For some time now, arguments have been heard from every corner of every spectrum about how mass media has negatively influenced society as we know it. These arguments include the ideas of degrading national morals and the turning away of founding principles and last week, Congress even declared the realm of mass media a “vast wasteland.” Is by chance there any hope of the media having a positive effect on society? Any examples of how the world has been made better due to the extensive influences of the mass media? I am here to say that, yes, indeed there are countless examples of the mass media doing more good than harm.
One instance that I found particularly useful was a television show called America’s Most Wanted (AMW). This show, being the longest running program in the history of the Fox Television Network, reached millions of viewers not in its lifetime, but every week! The number of homes (let alone the number of individuals) that this show informed is simply inconceivable. For one hour every week, AMW would broadcast certain criminals and convicts that have either escaped from prison, have committed crimes and need to be apprehended, or have made the FBI top ten wanted list. It would tell the viewers when the act happened, what the brigand looked like, where he was last seen, and even where investigators thought he was headed. In essence, the show more or less created a completely-informed public police force where the criminals were faced against the nation. It wasn’t just entertainment either. In the years that the show aired, over one thousand criminals-at-large were arrested and thrown into cells thanks, not only to the show itself, but to the millions of informed and vigilant viewers who called in. Who can argue the greatness of such a program?
This is only one example out of thousands, and only one medium outlet. Think of how this one show could be expanded to include other media and other potential viewers or listeners. For those who don’t watch as much television, but listen to the radio, a public broadcast of the criminals would very well have the same effect. Newspapers could even include mugshots or other pictures along with the general information. Also, newspapers could be area-oriented and give specific information about people in a specific neighborhood or municipality. Even more powerful are the instant notifications that can be set up on personal cell phones, tablets, and computers. Imagine an armed robbery occurs at a local grocery store and somehow the thief escapes capture. Within minutes, everyone who lives within a predetermined perimeter of the location is notified about what happened, where it happened, who carried out the crime, and that person’s physical description. From 7:45pm when the event happened to 7:55pm when the alert is sent out, the chances of that criminal getting away decrease almost entirely. Think of it as a giant neighborhood watch program powered by satellite.
So is it fair to say that this “vast wasteland” doesn’t even have an oasis of some kind? No, it is not. Looking purely at the negatives will only bring up negative thoughts. We must have an open mind about what mass media means for us now and what possibilities it holds for us in the future. If good can come from it today, what is in store for tomorrow? I am in no way stating that the mass media is without its faults, but if put on a balance scale, the potentiality of positive outcomes greatly outweighs that of negative ones. I hope that we are not willing to throw away the entire carton of eggs because we found one of them to be broken.