LITERATURE REVIEWS

REVIEW 1

Bruce Bower (1996). Fighting Stereotype Stigma. Science News, Society for science & the public.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3979842

Psychologist Yueh-Ting Lee started to get even more interested in stereotypes when receiving an email message including judgemental observations about life in several countries. By giving a clear simple example on how our way of thinking about different countries and cultures can generalize, predict and define a certain group of people in a couple of words, Lee explains that all these judgements apart from lacking of an absolute truth, are accurate enough to create a general perception of the unknown. Lee expresses that the use of these stereotypes rather than representing pointless prejudices, signify a first step to understand other cultures and also emphasises in the importance of categorizing people in order to deal with the unfamiliarity and uncertainty of the world.
Many psychologists disagree with Lee’s ideas as they contradict their views and research on the matter. They interpret stereotyping as joined errant generalizations that provoke racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice. Charles Stangor of the University of Maryland states that stereotypes are used by people just to enhance their views of themselves and the groups they belong to. Among other professionals, psychologist Gordon W. Allport characterized stereotypes as invalid beliefs about people and groups debating the idea whether some stereotypes encase a “kernel of truth”.
In a study of black and white students carried out by psychologist Carey S. Ryan, results concluded that even if the majority of black students demonstrated a tendency to observe and acknowledge their own stereotypical attributes, they were more capable and accurate when analysing the features in their white counterparts. In contrast, white students were more inclined to judge their own qualities and in a more truthful way. The outcomes support strongly a previously studied theory that affirms that ethnic minorities tend to have a greater understanding of more powerful and major populations than major groups understanding minority groups.
From that point, experts determined that even if stereotypes are based on genuine group differences, they normally get exaggerated when people select evidence to confirm their beliefs and convince others, building up subjective conclusions and randomly judging people and groups by carefully selected data. A clear example of how this exaggeration and selection of data is relevant in generating tension through stereotypes is the way specialized communication businesses such as: print media, the press and broadcasting (radio and television) manipulate information and transform non-sensational news into sensational to stimulate the senses of the audience. By this awakening of emotions in the audience, these news mass producers look to gain more coverage and customers according to a research published by Ipsos MORI, highlighting the disapproving misconceptions and inept ignorance of the public, who, for instance, believe all what these papers say and satisfy in a way, their need to be against the system.
By the end of his studies, Lee emphasizes, efforts at conflict resolution between groups and nations could work best if both sides primarily acknowledge their differences and own problems and then receive help in confronting those disparities. Lee finishes by declaring “Group differences, not prejudice, are the root cause of tension and conflict between various cultural and racial groups”, he contends. “The most effective way to improve intergroup relations is admitting and discussing frankly the existing differences, at the same time explaining that there is nothing wrong with being different.”

REVIEW 2

Jill Godmilow and Ann- Louise Shapiro. (1997). How real is the reality in documentary film?. Histories Inside and Outside the Academy. Published by Wiley for Wesleyan University.
Stable URL: http: http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

