Where have all the women gone? Gender issues in the media.

The Project. source: Channel Ten

The Australian media landscape is predominately male-driven, there’s no question about it. If you turn to the TV to watch the news its clear that the majority of news readers are in fact male, with the exception of the token attractive blonde-haired young weather girl or entertainment news reporter. The fact is women are outnumbered in the media workforce, particularly in television. There are several factors which contribute to this which I will touch on, as well as questioning why it has become this way and how can we improve this male-dominated media landscape.

 A 2013 study of gender in the newsroom “Gender Inequity in Public Media Newsrooms” was conducted by MVM Consulting which aimed to highlight the ways in which women were outnumbered in the newsrooms across Australia and it was based on an American Study conducted in the same year, which reported “stubborn gender inequality in the ways that women are employed and represented in news, entertainment and technology-related media…” The study makes a poignant statement at the beginning stating that: “Women make up 51% of the population, so their presence in media should be comparable. Where it isn’t (and it isn’t), discrimination may be in play.”The proof really is in the pudding; just in the Television media sector alone, 62% is made up of male personnel compared to a measly 38% being women. This alone shows that the media is becoming incoherently more male dominated and it has been suggested the reason for this lack of female presence in the TV newsroom, is merely due to the fact that the work hours are more demanding than most other workplaces and for most working mothers it’s simply unattainable.

So is this the future of women in the media? Popular news-related TV Shows such as channel 10’s The Project and morning shows such as Sunrise include many female hosts and journalists in the like, yet they clearly have a more relaxed type of news and current affairs format, which leads me to question if this is more suited style for women suggested by men? Is that all we’re good for? I feel as though this is an ongoing and heated debate which is not likely to settle any time soon.

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Suffering in Silence: The ethics of viewing animal suffering.

“Numbed or stunned, we are left unable to act, diminished by witnessing terror, much like the steer in the footage who stares ahead at fellow cattle being slaughtered in front of him, trembling violently.”Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, from Stunning Australia, 2013

There’s no denying that films such as War Horse and Marley and Me tug at our heart strings every single time we watch them. It seems to be that watching any animals suffering or hurt most definitely evoke an emotional and sympathetic response from viewers, perhaps even more so than that of our fellow humans who are suffering and poverty-stricken. This is because we often feel more empathy towards animals who are in need as they cannot help themselves and don’t have a voice to communicate their suffering, in comparison to humans who do have this ability.

In 2013, the animal rights groups Aussie Farms and Animal Liberation ACT crowd-funded a project, which took its form in a documentary “Lucent” to expose the cruelty and mistreatment of pigs in Australian abattoirs and pig farms. This cruelty had been going on for years undetected with many instances of abuse and neglect for the pigs in these farms. It shows hidden footage from these abattoirs and farms with a harrowing depiction of the hidden cruelty. The footage taken highlights “the day-to-day cruelty accepted by the industry as standard practice.” It depicts pigs of all sizes cramped into small metal pens with little to no room to move around, some feeding their piglets in dire conditions. Unfortunately these are the harsh conditions that most factory farmed animals will face during their short miserable lives, never being able to graze in a paddock or smell fresh air. The film was shown in Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane in 2014.

Whilst this film raised a lot of awareness and was praised by animal activists and everyday Australians but it comes to down to the fact this this documentary was designed to shock and confront it’s viewers in order to evoke an emotional response yet it leaves me questioning whether this is this most effective way of advocating for animals. The graphic nature of the video does evoke an emotional response, mainly anger and disgust, which suggests to me that this is beneficial in spreading awareness of the issue and getting the point across. In comparison to my blog post on the ethics of viewing human suffering, it is more the case that the animals are suffering more than the humans watching the film and this is due to the fact that humans are inflicting this pain and suffering on the pigs in the first place and we have the power to stop it. That is the difference.

Our Selfie Culture under the microscope.

That Oscar Selfie. source: Twitter.com

That Oscar Selfie. source: Twitter.com

“Selfies are tools of communication more than marks of vanity … Mini-Mes that we send out to give others a sense of who we are.” James Franco

Selfies are seriously on the rise in modern society and we’ve all taken one in our time (yes even you, don’t lie) and our generation, particularly Generation Y has fast become defined by the selfie as a means of self-portrait by media users. I for one am not unaccustomed to the occasional selfie and often reflect on how my followers on Instagram or Facebook friends view me as a person, based on my selfies that I post. This topic I feel, is very necessary to discuss in this current media landscape and one that Jerry Saltz has looked at with great discourse. Before reading his article on vulture.com I did a quick Google search and Twitter stalk to find out that that Jerry is a Senior Art Critic at the New York Art Magazine and has published several articles on vulture.com regarding media issues and art. This contextual influence can be seen throughout the article as Saltz makes several references to both modern and past artists and photos/paintings, which are used as examples of selfies in his article.

Saltz  goes so far as to suggest that we are becoming defined as the selfie generation, of which is comprised of self-obsessed narcissists and selfie-lovers. Saltz stresses the fact that selfies are always taken with a purpose and are never accidental: “Selfies are usually casual, improvised, fast; their primary purpose is to be seen here, now, by other people, most of them unknown is social networks.”(Saltz, 2014) This is certainly the case with the users that I follow on Instagram; the selfies will always be staged and with a purpose to provoke a positive response from their followers in order to gain popularity and an abundance of likes. The captions will usually suggest that they don’t like the way they look in these selfies but have clearly been taken and posted on purpose for that specific intention. Saltz says that: “What I love about selfies is that we then do a second thing after making them: we make them public. Which is again, something like art.”

Kim Kardashian's infamous butt selfie. source: google images

Kim Kardashian’s infamous butt selfie. source: google images

 “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are like visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize- they say, “I’m here; look at me.” This statement sums up the whole concept of  selfies as a genre for me, and the basis of Saltz’s article as he describes the history of selfies in great detail. Saltz also makes reference to art critic Geoffrey Batchen, saying that selfies represent “the shift of the photograph [from] memorial function to a communication device.” This statement is very much representative of our generation of selfie-enthusiasts yet can be traced back in time to even the famous self-portraits of Vincent Van Gogh

With the release Kim Kardashion’s book of selfies titled “Selfish” I think it’s fair to say that selfies are here, and definitely here to stay and I’m actually interested to see how they evolve over the coming years with constant advancements in technology and social media.

The ethics of viewing other’s suffering; The James Foley execution.

“Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order are those who could do something to alleviate it … the rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Susan Sontag, 2003.

When the American journalist James Foley was brutally beheaded by members of the terrorist group ISIS who are currently storming the global media sphere, the world was left in shock and disgust. Not only was the execution filmed and posted on the group’s Youtube account, the image of his killer holding the blunt butcher’s knife against Foley’s throat was splashed all over newspapers both in print and online globally and in Australia. No matter where you turned, the haunting picture was there and it could not be avoided. Foley’s family expressed their concern and sadness over those who chose to watch the video and viewed the pictures as well as sharing them on social media sites. They asked that their son’s life be respected by sharing only nice photos of James, and to respect their wishes of keeping a positive memory of him alive.

This is just one example of how ethics can be questioned in the communicating of human suffering. Tabloid newspapers such as Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph and The New York Post posted the image of James Foley’s final moments on their front pages with headlines such as “Savages” which more than gained the attention of their viewers. This, for myself included, was a confronting way of reporting the news of the journalist’s death and one that left questions of the morality and ethics associated with doing so, considering his family’s requests.

Here’s an example of how the Australian media may have gone too far in their coverage of James Foley’s execution, as speculated by ABC’S Media Watch.

This can be seen as an example of news sources exploiting photographs of human suffering in order to shock and confront readers, leading to many readers including myself, questioning whether this is ethical. In his article regarding the controversial Time magazine cover of a mutilated war victim, Max Fisher suggests that controversial front cover images such as this create a “window of reality” which can be vastly different from the actual situation which is depicted through the image. He suggests that although such images as the one shown on Time Magazine’s front cover are very confronting and challenging for readers, there are indeed hard to look at but need to be seen in order to gain some form of awareness and consciousness of what’s being conveyed.

Last post – Interview

For this week’s final blog task we were asked to conduct a short interview that may aid us in the next assignment, which involves doing research on a particular subject with surveys and interviews. My group chose to research the ways in which culture can impact on reporting on war and terrorism. Due to time restrictions I decided to interview my brother, who is a high school student in year 10 to see what sort of answers he would formulate, based on the types of war reporting that he’s been exposed to.

Aiyana: When you see graphic news stories on war and terrorism, how do you react?

Zac: I feel like our generation has been exposed to many images like this for some time now, particularly since the rise of ISIS and the terror they’ve caused with numerous beheadings and attacks. For me personally, I’m no longer shocked by these images of suffering and terror because I’ve been exposed to violent PS4 games and what not so I don’t get upset or feel sick, I do however feel a sense of gratitude that I’m fortunate enough to have been born in Australia where this is not the norm.

A: Do you think we’ve become increasingly desensitsed to images of war and terrorism?

Z: In a sense yes, we’re shown war documentaries in History class, we watch violent movies and images of terror and war are all over the Internet. The graphic footage shown is becoming more and more available to us because of the internet and war journalists are pushing the envelope in terms of how much graphic material they publish as shock tactics.

A: Did you watch the video of James Foley’s execution? How did you respond to the different reports and articles on this event?

Z: I chose not to watch it because I’m sure it would’ve haunted me for some time but some of my friends did and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I thought it was pretty rough how the photo of his last moments with a knife against his throat was splashed across newspapers around the world I thought that was really tacky and disrespectful towards his family’s wishes to not publish the photos.

A: How do you see these types of reporting changing or evolving in the future? Do you think anything will change?

Z: I don’t think it’ll get any better, if anything I think journalists will start to find ways of getting more up close views of war and conflict, risking their lives even more than they already do in order to get the stories and stay ahead of the pack.

