Functions of Mass Communication, Types, Functions, Scope, and Characteristics are some of the functions and theories of mass communication.

Mass communication and Interpersonal communication function differently.Do we have the same relationships with media as we do with people?Some of the functions and characteristics of mass communication can be looked at.Mass communication can overcome physical limitations in face-to-face communication.The amount of people we can communicate with is limited by buildings and objects.It would be impossible for one person to reach millions of people in a stadium without technology.

Mass communication has a lack of sensory richness.Mass communication uses less sensory channels than face-to-face communication.While smell, taste, and touch can add context to a conversation over a romantic dinner, our interaction with mass media messages rely almost exclusively on sight and sound.Mass media messages are impersonal because of the lack of immediacy.Being in the audience is different from watching or listening at home.Mass media messages involve more delayed feedback than other messages.Mass media channels are where most of the messages are sent.We don’t have a way to influence an episode of The Walking Dead.We can either send a message to the show’s producers or yell at the television, but neither is likely to influence the people responsible for sending the message.Mass communication serves many functions that we have come to depend on and expect, even if some features are lost when it becomes electronically mediated.

Several general and specific functions are served by the mass media.Information, interpretation, bonding, and diversion are some of the functions served by the mass media.

The media is similar to a gate in controlling the flow of traffic.

Gatekeeping is a function that media outlets serve, which means they affect or control the information that is transmitted to their audiences.Mass communication scholars have analyzed and discussed this function for decades.The mass media has four gatekeeping functions: relaying, limiting, expanding, and interpreting.Mass media requires a third party to get a message from one human to the next.Mass media messages need to be received on another channel in order to communicate.A Sports Illustrated cover story that you read at SI.com went through several human “gates”, including a writer, editor, publisher, photographer, and webmaster.We need more than that to receive mass media messages.If you want to read the SI.com cover story, you will need a computer, phone, or tablet.relaying refers to the gatekeeping function of sending a message, which usually requires technology and equipment that the media outlet controls and has access to, but we do not.Although we relay messages in other forms of communication such as small group, we are primarily receiving when it comes to mass communication, which makes us dependent on the gatekeeper to relay the message.

Media outlets decide whether or not to pass something along to the media channel so that it can be relayed.Almost every message we receive is edited, which is inherently limiting, because most commercial media space is so limited and expensive.A limited message does not mean the message is bad or manipulated.Time constraints, advertiser pressure, censorship, and personal bias are some of the forces that can affect editing choices.If those who relay the message claim to be objective, then limiting based on bias or self-interest isn’t bad.Many people choose to engage with media messages that are limited to their own preferences.We can have more control over the media messages we receive.We don’t have to sift through everything on our own thanks to niche websites and cable channels.

Gatekeepers work to expand messages.A person may take a story from a more traditional news source and fact check it or do additional research, interview additional sources, and post it on his or her website.Expansion helps us get more information so we can be better informed.A person who expands a message by faking evidence or making up details is unethical.

Pundits interpret mass media messages.When a message is too complex or foreign for us to understand, reinterpretation is useful.The media came under scrutiny after the Supreme Court ruled on the health-care-overhaul bill.Given that policy language is difficult for many to understand and that legislation contains many details that may not be important to average people, a concise and lay reinterpretation of the content by the media outlets would have helped the public better understand the bill.The gatekeeping function of reinterpretation is not ethically fulfilled when media outlets interpret content to the point that it is untruthful or misleading.

The media can fulfill or fail to fulfill its role as the fourth estate of government in each of the gatekeeping functions.

The media in the United States and many other countries is viewed as a watchdog for the government, unlike countries like China, North Korea, and Syria.The watchdog role is intended to keep governments from taking too much power from the people.The idea that the press works independently of the government is central to this role.Our First-Amendment rights allow the media to act as the eyes and ears of the people.The media is supposed to inform the public.The media engages in investigative reporting that can uncover dangers or corruption that the media can expose to the public so that they can demand change.

This ideal isn’t always met in practice.The media is referred to as a lapdog or attack dog by some people.The media can become too cozy with a politician or other public figure, which can lead it to uncritically report or passively relay information without questioning it.Recent stories about reporters being asked to clear quotes and whole stories with officials before they can be used in a story drew sharp criticism from other journalists and the public, and some media outlets put an end to that practice.The twenty-four-hour news cycle and constant reporting on public figures has created a kind of atmosphere where reporters may be waiting to pounce on a mistake or error in order to get the scoop and be able to produce a juicy story.Media scholars say that too much negative reporting leads the public to think poorly of public officials and be more dissatisfied with government.They claim that attack-dog reporting makes it harder for public officials to do their jobs.

