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Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture: An Interview with Joe Saltzman (Part Three)

Science fiction media offers us a chance to envision the future of news. What images have surfaced there most frequently?

Journalists of the future apparently have the same problems as journalists in the past. In a TV Sci-Fi series called Dark Angel, created by Jim Cameron in 2000, a journalist, crippled by the enemy, broadcasts news and revolutionary information by hacking into government television. He is a traditional hero in the future. So are Max Headroom and the TV staff around him. They are working in a corrupt system trying to do the best job they can at informing the public. Almost every journalist in science fiction faces the same problems journalists have faced throughout history. The technology is different. The villains can even be aliens. But the problems are the same and the way the journalist faces the problems hasn't changed in 2,000 years. Often, these sci-fi journalists will risk their lives and may even get killed to make sure the public is informed.

Job opening at the Center: Outreach Coordinator

The Center for Future Civic Media is adding an Outreach Coordinator--an amazing chance to help place incredible civic media work directly into communities. Interested? Apply via the link below, or forward it along to qualified friends...


Title: Outreach Coordinator
Req Number: mit-00007036
Department: Media Laboratory
Location(s): Cambridge MA
FT/PT: Full Time
Employment / Payroll Category: SRS (Administrative)
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The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture: An Interview with Joe Saltzman (Part Two)

What do you see as some of the recurring themes in the popular representation of journalism? How much do these myths change over time and how much do they remain constant?

The surprising thing is that the image of the journalist hasn't changed much throughout the centuries. In Antigone, Sophocles summed up the popular opinion more than 400 years before Christ was born: "None love the messenger who brings bad news." About the same time, another popular play told the story of a herald bringing shocking news to the mad hero who is believed to be involved in a murder plot. The hero picks up the herald and dashes his brains upon a stone. No doubt the audience cheered. And so, the image began.

One of the most vicious portrayals of the journalist, for example, is Five Star Final made in 1931. The final shot in the film is the newspaper in the gutter being splattered by mud or something worse.

This Week in Civic Media 06.28.10: FNCM recap, lots on open data/visualization

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From the Center

  • @c4fcm's Ryan O'Toole gets grant to pitch Red Ink at Innovate100 in August
  • "Local competition inspires creative use of public-private space" via @mitnews
  • Hey @hockendougal and @amerigo: RT @ryan_thornburg: is the Ushahidi of 2010

Knight News Challenge/FNCM

The Image of the Journalist in Popular Culture: An Interview with Joe Saltzman (Part One)

If USC's Nonny de La Pena is exploring new tools and platforms that will shape the future of journalism, another of my new Annenberg colleagues, Joe Saltzman, is using new media tools to make it easier for us to research journalism's history. Specifically, Saltzman has launched a data base which indexes a vast array of films, television series, comic books, and other media texts which include popular representations of journalists. Saltzman has long been at the center of a growing academic research field focused on the study of the image of the journalist in popular culture.

As Saltzman explains in the interview here, much of our understanding of who journalists are comes from such popular representations. It is there we can see both heroic representations of the power of the press to bring down seemingly insurmountable institutions and more critical representations of how this power gets abused for commercial gains or cynical motives. These media encapsulate our dreams and our fears about the Fourth Estate.


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