Whilst this was quite a brief interview, I feel like these questions can be integrated into our own research questions for the next assignment.

Why are research ethics important? A case study on Facebook’s shady research techniques.

 

“Ethical research ensures the researcher is ‘doing the right thing’ by the project, its participants and society at large.”(Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi, 2008.)

When conducting any form of research, it is always important to maintain a strong moral compass and operate in an ethical manner in order to prevent any public media altercations or face legality issues. Ethical research involves the researcher conducting research in a proper and moral way, to ensure that all participants involved feel secure and with confidentiality. To ensure that researchers are conducting ethical research there are several guidelines set in place by Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)(Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi, 2008.) The researcher must always keep in mind that fact that different individuals will hold different ideals and expectations when it comes to what is acceptable to ask and expect of these research participants/subjects in order to operate and conduct research in an idyllic environment to achieve the best results.

I’ve chosen a research ethics case study which is well-suited to the media and communications subject to focus on; in 2014 Facebook conducted an “Emotional Manipulation Study” on its users (689,003 people) without them knowing or consenting to be watched by the media monopoly. This outraged users of the social media site and raised several concerns over the privacy of users, as the research was then published in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, leaving questions being asked of how Facebook carries out such research on its users without their consent.

By doing so, Facebook clearly breached confidentiality guidelines from the Research Ethics Committee of its users by unethically carrying out this study without any warning. In his article on the topic, David Hunter rightly points out that Facebook has indeed conducted their study without any consent at all from its users. Although it was argued that the study was conducted under the Common Rule which: “requires oversight by a research ethics committee and adherence with common practices regarding informed consent only if a study receives federal funding or is associated with an institution receiving federal funding.”(Hunter, 2014) But after extensive research, it was found that “ clauses regarding research were only added to this policy four months after the experiment took place.”(Hunter, 2014), deeming the study undertaken by Facebook to be seemingly less ethical than users were assured it was.

Looking back on the ethics involved in conducting research, it is clear that Facebook certainly did not conduct their user-generated research in a way that can be seen as right or ethical; instead, they deceived their users and gathered the personal information of 689,003 of its users without them having any idea they were being watched. If we return to the journal article “Research ethics in media and communication”, the case of the unethical Facebook research study, its participants can be seen as involuntary participants in an unequal power relation between the researchers (Facebook) and the participants (the users). This journal article states that: “research seeks personal information, such as demographic details… which not all participants are willing to divulge.” (Weerakkody, Niranjala, Damayanthi, 2008.) This statement raises questions as to why Facebook would assume they could obtain personal information from its users without their consent.

I’d like to finish with a quote from David Hunter’s article, which I feel summates the constant difficulties associated with ethics in research:

“The history of research ethics has shown us, unfortunately, that if we want research participants to be treated with respect – and research to be conducted in line with ethical principles – then we ought to regulate research with review by an independent research ethics committee.”(Hunter, 2014)

Thanks for reading 🙂

Sources:

Photos, ethics and the law.

This week’s blog task was to analyse or give a critique on a text, which contained research of some description. Being the uninventive Uni student that I am I chose a reading from week 3: Chapter 10 of the book “Using photographs in social and historical research”, “Ethical and Legal issues” by University of Manchester Lecturer and Sociology expert, Professor Penny Tinkler. After reading the chapter over a few times the first thing made clear to me was the purpose of the chapter; to inform the reader of the several legal and ethical issues associated with using photographs in research.

After researching the author’s personal context I then had an understanding of the author’s purpose and intentions of writing the book in the first place. The initial paragraphs of the chapter explain the common need for “researchers and research participants to generate photos in the course of research” and Tinkler then goes on to explain the ethical and legal issues surrounding researchers generating photos. The chapter is structured with the use of subheadings to break up the information being conveyed which allowed me to comprehend what Tinkler was saying and I developed a greater understanding of the topic overall. I found this structure to be more engaging and simpler to read.

An interesting technique used in this chapter is the addition of summaries at the end of the first two sub-topics, which I found very useful to my own analysis of the information. The body of the chapter continues with detailed examples of the different instances of photos being used for research with possible legal and ethical implications. Tinkler has used sources from journal articles including some of her own work throughout the chapter to back up her statements with this well-researched evidence, enhancing the quality of her argument on the whole. The chapter ends with asummary of the author’s arguments that have been mentioned earlier.

Overall, this chapter presents a well-researched, structured presentation on the legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of photographs in social and historical research. With the use of subheadings, the author clearly presents her argument in an engaging and formal tone to draw her reader’s attention to the point she is trying to make. The author’s context and background in Ethics and sociology allows us as the readers to develop a deeper understanding of her motivation to present this chapter. The author’s position on the topic is clearly conveyed throughout the chapter with references to journal articles to back up her statements.

References:  Tinkler, Penny 2013, ‘Ethical issues and legalities’, in Using photographs in social and historical research, SAGE, London, pp. 195-208