Mass media reflect culture of a country, says expert

January 27, 2012 - 2:10:19 am


Political communication expert Betty Winfield speaking at Northwestern University in Qatar

By Fazeena Saleem

DOHA: The Middle East countries without a tradition of a ‘watchdog press’ will take a long time to change and leaderships will face difficulties in accepting media criticism, says a political communication expert.

“The Middle East is what I understand does not have the western tradition of watchdog press of a mass media that is not only recording or telling what’s going on, but also the thinking about what’s going on. That may be very critical,” said Betty Winfield, a distinguished Curator’s Professor emerita at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

“So it could be hard for many leaders of countries that are not used to that because they don’t like being criticised,” added Winfield, who is also a highly regarded specialist in political communication and mass media history.

A mass media reflect the culture of a country, and so if it’s to in a country to criticise the leader then of course the media probably won’t do that unless they take a big risk and society would support them in doing that, Winfield in a short visit to Doha explained.

Though, she agreed that the West which is with a  history and tradition for freedom of expression took long time to reach the status and is still not completely capable of keeping it.  

“It took a long time in the West and its still being much heard, I mean every American president says I believe in free expression but they find it hard to deliver it. And some are more secretive and some refuse to talk to the media and others just let it roll off their back,” said Winfield.

Winfield joined the Missouri faculty in 1990 and holds a joint appointment there in political science and in the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs where her research on the presidency and the media resulted in the book, FDR and the News Media and Journalism 2008: the Birth of a Profession as well as other monographs, book chapters and some 80 scholarly articles on topics including mass media history and White House communication, free expression conflicts with the Commander in Chief and First Lady relationships with the public and the media.

Earlier at a discussion with journalism and communication students at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) Winfield said, US President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address indicated that he will be focusing on internal problems over foreign affairs this election season.

“This election year, the American people are less concerned about foreign affairs and more concerned about the struggling US economy,” said Winfield.

“The president spoke to those concerns last night, leaving very little time for discussion of foreign policy. Unless Syria spirals out of control or some other major conflict or disturbance comes up, you can expect the president and his Republican challengers to stay focused on the economy and other domestic issues this election season,” she added.

The Peninsula