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Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us Hardcover – October 1, 2003
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"...a provocative, well-researched book...gives an apt overview of many of the problems facing modern society." -- Oakland Press/Pontiac, MI, Jan. 4, 2004
"...offers hundreds of examples of deceptive practices in journalism, advertising, political activism, public relations, and charity appeals." -- The Futurist, January-February 2004
"Many editors and TV news directors will find it uncomfortably close to the truth it is unsparing in its criticism." -- Sacramento Bee, December 2003
"Should be required reading peels away myths and provides the facts. Should be on every library shelf. Essential." -- Current Review for Academic Libraries April 2004
From the Inside Flap
As the lines between advertising, news, and entertainment blur, the ideal of an informed citizenry becomes harder and harder to achieve. We, the American public, aren't sure what to believe, or where to put our money and trust. We know we're being manipulated, misled, and outright lied to by those who seek our support. Whether it comes from advertisers, activists, or the government, the manipulation is constant and pervasive.
Those who are supposed to help us understand the world and the problems we face frequently fail us. Journalists and the news media offer entertainment and sensationalism instead of significant information. Politicians and lawmakers who guide the country are little better; instead of real solutions, we are offereed merely the illusion of progress.
This hard-hitting critique of our media culture examines not only the ways in which we are deceived, but the media's role in propagating these deceptions. But MEDIA MYTHMAKERS goes beyond criticism to give concrete examples of the damage caused by manipulation of the news. From missing children to the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, from efforts to end slavery in other countries to AIDS education, myths and deception in the media threaten us all. While the public is being misled, real problems go unaddressed and resources are wasted on misguided ideas.
In an increasingly complex world, where accurate and unbiased information is more important than ever, MEDIA MYTHMAKERS provides a timely and much-needed analysis.
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I would enjoy an update to reflect how social media has further affected news reporting in the last decade. Anyone who is serious about journalism, activism, and weeding through misleading tactics from advertisers should read this book. In addition, consumers as a whole have and will continue to benefit from the information presented.
As always, I enjoyed Ben Radford's writing style and meticulous detail. A five star book for sure!
The media is a powerful force in our lives - in our thoughts, our beliefs and most importantly, our actions. Radford examines this force with a critical and objective eye, dissecting its elements and penetrating the motivations, meanings, and effects it has upon civilization. Even the most cynical reader may be horrified by what Radford uncovers. Fascinating examples are provided throughout this well-written book. Best of all, however, are the realistic solutions for change.
As an editor, Radford is more than qualified to examine this realm and he does so with great skill. I was happy to discover that the book was extraordinarily well organized and written. I can see it used as a basis for many high school and university courses in journalism, communication and critical thinking. In an improved world, it might also be used by activists, media professionals, decision-makers, politicians - even concerned parents and students of life.
The reader is left with a media literacy that will serve them well throughout life and is necessary in our time. I highly recommend this book to one and all.
The first step in answering these questions is determining what information is well presented. Radford succeeds in detailing the mainstream media's exploitation of emotion. He explains common logical fallacies committed by martyrmakers. With that, examples of groups profiting from tragic events illustrate some of the most deplorable aspects of the media and ordinary people working together to manipulate public opinion. This book is one of the few instances where anyone pins responsibility for declining media quality on the American populace. Another concept Radford examines with particular care is bias, be it the inherently subjective nature of journalism or his own bias in writing the book. He also discusses the value of critical thinking in a variety of situations from causes du jour to the effect of media-induced hype on the legislative process. At its best, Mythmakers dissects the consequences of emotion-clouded judgment and its effects on people being accurately informed of the most complex issues of the day.
While the book provides useful information, the organization of data and analysis feels frenetic, as information gets lost in ill-formed transitions. Radford's examples jump around, and he relies heavily on three news stories for examples of substandard journalism practices: Princess Diana's death, the Columbine shootings, and 9/11. This repetition in the book becomes tiring; perhaps Radford should have treated them as case studies so errors in media could be noted in one or two chapters instead of several. Likewise, the chapters on advertising are incongruent in tone and content when compared to the rest of the book. While reading later chapters, I wondered if advertising would be further addressed. Given its brief appearance in the beginning, the information on advertising may be better examined as part of other media manipulation tactics. The book's overall format also feels cluttered. While part of it stems from the numerous sources cited, the layout is more akin to a string of extended essays combined into a hardcover book with no thoughtful transitions between them. Dedicating individual chapters to the most prominent cases of media misbehavior would have facilitated more thorough and easy to follow discussion of the exact tactics used to sway public opinion and information.
Media Mythmakers also falters in properly identifying its audience. The language used shifts between formal and colloquial. This bipolarity suggests Radford attempted to write this book to appeal to two very different groups: the intellectually ambitious and mainstream media consumers. Finding a middle ground for these groups is difficult at best, and such fluctuation in diction is not a constructive way to achieve that goal. The intellectually ambitious crowd of this decade, meanwhile, will regard much of the information presented as old news. The statistics for white collar crime are a prime example of such information; this information is now taught in introductory social science courses at various higher education institutions. If this book is intended for the more cerebral audience, expanded discussion on the less obvious topics (e.g. activist manipulation of the media and the humanitarian aid paradox) would be a more sensible approach. Meanwhile, a more mainstream audience may need to be alerted of the white collar crime statistics. No matter the audience, new information needs to be presented to reflect the changes in the media environment since 2003. The audience and its various subsections have changed significantly since that time.
Radford's book provides some useful information regarding the state of contemporary media. Finding that information is a test of reading skill and perseverance. Valuable information hides in redundancy and outdated statistics. Media Mythmakers covers a subject that deserves more careful examination than what is currently given. Radford should consider rewriting this book for the new decade, which has not only a new crop of stories bungled by the media but also a transformed audience.
Should be required reading for everyone -- arms you with the weapons you need to defend yourself from the daily onslought of error, half-truth, and ratings-pandering fake news.
There are hundreds of examples in this well-researched book of how the media distorts facts and displays its bias (not liberal or conservative, per se, but a coporate bias that panders to viewers who want spectacle, not facts).
Not since Neil Postman has there been a media critic who is so on the side of the critical thinker and so incisive in his critiques of the power of the media.
While Ben writes about the problems in the journalism and advertising trades, there is also the suggestion that the integrity and objectivity we desrve from the media at large will only be offered if we demand it.
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