The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity – NANCOO; NANCOO (CSS)

NANCOO R The mass media and Canadian Canadian DiversitNANCOO, Stephen E.; NANCOO, Robert S. Eds. The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity. Mississauga: Canadian Educator’s Press, 1996. 288p. SCHUDSON, Michael. The Power of News. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. 288p. Resenha de: SENGER, Elizabeth. Canadian Social Studies, v.35, n.4, 2001.

The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity offers an insightful and thought provoking look at the role the mass media have played in both forming and perpetuating ideas about Canadian identity. It is a collection of essays and research reports by nineteen writers who look at the issue from varying perspectives. A great deal of attention is given to issues of identity for Native peoples, with a lesser emphasis on the portrayal of women and visible minorities in our society.

The organization of the book follows a logical historical progression to the role of the mass media in the formation of a Canadian identity. This is followed by reports on a number of studies which examine the direct impact of media decisions and actions. Finally, the editors suggest a course of action for the roles the media should play in dealing with identity issues in the future.

The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity concludes that the richness of cultural diversity in Canada has not traditionally been portrayed in an accurate or favorable light, and contends that there is a need, in fact, an obligation, for the media to remedy this situation in the future. More research needs to be done into the impact of media portrayals and a more concerted effort to make positive portrayals is required in order to encourage people to embrace the value of a culturally diverse Canada, to help us build a healthier, more successful society in the future.

The editors have done a fairly good job of choosing material for the book. Various perspectives are presented which provide a valuable cross section of the diverse cultures in Canada and representations of them in the mass media. This book will, unfortunately, have a limited use in the classroom. The reading level would be somewhat difficult for most high school students and the only visuals are charts of research findings. The reports on research were, in places, too reliant upon statistical findings and lacked interesting and useful analyses. Because of this, students would likely lose interest in reading this book. However, The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity would be a useful resource for a higher level course on media relations and the role of media in the formation of Canadian identity.

In The Power of News, Michael Schudson attempts to clarify exactly what the role of the media is and has been in American history. He is clearly an avid historian of the news media and the book is well referenced and footnoted. However, I found myself struggling to determine whether this book was about the power of news or the history of news.

The entire first half of the book is devoted to an interesting account of the role of the news media in American history. While this section is fascinating, I kept asking myself what this had to do with the power of news. The second half of the book is more clear in explaining how the news media has struggled to define the role it can and should play – that of keeping a presumably literate, intelligent, and politically active public informed or that of watch dog over those in power, charged with the responsibility of ensuring authority is used responsibly. Schudson concludes that the media must have a kind of schizophrenic role because they must assume the occurrence of both these situations. Sometimes people are informed and politically active and, at other times, they are less than vigilant. When this happens, the media must be prepared to take up the role of political activists and assure that the abuse of power does not occur.

The Power of News has limited applications for a high school social studies class. Schudson’s writing style make the reading heavy going in places. Also, the material assumes extensive knowledge of American historical contexts. As with The Mass Media and Canadian Diversity, this book is more appropriate for use with a higher level course on media relations.

While both of these books were about the media, and contend that news and the media have power over society and politics, they take different approaches. Nancoo and Nancoo focus on relations between diverse cultures within a society, while Schudson is more concerned about the relationship between the producers of news (the media) and the consumers of it (the general public). Both may have some use as instructor resources, at the high school level, but would not be suitable for use by high school students.

Elizabeth Senger – Calgary, Alberta.

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