Cultural, media and gender studies

September 18, 2008

UNDERSTANDING THE MEDIA

Author: Eoin Devereux

Edition: Second

Publisher: Sage

Pages: 280

Price: £65.00 and £20.99

ISBN 9781412929905 and 9912

The second edition of Understanding the Media updates what has been recognised as a successful introduction to the study of the mass media. A sociological approach covers all aspects of the mass communication process - production, content and reception. Each chapter defines and discusses key concepts, provides case studies that draw on a variety of media forms and offers a number of extracted readings from relevant texts and questions for consideration.

The author furnishes examples from all around the world, underpinning the emphasis the book places on the concept of globalisation in understanding the modern media. The readings and questions force students to reflect critically on issues and encourage them to explore their own media-consumption habits.

The first chapter outlines the main issues addressed in the book and provides an argument for the sociological approach adopted. Attention is drawn to the "eclectic" nature of media research, embracing a broad range of disciplines, paradigms and methods. Out of this the author identifies eight interrelated concerns that "are the most salient in attempting to explain recent changes and developments in the media". These are the basic organising motifs of the following chapters. Throughout, emphasis is placed on the responsibility of the student to use his or her own personal experience to engage with the issues, ask the right questions and engage critically with the set material. Keeping a media diary is encouraged as a method of documenting students' personal media-consumption habits.

Successive chapters examine globalisation, ownership, production, ideology, representation and reception. The chapters are well organised and user friendly, with the chapter on globalisation highly recommended. Introductions to media globalisation often fail to provide a succinct and clear overview for first-year students - this chapter cracks the problem with a pithy description of the basic concepts and debates, interlaced with illuminating case studies and illustrative examples. Big Brother is used as an example to highlight the key issues in understanding the global media, particularly the tensions between the global and local. The strength of Eoin Devereux's text is that the examples are familiar and relevant to present-day students and his style does not patronise or talk down to them. There is only one reservation. Most students enter the mass communication process from the perspective of the audience, and introductory texts, particularly those encouraging students to reflect on their own consumption habits, should start with audiences.

Who is it for? Undergraduate students.

Presentation: Clearly written, comprehensive, well organised and up to date.

Any extras? A companion website containing a range of resources for students and teachers is available.

Would you recommend it? This is an excellent introductory text for media studies students.

ESSENTIAL REPORTING: THE NCTJ GUIDE FOR TRAINEE JOURNALISTS

Authors: Jon Smith and Joanne Butcher

Edition: First

Publisher: Sage

Pages: 280

Price: £60.00 and £14.99

ISBN 9781412947503 and 7510

If you want a book that instructs you about all the technical skills you need to pass the examinations set by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and embark on a career in journalism, then this is the book for you. It outlines the basic knowledge required to succeed as a trainee reporter. Shorthand, intros, writing styles, subbing, layout, the way newsrooms work and how to find things out are among the range of skills described. Replete with no-nonsense quotes from the hard-nosed men and women of the regional and local press around the British Isles, the book provides an exhaustive account of the reporting, writing and researching techniques to do the "best job in the world".

The book is divided into five sections: the first examines what makes a good reporter and what makes news; the second describes the everyday tasks of the news reporter; the third focuses on how to write for different media forms, print, radio, TV and the web, while the fourth section deals with specialist areas such as law courts, local councils, sport and crime, and writing features. The final section tells you all about the NCTJ and the world of training for journalists. Each section is characterised by a matter-of-fact approach that outlines in a clear and coherent way the main tasks, functions and requirements of the profession.

The drawback is that the publication skates over the variety of problems and obstacles the trainee journalist is likely to confront on a daily basis. There is little that is critical of the established ways of "how-to-do" journalism, particularly in light of the vast social and technological transformations that have swept over the profession in recent years. Essential Reporting fails to engage with the insights that characterise many of the competing titles on practical journalism. Ethical considerations take a back seat to providing "a reference book" that primarily seeks to "accompany vocational training on accredited training courses and in the workplace".

Who is it for? Trainee journalists in industry or on accredited courses.

Presentation: Clearly written, comprehensive and well laid out.

Any extras? Appendices include reference sources and websites, a glossary of basic terms and further reading.

Would you recommend it? Yes.

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