The article represents a critique of the work Media and the American Mind by Daniel J. Czitrom published in 1982 which is considered revolutionary insight in journalism of nineteenth century because it “was linked to a tidy history of thought and research about the media” (Park, 2007, p.466).
The Czitrom’s book is notable for several significant ideas but the factor which set this work apart from other studies is the author’s choice of media theorists to analyze. The author’s goal was to give a critical estimation of Media and the American Mind and analyze the contribution of the work in the development of communication theory.
Park (2007) discovered that Czitrom’s work “provides a victory for the side of intellect.” (p. 467). The main argument Park made was that Czitrom’s book represented the opposite view to all the previous studies in the field of communication. He stated that Czitrom offered the research which differed much from existed views.
In his work Czitrom investigated the problem of impact of media on the public consciousness (Czitrom, 1982). Central arguments of Czitrom’s study are as follows: evolution in comprehension of the impact of the media on the public consciousness of Americans; social thought evolution in relation to new comprehension; the relationship between new media and new technologies and institutions; the role of early responses in the development of new media forms (Czitrom, 1982).
The author distinguished notions “mass communication” and “media communication” stating that communication evolved from the first stage to the latter. He also traced direct and indirect roles of meanings of different ideas used in communication play (Park, 2007, p. 467).
The article intersects with several theories researched media and public relationship, namely: Cultural Studies, Cultivation Theory and Agenda-Setting Theory (Griffin, 2009). The article does not contain any critique of the mentioned theories but only offers supportive arguments for them.
Czitrom noticed that contemporary communication framework offered by media sources “suffers from fuzziness, lack of clarity, and a jumble of definitions.” (Park, 2007, p. 466). This is the reason of semantic ambiguities that often occur in media communication. This statement is the best proof of Agenda-Setting Theory of McCombs and Shaw. The main argument of this theory is that media draws public attention to selected events and then urges public shaping thoughts in accordance with myth creators’ point of view. McCombs and Shaw also stated that public perception of the events is artificially created by the media (Griffin, 2009, p. 365).
Also, Park (2007) referred to Whitley who defined “cognitive institutionalization” as two related aspects: the degree of consensus, formulation clarity, problem relevance, instrumentation used and scientist’s activity in terms of consensus. The aspects of the problem relevance and formulation clarity relate Cultural Studies. The central claim of Cultural Studies is that media serves the interests of the dominant power in the society (Griffin, 2009, p. 342). Thus, Czitrom’s ideas intimately intersect with Hall’s Cultural Studies because both of them studied media influence on the public consciousness.
Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory (Griffin, 2009, p. 353) is devoted to the research of how media helps creating homogenous and fearful populace through mainstreaming and resonance while Czitrom researched the impact of media as a whole and how it evolved with time.
Czitrom offers a new insight on the contemporary communication theory. He suggested changing public thinking in order to make impact on the media. Czitrom represented an opinion which was opposed to previously existed views.
Park (2007) also claimed that an existing approach to communication studies is outdated. He believed that “by remaining reflexive and keeping in mind the institutional and cultural constraints through which we operate” (p.468).
Czitrom, D.J. (1982). Media and the American Mind. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory. (7th ed.). Sydney: McGraw Hill.
Park, D. W. (2007). Living Up to Media and the American Mind. Critical Studies In Media Communication, 24(5), 466-468. doi:10.1080/07393180701694739