Guardian explains that more than two weeks of confusing and sometimes contradictory briefings have left relatives of more than 150 Chinese citizens on board deeply suspicious about search and investigation.

Kellner (2003) explains that when spectacles become defining events of their era they become known as megaspectacles, those phenomena of media culture that dramatise its controversies and struggles. Historical extravaganzas that characterised a certain period include Princess Diana’s wedding and funeral and September 11 terror attacks. The conspiracy and sensationalistic coverage of flight MH370 leads me to believe that it is a megaspectacle in the making and one that could define our era.

Our addiction to the myth fuels the media to sensationalise these events leading to dominating news, journalism and Internet coverage.

References

Berkowitz, D 2009, Journalism in the broader cultural mediascape, Journalism, Vol 10 No. 3, pp 290-292, Sage Publications, London, accessed via UOW Moodle

Kellner, D 2003, Media Spectacle, Taylor & Francis Ltd/Books, United Kingdom, accessed via UOW Summon

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About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
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