Since the early 1900s, theories of mass communication have changed due to technology and more sophisticated academic theories.The state of the media in the early 1900s and early 2000s can be found in a quick overview.In the early 1900s, views of mass communication were formed based on people’s observation of the popularity of media and assumptions that something that grew quickly and was adopted so readily must be good.The mass media has the potential to be a business opportunity, an educator, a watchdog, and an entertainer.The media is seen as a good way to make money by businesses and advertisers, while the education class believes that the media can inform citizens who could be more active in a democratic society.In times of hardship, the media was seen as a way to unite the country.The early scholarship on mass media focused on proving the views through observational and anecdotal evidence.

One hundred years ago newspapers were downsizing, radio was struggling to stay alive in the digital age, and magazine circulation was decreasing.The information function of the news has been criticized because it doesn’t bring people together and the media is blamed for that.The optimistic view of the media changed dramatically during the twentieth century.This change can be better understood with an overview of some of the key theories.

Early theories of mass communication were objective, and social-scientific reactions to the largely anecdotal theories that emerged soon after mass media quickly expanded.The scholars believed that media messages were knowable and predictable.They believed that controlling the signs and symbols used in media messages could control how they were received.

The hypodermic needle theory claimed that meaning could be placed into a media message that would be injected into or transmitted to the receiver.

The early theories claimed that communication moved or transmitted an idea from the mind of the speaker through a message to the listener.Researchers wanted to find out how different messages affected the receiver.There are many theories related to media effects.Data that proved that messages affect viewers could be used to persuade businesses to send their messages through the media channel in order to influence potential customers.

The hypodermic needle approach or bullet theory suggested that a sender could inject a message with a particular meaning into the mass audience.The transmission model of communication is based on this theory.It was assumed that the effects were the same for everyone and the meaning wasn’t altered as it was transferred.Researchers hoped to map the patterns within the human brain so they could connect certain stimuli to certain behaviors.Researchers might try to prove that a message about a product being on sale at a reduced price leads people to buy it.Scholars began to find flaws in this thinking as more research was done.There were new theories that didn’t claim a direct connection between the intent of a message and the reaction of the receiver.The new theories claimed that meaning could be transferred, that patterns could become less predictable, and that interference at any point in the transmission could change the reaction.

More contextual factors were incorporated into the view of communication in the newer theories.The study of mass communication had to include variables such as psychological characteristics and social environment.The interaction model of communication is connected to this approach.Mass media researchers connected to recently developed theories in perception that emerged from psychology in order to account for perspective and experience.For the first time, the sender of the message was the focus of research, and not just the receiver.Perceptual bias and filters became important as they explained why some people interpreted messages while others did not.In Chapter 9 of Preparing a Speech, we discussed theories of recency and primacy, which account for the variation in interpretation based on the order in which a message is received.Researchers looked at how perception of source credibility affects message interpretation and how media messages affect viewers self-esteem.By the 1960s, many researchers in mass communication concluded that the research in the previous twenty years had been nave and flawed, and they significantly challenged the theory of powerful media effects, putting much more emphasis on individual agency, context and environment.

After many scholars concluded that media had no or only minimal effects, the next major turn in mass communication theory occurred.Media effects were once again positioned as powerful and influential by theories in the 70s.Mass media researchers began to study the powerful role that the media plays but also acknowledged that audience members take active roles in interpreting media messages.Researchers explored how audience members’ personality affects their interpretation of a message.Researchers looked at long-term effects and how media messages affect opinion climates, structures of belief, and cultural patterns.

In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, a view of media effects as negotiated emerged, which accounts for the sometimes strong and sometimes weak influences of the media.The media is the most influential in constructing meanings through multiple platforms.The media constructs meanings for people regarding the role of technology in our lives by including certain types in television show plots, publishing magazines, broadcasting news about Microsoft’s latest product, and so on.Although these messages are diverse and no one person is exposed to all the same messages, they are still constructed in some predictable and patterned ways that create a shared social reality.Whether or not the media intends to do this or whether we acknowledge that how we think about technology is formed through our exposure to these messages is not relevant.Mass communication scholars want to describe, understand, or critique media practices rather than prove or disprove a specific media effect.

The media effects theories acknowledge that media messages affect the receiver, but that they also have an agency to reject orreinterpretation the message.

