The Monitorial Citizen, Big Media, and The Daily Show

I thought that Jenkin’s chapter on news media and political discourse was fascinating given that I’ve become an avid consumer of political news in the last few years. On the whole, I believe that Jenkins has an idealistic view of the Internet and the consequences that it will have on democracy itself, although he does realize that the Internet will not solve all the problems of democracy.

I’ve been reflecting on the 24-hour news cycle lately and am really disgusted by what I see on some of the major news networks (CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc). I think Jenkins makes a good point though in saying that the 24-hour news cycle was not developed by choice. He says “slowly but noticeably, the old media are becoming faster, more transparent, more interactive – not because they want to be, but because they have to be. Competition is quickening the news cycle whether or not anyone wants to speed it up.” As more and more blogs have developed and Web 2.0 has spread to the far corners of the Internet, the major networks have reacted. His discussion of culture jamming seems a little contradictory since he says that “the concept of culture jamming has outlived its usefulness”, but also notes that “blogging may on one level be facilitating the flow of ideas across the media landscape; on other levels, they are ensuring an ever more divisive political debate.” I liked the solution that President Obama suggested recently at the University of Michigan commencement when he said:

“Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. (Applause.) It is essential for our democracy.”

Particularly, I liked Jenkins section about the “collaborative concept of a monitorial citizen” vs. the “individualized conception of the informed citizen”. His commentary about The Daily Show was enjoyable to read since I’m a big fan. I think his connection between the show and the monitorial citizen was very interesting. He says “The Daily Show‘s mix of spoof segments with interviews with actual public figures demands an active and alert viewer to shift through the distinctions between fact and fantasy. Such a program provides a good training ground for monitorial citizens.” Jon Stewart would be the first person to acknowledge that his show is goofy most of the time, but some of the most telling interviews I’ve seen have been the full, unedited interviews that the show posts on their website. The Daily Show consistently points out flaws in big media and draws attention to the “fair and balanced” news coverage from any side (MSNBC or FOX NEWS). Jenkins makes a very good point when he says “in such spaces, news is something to be discovered through active hashing through of competing accounts rather than something to be digested from authoritative sources.” I think that Jenkins and Stewart share a common philosophy.

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