A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication

By Richard Jackson Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
Teaching Values and
Health: Media as Parent,
Priest, Physician, and
Moral Arbiter

Q: How much of television can be considered educational TV?

A: According to former FCC chairman Nicholas Johnson, “All of it. The only question is, what is it teaching?”

Q: What percentage of fictional TV characters have an identifiable religious affiliation, compared to what percentage of actual Americans who claim a religious affiliation?

A: While 89% of Americans claim some religious affiliation, only 5% of TV characters do, and most of them are on just a few shows (Skill, Lyons, & Larson, 1991).

Q: What was the effect of NBC Today anchor Katie Couric undergoing a colonoscopy on national television in March 2000?

A: According to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, colonoscopy rates in the U. S. jumped over 20% after the nation saw the inside of Katie's bowels on TV. With colon cancer almost always curable if detected early but still the second leading cause of cancer deaths, Katie undoubtedly saved many lives. Incidentally, this was not an idle publicity stunt; Couric's husband had recently died at 42 from colon cancer and Katie was determined to save others the heartbreak that her family had suffered (Bjerklie, 2003).

Much of this book has focused on rather problematic perceived realities gleaned from the media: worlds of excessive violence, deception, stereotyping, or sexual promiscuity. However, media can be used in more positive ways. In this chapter we examine some of this potential, where the media are intentionally or otherwise used to produce or encourage socially

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