Mass communication scholars are interested in studying how we, as audience members, still have agency in how these constructions affect our reality, in that we may reject, renegotiate, or interpret a given message based on our own experiences.Because of their exposure to various forms of media that have similar patterns of messages regarding technology, a technology nerd and a person living off the grid can talk in similar ways about computers.In keeping with the transactional model of communication, this view of mass communication is more focused on negotiated meaning and context.

Mass media effects are the consequences of what they do.The media’s effects on audience members is one of the key theories in mass communication.Depending on the theory, the degree and type of effect varies.We tend to think that media messages affect other people more than us, as we underestimate the effect that the media has on us.There is a concept for this.The phenomenon of people thinking they are immune to media influence is called the third-party effect.Advertisers and public relations professionals would spend billions of dollars a year crafting messages aimed at influencing viewers if this were true.

Most of us would agree that certain media effects are common.We change our clothes because we watch the forecast on the Weather Channel, look up information about a band and sample their music after we see them perform on a television show, or stop eating melons because of a salmonella outbreak.It is more difficult to study and accept other effects because they are more personal and long term.Media can influence our personal sense of style, views on sex, perception of other races, and values just as our parents or friends do.It is difficult to determine how much influence the media has on a belief or behavior in proportion to other factors.It is possible that media messages affect viewers in ways that are not intended.There are two media effects that are often discussed.

The media and the subject being covered have an interactive relationship.The way a person acts or the way the event functions are influenced by media attention.Media coverage can affect our actions.It is similar to how we change our behavior when we know certain people are watching us.The movement that began on Wall Street in New York City gained some attention from alternative media and people using micromedia platforms.The movement was affected by the coverage.People in other cities and towns formed their own protest groups as the news of the New York movement spread.The movement to spread may have been caused by media attention.

The media-generated change is counter to the desired change.The effects of gaffes, blunders, or plain old poor decisions are much more difficult to control in the world of twenty-four hour news and constant streams of user-generated material.A media narrative that is impossible to backtrack and very difficult to even control can go viral before a group or person can clarify or provide context for what was said.The governing body of the University of Virginia forced President Teresa A. Sullivan to resign.The board was not happy with the president’s approach to dealing with changing financial and technological pressures and thought ousting her may make room for a president who was more supportive of a corporate model of university governance.Students, faculty and alumni came together to support Sullivan after the story broke, and she was reinstated a week later.The board’s actions increased support for the president, which will likely add support to her plans for dealing with the issues, instead of changing the direction and priorities of the university.

According to the theory of cultivation, media exposure, specifically to television, shapes our social reality by giving us a distorted view on the amount of violence and risk in the world.According to the theory, viewers identify with certain values and identities that are presented as mainstream on television even though they do not actually share those values or identities in their real lives.Gerbner used the idea of cultivating as a metaphor to explain how the media shapes our social realities.The media plants seeds in our minds and then cultivates them until they grow into our shared social reality like a farmer growing seeds for a crop.

Heavy television viewing cultivates certain ways of thinking about the world that are distorted, according to the cultivation theory.

Several well-supported conclusions were made by Gerbner over the years.

Light and heavy viewers perceive the world differently, but the effects of television viewing build up over time.The phrase “mean world syndrome” refers to a distorted view of the world as more violent and dangerous than it actually is.

Many media criticism and analysis organizations devote a lot of time and resources to observing, studying, and commenting on how the media acts in practice, which often involves an implicit evaluation of media theories we have discussed so far, in particular media effects.Politicians, spokespeople, and advertisers are concerned about the effectiveness of the messages they send through media outlets.The pervasive view of media effects today is that media messages affect people, but that people have some agency in terms of how much or little they identify with or interpret a message.

To understand media effects, media criticism organizations do research on audience attitudes and also call on media commentators to give their opinions, which may be more academic and informed.Taking some time to engage with these media criticism organizations can allow you to see how they apply mass communication theories and give you more information so you can be a more critical and informed consumer of media.You can find a list of media criticism organizations at the following link: http://www.world-newspapers.com/media.htmlSome of these organizations have a particular political ideology or social/cultural cause that they serve, so be cautious when choosing a source for media criticism to make sure you know what you’re getting.There are more balanced sources of media criticism.CNN has a show called Reliable Sources and On the Media is a public radio show.The show description of Reliable Sources states that the press is a part of every story it covers.

The story of the Times Gory Empire State shooting photo was published in On the Media.

The Media as Watchdog was presented at the Harvard-World Bank Workshop.

The New York Times reported on June 26, 2012 that the head of the University of Virginia had been ousted.