This journal article starts analysing the theme from the beginning by defining what a documentary film is. According to Bill Nichols they are discourses based in many subjects and claim to describe the “real”, to tell the truth. From that point an interview conducted by historian Ann- Louise Shapiro is presented raising questions mostly about Nichols’s points of view, genre, and relationship form- content with documentary filmmaker Jill Godmilow.
Shapiro starts the interview by asking about how comfortable Godmilow is with the word “documentary” to label his and others filmmakers work. Godmilow explains how he has been trying to find a different word to label his own films and films that make some kind of claim to represent a non-fictional world where there is not scripted drama and professional acting performances either. He says all these films that belong to this category, have the main intention of “edifying” instead of “educating” the audience towards a deep understanding and a more refined notion of the real topic. He mentions his preference in using the tag “non-fiction” instead of the word “documentary” but insists it is not the perfect way of describing it but a way of implying that because it’s not fiction, it’s true. The filmmaker then refers to his work “Far from Poland”, and how he firmly indicates it is not considered a classic documentary nor a fiction film but a point in the middle which he calls “drama-tary”. This feature- length “non-fiction” film about the Polish Solidarity Movement that contains actual footage supplied by the Solidarity Press Agency was rejected by some documentary festivals for not being a “pure documentary” and for its complex treatment of the topic.
By mentioning again Bill Nichols controversial statement about his definition of documentary, the interviewer asks about the filmmaker’s point of view in relation to Nichols’s “discourses of sobriety” and their link to science, economics, politics and history and the way his colleague refers to them as instrumental- not just edifying. Godmilow agrees with Nichols and adds that through that instrumental philosophy, it is possible to change people’s minds at the basis of all non-fiction. He clearly determines that first, he wants “instrumental films” to acknowledge their pure intentions, second, to put their materials to produce ideas rather than a sentiment of compassion and finally, to produce an audience of individuals who are able to build up critiques about social and historical situations. Then Godmilow refers to another expert in the field, producer Ken Burns, describing his work as “frightening” due to its high content of nostalgia, by producing a kind of “mourning moment” and a sense of a dreamy and passive feeling towards the theme instead of providing knowledge to comprehend the essence of it.
I think the filmmaker’s precaution when not labelling as documentary any “non-fiction” film, is a good example for young filmmakers and students to realize that it is not always convenient to make general observations and to just categorize films according to genre, content or form but considering always the relationship between these three and the audience’s response through a good treatment of the subject. I totally agree with him in terms of giving importance to the content, in disconnecting the audience from it, in not producing caring audiences but analytical ones and most importantly in respecting the historical facts behind the subject without transforming it into a drama.
Godmilow finishes by telling the interviewer about the “documentary” films he respects the most. For him, these films should be characterized by keeping the topic opened to the public without producing compassionate spectators, any identification with heroes or sympathy for victims. These features according to Godmilow are dominant in the American documentary tradition. He also praises Bunuel’s 1932 film, Land without Bread as a perfect example of a good documentary.

REVIEW 3

Rodrigo Uribe, Barrie Gunter (2007). Are “sensational” news stories more likely to trigger viewer’s emotions that Non-sensational news stories? : A content analysis of British TV news. European Journal of Communication. Published by Sage.
Online version: http://ejc.sagepub.com/content/22/2/207

This article analyses whether “sensational” news stories are more likely to generate deep emotional reactions in audiences than other TV stories. In order to identify these sensational patterns and what do they represent to the public, a research made by studying samples of British televised news was carried out to obtain important clues on elements that audience tend to find more emotive when watching news. The results show that the term ”sensational” has been misrepresented and that most of stories classified in that field, do not necessarily contain more moving features than the non-sensational ones. In a general way, the fact of being or not emotional disturbing depends as well on many factors like different audiences and a variety of commercial TV channels.
It is always a must to comprehend and determine first what is understood by the words “sensational news”. Many scholars coincided that “sensationalism” can be described as a content that stimulates the audience’s senses. (Slattery and Hakanen, 1994). More experts in the field have similar definitions all based in being elements that arise audiences’ emotions, empathy and even psychological stimulation among a group of people. However, to have a clear understanding of the sensational, academics started researching the non-sensational part of the news either, by dividing first the news in genres and topics and categorize them into what they think has a sensational content and a non-sensational one. Themes such as crime and showbiz for example contain more emotional power than themes such as politics and economics. (Adams, 1978; Ryu, 1982).
To gather different conclusions about the incidence of these dramatic tendencies on the news, research from the US, shows that sensational stories increased a 30% between 1970 and 1990 probably because of the decrease in governmental and political coverage. In the other hand, a shift in the UK TV newscasts show a new tendency orientated to themes like sports, royalty, showbiz and crime but always maintaining more or less a balance between these and serious, light and international coverage.
Undoubtedly, events and news are constantly changing through time and depend in some way on proper characteristics of the period of time when they happened. For that reason, experts have been focusing not only on the topic and content but on acknowledging the fact that each type of news will engage audiences differently. This reasoning comes from empirical evidence that the response of audiences to news, blossoms not just by content attributes but also by how the news are presented and opens the opportunity to the media to write non-sensational topics such as politics in a more emotive style. In interviews with British newsroom personnel, authors found that journalists put stress on making political news look “boring” on purpose. In the same study, scholars also found that political news containing sensational elements have increased in the last years.
In conclusion, these findings suggest emotional interest of news is not just stranded in the use of topics, but is very influenced by subtle narrative and the production of elements within the stories media manipulation) and not entirely associated to their topic category. From a filmmaker’s point of view, I can now differentiate more or less sensational from non-sensational topics and I acknowledge that it is not all about the themes but the way the different News channels portray each their personal views and present the content to the audience. I do consider that the benefit system topic belongs to the “sensational” side because of its close relation people and the fact of being considered more as a general and common social issue rather than an economical element.

Written by Juan Bampa