When I tell people I study media, they tend to want some specifics. While I should find this interest heartening, I know it’s because they quite correctly think they know what media are. If I studied say, Quantum Mechanics, they would probably shake my hand and move on, or perhaps ask me what it’s like to be a woman in that field. I am more than happy to talk about my passion, but I’ve learned to brace myself from the disappointment that comes when people realize I study media in a different way. This is not to say unique. This is to say, I do not study the particular media bit of interest to the enquirer. At best, I’ll pique their curiosity in something else.
Take my stepmother. Over break she asked if I studied partisan bias in the news media. Okay, she didn’t put it exactly like that, but this is how I heard her. That’s another funny thing about graduate school: You speak and listen in a different way. Last night, while grocery shopping with a fellow grad student, she said, “I just think discourse analysis is more apt, don’t you?” After a long winter break spent largely away from academics, I said, “You do realize that anyone overhearing this conversation right now should be mocking us.” I digress.
So I had to break the news to my step-mom. “No, I don’t study that, although there are people that do. Partisan bias seems too (Here I deliberately avoided an overused, mean grad school word: reductive) well, let me put it this way, I think media ownership is the bigger, more interesting issue. To illustrate my point, I showed her this link to a Daily Show segment forwarded around my department by professor Steve Miller: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-january-14-2013/investigating-investigative-journalism
The link is stranger than fiction, explaining that CNN has downsized most of its investigative journalism, and that this expert foreign affairs journalist is now consulting for the HBO show the Newsroom. Of course, comedian Jon Oliver makes it funny, but I’m not laughing, and neither was my stepmother. She could not believe it. I’m pleased by her response. Disbelief is a cousin of outrage, something I feel quite a bit in my media studies. I’d like to think that outrage leads to collective action, which leads to change.
Although I never really got around to explaining what I study, I certainly made an impression with the help of so called “fake” news. The truth is I am still having trouble making up my mind; interesting media are exploding all around me. I feel like the figure in this meme I embellished: