Bill Walsh is a contributing writer to the Media Literacy On-Line
Project and is an A/V Media Specialist at Billerica Memorial High School,
"Media Watch" is a series of weekly newspaper columns discussing the
very broadest topics in media and media literacy with (often) a decidedly
local flavor. Currently, "Media Watch" columns are carried in THE BILLERICA
MINUTEMAN, a weekly newspaper in Massachusetts.
Mr. Walsh notes:
"I offer them here not so much because they are priceless
pieces of literature (?!), but to suggest to others in the media field
what can be done to broaden and discuss media issues with the general
Mr. Walsh may be reached at: WillWalsh@aol.com
In an ideal media world, there would be HUNDREDS of such home-grown
columns running in local papers all across the country, some of them
perhaps written by YOU.
These may be reprinted by anyone, anywhere, anytime, in any format.
All I ask if you do is to include my name and let me know how you've
used 'em. Fair enough?
Oh, yeah! And . . . let me know what you think. I'd appreciate the
Brief History of Media Education. The author divides the history
of media education into four distinct historical periods.
Modest Proposal for V-Chip Expansion. Common sense and good
judgment are valuable and rare commodities these days. That's why we
need to economize their use. The new "V-chip" does just that.
Posters Are Media, Too. Posters, buttons, and bumperstickers
DO communicate -- often more succinctly and memorably than paragraphs
upon paragraphs of writing.
Camcorder Revolution. The camcorder revolution is a revolution
in theory, not in fact so far. It has not yet had any appreciable impact
on our society at large or on our personal lives. This is unfortunate,
and it is true for a number of different reasons.
Music Kill? Richard Kuntz is dead. The 15-year-old shot himself
last December, but in testimony before a Senate subcommittee last week,
his father said that rock music killed him. And the old debate continues.
CBS and Electronic Fakery. Article explores the use of inserted
electronic images into background scenes alterning the actual landscape.
Up After OJ. A summary of the aftermath of the circus-like trial
of O.J. Simpson.
Computer Scoring of Essays a Bad Idea. I actually felt a chill
run down my spine when I saw the headline on the front page of the education
newspaper I was reading: "Pennsylvania tests essay-grading software."
The sub-head was even scarier: "Officials mull using artificial-intelligence
system to score state exams."
Buying and Selling Captain Kangaroo. In the 1990's we would
like to believe that the idea of people being "owned" by others is an
outdated idea, a despicable practice ended by the Emancipation Proclamation
over a hundred and thirty years ago. In the legal jungle of media copyrights
and trademarks, however, this is not the case.
Creation of Christmas Spirit. What we often take for the spirit
of the season is a construction of a reality that may not exist.
Demise of Album Covers. For a while, there was a true "marriage"
of two very distinct and different media -- art and music. In their
heyday, LP covers were an outlet for experimentation, art, fun, social
comment, and the power of the visual image to sell you the music that
was contained therein.
Demonizing Media Not the Answer. For too many - and for too
long - "media literacy" or "media studies" has simply meant bashing
the media, as this article did. Exposing lies in advertising, lack of
objectivity in news, or profit-driven media corporations is often the
only agenda of those who pretend to educate about the media but who
in reality want to tear it down or discredit it. And this sets up a
Dr. Laura and Media Realities. It's fun to watch the media all
of the time, but it's especially rewarding to be watching when the little
dog pulls away the curtain and we get a glimpse inside and actually
see important media decisions being made. And these days, Dr. Laura
is giving us the chance to see how programming and sponsorship decisions
Driving the Ads. Well, there's one thing to be said for media
advertising - it never gets boring. There's a company in California
that has come up with a new advertising medium that has elicited an
overwhelming response, both positive and negative. It's either revolutionary
or revolting, depending upon whom you listen to.
End of the Innocence? After a while, a trend develops. And then
it isn't so much every single transgression of ethics that's a concern
as much as a whole pattern of behavior that's disconcerting. The recent
CNN/Time scandal where Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Peter Arnett
erroneously reported that American troops used nerve gas in the Vietnam
War against defectors is but the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Enough Jackasses to Go Around. At last report, 13-year-old Jason
Lind was lying in a hospital bed in Boston, suffering from second and
third degree burns after copying a stunt he saw on MTV's popular "Jackass"
TV show. The show featured a guy wearing a flame-retardant suit and
hanging steaks on himself as friends cooked him on a human-sized barbecue.
On the show, they sped the steak-cooking along by squirting lighter
fluid on the human spit.
A Plea for Expanded Media Literacy. In the media education world,
there are two schools of thought about "teaching the media." One suggests
that there should be a separate course of study in media and media literacy.
Certain localities, states and even foreign countries have established
distinct media literacy courses - and sometimes make them requirements
Expanding Media Literacy. In the media education world, there
are two schools of thought about "teaching the media." One suggests
that there should be a separate course of study in media and media literacy.
Certain localities, states and even foreign countries have established
distinct media literacy courses - and sometimes make them requirements
for graduation. The other view is that media literacy - like text literacy
- is a part and parcel of every subject in every department and in every
On Faking Photographs. Faking photographs to impress somebody
is also what the University of Wisconsin tried to do last week, except
they got caught at it. Attempts to deceive take on a more serious tone
when they're tried by a major university on the cover of their undergraduate
Florida Recount A Great Soap Opera. I must report to you (the
reading public) that I've been suckered into the biggest soap opera
of all time - the Florida Recount (gasp!).
the Story First . . . Maybe Right. I did not, of course, witness
the actual bomb blast at the Olympic Park last Friday night, but I WAS
up watching TV at that time and DID manage to catch the live TV coverage
of that awful event. And for those of us who watch the media work, it
American Smokeout: Me, the Media, and Addiction.Thursday is
The Great American Smokeout, and like millions of other addicts, I'm
going to try to stop smoking for at least 24 hours. It's tough and I
wish I'd never begun. It would be easy to blame the tobacco companies
and their advertising, but it's much more subtle than that. The media
in general - ALL media - is a real co-conspirator in getting me hooked.
I was just dumb enough to fall for it.
Up with TV. Perhaps one of the reasons that it is so hard to
discuss, analyze, or write about the influence of television is that
it's so pervasive, so much a part of our lives -- both past and present.
Our TV memories parallel our actual life in so many ways and at so many
times that often our memories are framed by TV itself. It has become
in a very real sense, a part of us.
Lessons To Learn. Explores the commercialization of media and
that media must sell in order to remain on the air.
To Believe. You're not going to believe this story. I'm warning
you. But it's true. Every word of it. No foolin'. It centers around
Bob Grant, who sounds like not a very nice man.
Home Sick with TV. Remember when you were a little kid and got
to stay home sick from school? I do. In the Walsh house, it usually
meant settling in on the couch in the living room with a pillow and
a blanket, warm ginger ale and a whole day's worth of daytime TV.
TITLE. It's pretty rare these days when the printed word incites
controversy. We're so concerned about the modern media of TV and film
and Internet and rap music that a bad word in a book hardly seems to
bother us anymore - unless, of course, that book is The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn and the word is "nigger."
I'm a Computer Game Addict! Personal observations about becoming
addicted to computer game.
Our Attitudes and Perceptions. If we needed reminding that TV
is not "real," there's another study out, this one from the Durham Veterans
Affairs Medical Center. Not surprisingly, they found a rather unrealistic
treatment of this important medical procedure
Ethics and Other Oxymorons. We so often see the evidence of
media intrusiveness, media insensitivity and media sensationalization,
that it's easy to believe that the media has no soul, no compassion,
Learned. Perceptive, faithful and regular readers of this column
can perhaps learn from an embarrassing mistake I made.
TV Coverage Crossed the Lines of Decency. I know that our moral
choices are often varying shades of gray -- that is very little in this
world nowadays that's clearly black-and-white, right or wrong. But there
ARE some things that are clearly wrong.
Rubin and the Media. A review of the life of Jerry Rubin and
his use of the media to present a cause.
Camel. Most advertisers are moral people, and their advertising
is simply a way to publicize their product or service. But when a company
advertises poison to young children, we need to draw the line.
Grant On Media Literacy. There are some things one medium does
better than the others. We often use more than one form to get a clearer
Media and Cultural Literacy. Increasingly, media literacy is
tied to cultural literacy. One simply cannot be a literate and aware
citizen of our culture without knowledge of the mass media
Global Trends with Mom. I have a confession to make. Sometimes,
as I try to figure out global trends in technology and media, I look
very close to home. As a matter of fact, I sometimes I look at my mother.
Can Show Us Ourselves. Each of us takes our own individual meaning
from the media - from films, records, plays, TV. Some pieces nearly
speak to us directly, and we cherish them not only as works of art,
but also because of what and how they speak to us.
Media Violence and Shades of Gray. I was sent a Perry Ellis
ad from the New York Times Magazine recently. It features a woman in
an overcoat sitting on the floor of a tiled bathroom. She's got this
vacant, drugged-out stare. From the top of the frame, a male hand is
roughly tugging at the belt of her coat. Other ads in fashion or lifestyle
magazines leave less to the imagination. These things trouble me.
Memo On PBS. PBS says that they're concerned with only quality,
not ratings. So how come it's only during pledge time when their stations
pull out Rolling Stones shows or Eric Clapton retrospectives?
More Media Savvy Than She Thinks. I've got a pet theory (I've
got a couple of them, actually, but only one is worth sharing with you
here). People are smarter than they think they are; they're also more
creative than they think they are. And in the area of video production,
they know more than they think they do. Luckily for me, my theory was
proven correct just last week.
Computer Technology "Just because I own and see the usefulness
of a computer doesn't mean that I think computers can do everything.
The misuse of media technology is perhaps as big and as real a danger
as is its under-utilization."
Napster & "Free" Music. Mondays federal appeal court decision
against Napster has thrown the already tumultuous marriage of music
and computers into even more turmoil. It is, everyone acknowledges,
truly a landmark decision.
Born Product. Should a director be held legally responsible
for the actions of people who see his films?It's not as ridiculous as
it sounds. The courts are already about to decide this crucial question.
Eyes and Ears Through Media Literacy. The more we learn about
the media, the more that knowledge changes our perceptions; changes
how we look at an ad or read a newspaper, changes how we listen to music
or watch TV ourselves. Anyone who's ever acted as a director - even
on a three-camera, local access TV show; begins to watch TV paying attention
to how professional directors work.
Findings Unveiled. In a dramatic and startling announcement
from his home in Billerica, Massachusetts yesterday, writer, teacher,
and media know-it-all Bill Walsh announced his conclusion that watching
TV actually INCREASES a person's intelligence.
News That Isn't. Media has the power to show us things we've
never seen before, bring us to places we've never been before, and reveal
to us things which we did not know before. That's one of media's strengths.
Say the Stupidest Things! On the morning announcements at school
the other day, one of the reporters said something stupid. I'm not going
to make fun of him - it just got me to thinking about stupid stuff you
see and hear on TV.
Less Voice in the Night. The company of radio late at night
is recalled with the death of a Boston radio tradition.
Who's Beginning to 'Get It. Remember that pivotal scene in "My
Fair Lady" when Eliza Dolittle finally says, "The rain in Spain stays
mainly in the plain" correctly? Professor Henry Higgins is thrilled.
"I think she's got it! By George she's got it!" Well, I feel not unlike
Professor Higgins these days, having found someone who's "got it," although
not necessarily from me.
Problem is Defining Violence: The statistics are frightening.
We have a problem with violence on TV in this country. One of the major
problems is that we don't know what -- if anything -- we should do about
Paula Jones and Penthouse. Last week it was announced that Paula
Jones will be featured in an upcoming Penthouse magazine photo layout,
a little tidbit I found particularly interesting. Ms. Jones, you may
recall, once vowed "never, never, never" to pose naked. She's apparently
changed her mind (financial arrangements have not been disclosed), because
it's reported that the Penthouse feature will feature Paula "naked inside
and next to a swimming pool." The pictures were taken (ironically enough)
in California during the Democratic National Convention.
Phone Call on Rock Hall of Fame. "Hello? Office of Cultural
Affairs, Enforcement Division, Good Taste desk? I'd like to report a
crime. The victim? Well, I guess good taste is the victim. Truth. Justice.
The American Way - all of that stuff. The perpetrator? The National
Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Yeah - they're the Grammy people,
but this isn't about the Grammies. You must get a lot of calls about
those. This is about something much more lasting."
Politicians Promise Us Everything. The battle between style
and substance in political campaigns ended long ago, with style emerging
as the clear winner. Some point back to the Kennedy-Nixon debates of
1960 as the crucial turning point. Those who watched the debates on
television thought that Kennedy had won. Those who listened on radio
(and were therefore deprived of visual images) thought Nixon won.
The Pope in a New Comic Book. There's a new Caped Crusader in
the comic book business these days. It's Pope John Paul II.
Di and the Media. The media has compounded the death of this
very nice lady with its own special brand of hyperbole and hypocrisy
for an entire week.
Programming the Deadly Sins. The television industry is not
noted for its honesty, so I (for one) applaud the newest trend in TV
programming in which shows are pretty frank about what they're offering.
First came "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" on ABC, appealing in a not-too-subtle
way to the audience's avarice. Then came the Fox program honestly-titled
simply "Greed." Truth in programming, finally.
Put Me on TV. There are a great many things I don't understand
generally. Rising to the top of that fairly lengthy list this week is
why aiming a video camera at some people seems to cut their IQ or maturity
level in half. I just don't get it.
Reading is NOT Dead. I met Harry Potter last weekend, and I've
got to tell you that it was a pretty positive experience. Suddenly I'm
a little more optimistic about books, reading, and young people in general.
TV Guide. I've just read TV Guide. Yes, READ it. All of it.
All 212 pages. All 7,997 program listings. And you learn some interesting
things when you do that.
Remembering Kent State. While some readers are (no doubt) too
young to remember, and others may have blocked it from their memories,
it remains for some of us a very important and unforgettable date. Today
is the 30th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, and attention must
to Media. Media -- any media -- is a medium of communication.
And communication requires both a sender and a receiver, one who creates
the message and one who "reads" it.
and Roll Is Not Meant for Me. I don't like a lot of the popular
rock and roll music that's out these days. Much of it I cannot understand.
Some of it I find offensive. I can't understand the words to a lot of
the songs. It's often played too loud. And the artists look and act
like very unsavory characters. Which is, of course, exactly how it should
Finales and Cliffhangers."Finale" is supposed to be some grand
or super-exciting ending to a work. For those of us who endured the
"season finale" of Seinfeld last week, it's distressing to learn that
it was only the beginning. Twenty-seven programs listed in this week's
TV GUIDE are described as "season finales" and five advertised as "cliffhangers.".
Ads. Part of my extensive media experience includes a stint
as advertising director for a weekly newspaper here in Massachusetts.
Before you're unduly impressed by the title, let me tell you about it.
A Solution for "Road Rage". Stories in the media about road
rage are all the fashion these days. In fact, it's become a very hot
topic in both TV reports and newspapers during this heavy-travel summer
Sounds of Silence" or"Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend. I was
less surprised by the advertising on the phone than I was by the fact
that there was ANY kind of recorded message on the line while I was
waiting. I was frankly a little disappointed to discover that my friendly
neighborhood car repair place had joined the twentieth century.
of Teachers In The Media. We had been talking about sterotypes
on TV and how various groups are represented: Blacks, women, minorities.
I started thinking about TV's depiction of teachers.
Stereotyping the Post Office in the Media. At an important (but
generally ignored) press conference recently, the United States Postal
Service unveiled a report which tries to prove that the term "going
postal" is incorrect. The 249-page, two year study was funded by the
postal service, but conducted "independently" by the U.S. Postal Service
Commission on a Safe and Secure Workplace. That's what they say.
Shock. I just got one of those record club things in the mail,
and instead of being excited by the possibilities, I'm either bored
or confused by the selections. It's a sign of rapidly approaching old
age, I'm sure.
Morning News. Frankly, it's both fun and rewarding to watch
them work, these students who run the daily morning announcement TV
program here at Billerica High.
of Commercials. I am an advertiser's dream as I settle down
in front of my TV set at 6:00 PM Superbowl night to watch the big event.
I couldn't care less who wins the football game. I am here to watch
the commercials. And I realize that they've finally done it. They've
made the ads at least as interesting as the game itself -- so interesting
that the commercials are drawing their own audience.
'99: Excess and Entertainment "... the Superbowl has, indeed,
become nearly a symbol of America - a symbol of American consumerism,
arguably the pinnacle of American sports, the most-watched (and most
pretentious and most expensive) TV coverage of a single event in our
American culture. And it is also so much more - both good and bad.
Superbowl XXXV and America. I'm not a TV reviewer by occupation,
but Superbowls have taken on such a life of their own and such monumental
importance in our culture that I figured I just HAD to watch Superbowl
XXXV last Sunday and then try to make some media sense of it.
Character, and Class. In a media world where mediocrity often
passes for talent, where special effects are often used to disguise
a lack of skill, and where the most important character trait seems
to be the ability to call attention to yourself, the Billerica High
Musical remains not only a training ground for young talent, but also
for the development of character.
Radio and Citizen Participation. When we talk about active citizen
participation in the media -- true two-way interaction -- a free and
open exchange of ideas -- we may think of talkradio.
Your Pick. It seems that police cruisers in St. Clair County,
Illinois have became "moving billboards"
Television Changes Us. I'm not one of those people who allege
that TV is evil. But that is not to say I'm blind to some of television's
rather obvious and glaring faults. And perhaps one of the most serious
is that television changes us, not so much our behavior - that question
is still under discussion - but our expectations, the way we see the
world around us and even ourselves
. . . Testing". The big story in the local media these days
is testing "the testing" of Massachusetts students with the MCAS tests
and the testing of Massachusetts teachers on a new certification exam.
No Such Thing as Free Chowda. Who would ever think that handing
out free stuff could start a controversy? Well, soon commuters in Boston
will be handed a coupon for a free bowl of chowder at Legal Sea Foods
as they pay their tolls in the tunnel.
Much Madness....It's not often that we have a mass suicide,
local town elections, and April Fool's Day so close together. In the
event that this odd coincidence harbingers the Apocalypse, I think that
it might be time to reveal the existence of ANOTHER cult - mine. It's
called the Society To Observe Obviously Puzzling Irritating Dolts (STOOPID),
and I'm its temporary leader. Until we can get Clarabell out of retirement.
Toilet TV. From a media watcher in Canada comes news which is
both amusing and sobering, According to AdNews Online Daily, a company
called NewAd Media has already installed new videoboards in public bathrooms
in Toronto. From what I can gather, the video screens are mounted above
the urinals in men's rooms and inside the toilet stalls in ladies' rooms.
An infrared sensor turns the board on when someone stands in front of
it (for the men) or when one sits on the toilet (for the women). The
boards display "45 second full-motion broadcast quality video clips
with sound," it is reported, and although the news item I saw didn't
mention it specifically, you can bet that what the videoboards are showing
Trademark Battles. Bobby's mother was busy with the white-out,
trying to fix a mistake on the manuscript before she xeroxed it. Meanwhile,
Bobby had finished crying, threw away his soggy kleenex, checked the
new band-aid on his knee, and ran back outside to continue rollerblading
with his pals. Welcome to the wonderful world of trademarks.
Is Fun. Amid all the critical viewing talk and media literacy
analysis and trying to get you involved in making your own media messages,
that simple fact has gone un-stated for far too long. Watching TV is
Poet: Charles Kuralt. Kuralt's "job" for 28 years was to drive
the back roads of America in a CBS camper and report to us what he found
Turn Off Week. Is the focus of TV Turnoff Week rid ourselves
of some sort of evil influence or a "TV fast," to find one's own nature.
New Sites on the World Wide Web. "As it gets easier and easier
to develop Web sites (it's now so easy, even an English teacher can
do it!), we're going to see more and more organizations and individuals
turn to the Internet to get their message across."
Wars. Media DOES change people and the way we think and act...and
sometimes the changes are discouraging to see
Bites. One thing that can be said about the popular media --
ALL of the popular media: newspapers, magazines, music, TV -- is that
they serve as a barometer of the changes we go through as a society.
Changes in thought, philosophy, behavior and even language are seen
first in the media, and the media's use of certain images, ideas and
even phrases seems to OK their use in our society.
The Ads. Those of us who are "over the hill" can remember a
time when thepurpose of clothes was to clothe, not to communicate a
What Makes a Celebrity. This is more than merely an academic
question. Forbes magazine has just released its list of the top 100
celebrities in the world today, and its an interesting and intriguing
list for anyone interested in the media and its effect on our society.
The Frequency, Connie? The firing of Connie Chung raises some
interesting questions about our tastes in news (and newscasters) and
the role of women inthe media.
Why Don't Kids Know the News?. At times I'm alternately discouraged
and/or appalled when I realize how little news some of my students get.
From time to time, after reading an interesting piece in the newspaper
or seeing something on TV that I'd like to discuss with them, I ask
in class the next day, "Did anyone see the story in the Globe (or Herald
or Sun or whatever) about such-and-such?" Or "Who saw `60 Minutes' last
night?" It's not that there are so few positive responses; it's that
there aren't ANY.
Im Not Buying. One of my students asked me if I'd purchased
the new Beatles' CD yet. I guess he figured that, being a child of the
60's, I'd snap up ANY "new" Beatles material immediately. I told him
that I hadn't and tried to explain why. But I'm still mulling it over
in my mind.
With Basics.At my high school, there are three levels of English
classes -- Honors, College Prep, and "Basic" (We don't call it "basic"
when anybody's listening, but that's what it is). Those of you who are
teachers probably understand that the class can be a "dumping ground"
for non-college kids, screw-ups, discipline problems, lazy kids, unmotivated
kids and anyone else who slips through the cracks.
XFL - A TV Show About Sports. I am not a sports reporter; nor
am I a sports columnist. In fact, I'm probably not even a big sports
fan - although I do watch some games on TV. But since the new XFL football
league is more about television, sex, and violence than it is about
sport, I figure I'm qualified to discuss it
articles reflect Mr. Walsh's personal observations and opinions of the
media scene and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Media
Literacy On-Line Project or the University of Oregon.