Syntheses Essay


Syntheses Essay

Your essay should synthesize the information provided in at least three articles. The essay will analyze the effect that television and other forms of multimedia technology have had on the delivery of news.
In this essay, you will use three sources:
You must use the following two sources:
? Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death
? Matt Quayle?s article, ?The Method of the Medium is the Motion?
This article is available in the reserved readings section of our class.
In addition, you must use at least one of the following sources:
? Mark Kelley, ?An Apology to the 4G Generation,? available at
? ?The Media and the Middle East,? available at

? Paul Grabowicz, ?The Transition to Digital Storytelling,? available at


Overall, you will integrate at least three sources into your essay. You may integrate four or all five of the above sources if you would like to. But you must use Postman, Quayle, and at least one other source listed above.
Postman takes a particular view on television?s impact on journalism. Quayle agrees on some points with Postman but disagrees on others. Kelley writes rather informally about the effects of current technology on attention span in taking in news. ?The Media and the Middle East? discusses issues related to the attention span of consumers of news. Grabowicz writes about new forms of journalism and storytelling that are taking shape in journalism.
Your essay should have the following:
? an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement.
(WH offers a section called "Drafting an Introduction with Thesis" that will help you understand how to construct a solid introduction and develop a sound thesis statement.)

? body paragraphs that offer evidence to support your thesis and synthesizes your source material
(WH sections on "Drafting the body" and "Synthesizing source material" will help you develop this section of your essay.)

? a solid conclusion that reminds readers of your main idea (or thesis) without simply repeating it
(WH offers a section called "Drafting a conclusion" that will offer you guidance as you develop this part of your essay.)
Length: 1000-1200 words

Some strategies to consider when writing this essay:
In writing this essay, you will want to take notes on what Postman says about news broadcasting in Amusing Ourselves to Death, particularly in chapters 6 and 7. You will also want to take notes on how Quayle responds to Postman. Quayle?s article was written in 2010. It provides some interesting perspectives in hindsight on what Postman wrote in 1985 in his book. You will also want to take notes on the other source(s) you use.
You will then find two or three themes that you found in the various sources. To learn more about how to find themes in texts and integrate them into a synthesis paper, you may watch the following video tutorial developed by UMUC?s Effective Writing Center.

You might also benefit from advice given on synthesis writing from Drew University and from Professor John A. Dowell at Michigan State University.
In addition, Writer’s Help offers definitions of analysis and synthesis as well as specific sections called "synthesizing source material," and "analysis: writing about texts." You can find these sections by typing in these titles in the Writer?s Help search box. Your instructor may have these areas tagged for you. If that is the case, then you will see them on your WH home page.

Writer please use all 3 sources in red above on first page.


The flexibility and power of the new cable business news format has been
used to transform the depth of the coverage of business and financial news.
In addition to "breaking news" in the markets, analysis of public policy from
leaders in business, government and the academy are often conceived live
on TV, bringing insight into the issues and forces at work. In my view, this
new capability in the context of the economic and financial crisis has had a
major impact on our general understanding of the issues and challenges.
?Michael Spence, 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics,
Stanford University Professor Emeritus
In the year 2010, and beyond, can television news support a higher level of
public discourse in America? In the spirit of "Legacies of Hope and Meaning,"
I am hopeful about the future. I believe TV news can deliver on that
meaning. However, in 1984, Neil Postman did not share that sentiment within
the pages of his landmark work. Amusing Ourselves to Death.
A news show, to put it plainly, is a format for entertainment, not for education,
reflection, or catharsis, (p. 87-88)
Matt Quayle is the co-creator and executive producer of Squawk Box and Squawk on the Street
on CNBC-TV. He also serves as the senior advisor to CNBC’s international morning program,
Worldwide Exchange. He was named to the TJFR Business News Reporter "30 under 30" list in
1997, 1998, and 1999, and has been quoted in numerous national publications including The
Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Money Magazine. He holds a BA in Communications
from Rutgers University and is currently working on his MA in Media and Professional
Communications at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He lives in Haworth, New Jersey, with his
wife, CNBC anchor Becky Quick, and his two daughters, Kimiko (7) and Natalie (6).
This article is based on a presentation at the Across the Generations: Legacies of Hope
and Meaning Conference sponsored by the Institute of General Semantics, September 11-13,
2009, at Fordham University in New York City.

I am not here to refute the core of much of Postman’s work. As a business
television producer for the last seventeen years, I can surely attest to the
relevance of many of his conclusions. However, I also believe it is consequential
to reopen the discussion in some context based primarily on new evidence
within the cable and broadcast news space that can demonstrate some contemporary
attributes of the medium of television that were not observable to
Postman twenty-five years ago. In short, I believe the method of the medium
of television news and production is in motion. Within this evolution lies
proof of this new dynamic. My goal is not to tear down what Postman built,
but rather to build and expand on his conclusions in an attempt to prove that
in 2010, and beyond, there is hope for a higher form of public discourse in the
age of electronics. Interviews with thought leaders, policy makers, journalists,
and academics (like Michael Spence, above), all can help corroborate my view.
However, real life examples are needed to substantiate my claim. But, to get to
real life and present day, our path has to flow through the television signals
and tubes of the past. In Amusing, Postman told us:
Television serves us most usefully when presenting junk-entertainment; it
serves us most ill when it co-opts serious modes of discourse?news, politics,
science, education, commerce, religion?and turns them into entertainment
packages. We would all be better off if television got worse, not
better. "The A-Team" and "Cheers" are no threat to our public health.
"60 Minutes," "Eye-Witness News," and "Sesame Street" are. (p. 159)
That was 1984. There were three national networks plus a local PBS.
60 Minutes was a one-of-a-kind. TV news consisted primarily of a morning
news program (like The Today Show), a thirty-minute local news broadcast in
the early evening, followed by a thirty-minute national network news show
(like ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings). That was it. CNN was
not even a factor for another six years, when it exploded into American culture
during the first Gulf War. Postman’s sample size was too small, and taken
too prematurely, to accurately measure the full potential of the medium.
Twenty-five years later, in simple volume terms alone, the TV news space has
exploded with content. Just take the sub-category of TV "business news"
alone. Right now, there are three active full-time business news networks
(CNBC, Bloomberg, and the Fox Business Network) in the United States, and
more than a dozen other English-speaking business news networks overseas.
The general news network examples are even greater in number.
However, more does not necessarily mean better and, undoubtedly, there
is more "junk" out there on television than ever before. But I do not have to
prove all TV can support the public discourse to make a difference. I just have
302 ETC ‘ JULY 2010
to demonstrate that some of it can. I want to show new variables have been
added to the equation and these variables might have made Postman view this
subject differently than when he said.
All subject matter is presented as entertaining . . . To say it another way:
Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television. No
matter what is depicted or from what point of view, the overarching presumption
is that it is there for our amusement or pleasure, (p. 87; emphasis
The word "all" is the weakness in his argument. This is where I must explore
new avenues of critical thought.
On any given business day, the three domestic networks alone will, combined,
air dozens of interviews with scholars, journalists, economists, market
strategists, CEOs, publicly elected officers, and administration officials. Add
to this that all major speeches given by the president, treasury secretary, and
chairman of the Federal Reserve will be carried live and mostly free of commercial
interruption. Numerous public hearings are also broadcast live, with
topics as varied as the economic stimulus package, the mortgage meltdown,
and government loans to help the Big Three automakers avoid bankruptcy.
Interview topics include everything from "book-to-bill" ratios for semiconductor
manufacturers to the latest "Beige Book" report from the Federal Reserve
Bank surveying regional economic activity. Treasury yields, mortgage rates,
technical analysis, labor disputes?all commonly fall under the "cable business
news content" umbrella. However, none of it would also fall into a category
of what Postman observed was the primary motivation of TV, to simply
"entertain." This is programming designed, at least partially, to engage in a
hard-core form of "economic discourse," meant for a very sophisticated and
highly educated audience. I cannot believe Postman would think this was done
purely for cheap entertainment value.

To drill down on this point, let me introduce a specific example that might
help build my case. I need a unique example that turns the Postman argument
upside down; something he could never foresee happening in the mass media
in 1984 or in 2009. Let’s fast forward from 1984 to Monday, March 9, 2009, at
6 AM Eastern Standard Time at CNBC headquarters in Englewood Cliffs,
New Jersey. The U.S. stock market is three hours away from opening a new
week of trading on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down
twenty-five percent for the young year, closing near levels it has not seen in
almost twelve years. The U.S. economy is already in the worst recession since
1982, and if the trend continues, experts say, this downturn could snowball
into the biggest economic slump since the Great Depression. The nation is
in a massive banking crisis due to the fallout from the subprime mortgage
meltdown. Retail sales are grinding to a halt. Two of the three domestic automakers
are on the brink of declaring bankruptcy. The Federal Reserve Bank
has lowered interest rates to practically zero in an attempt to spur new lending
and kick-start the economy. The jobless rate keeps climbing each month to
multi-decade highs. In the previous month alone, the U.S. labor force lost over
600,000 non-farm-related jobs. One in ten U.S.-held mortgages is either overdue
or in foreclosure.
With that as context, how can a television news program make a difference
in the public discourse of serious subjects like the banking and financial
crisis of 2008-2009 in a way Postman might not have thought possible or
practical when he was writing Amusing in 1984? The defense calls its first witness,
a seventy-eight-year-old man who plays bridge for fun, lives in the same
house he bought nearly fifty years ago, and has a diet that consists primarily
of cheeseburgers and cherry Coke. Of course, I am talking about the Oracle
of Omaha himself, the world’s second-richest man and most famous investor.
Warren Buffett.


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