Archive for the ‘PSU’ Category

Stephanie Vorderlandwehr


Based off the text Toxic Much: Public Relations: Abstract

The chapter “All the news that’s fit to print” highlights the reality of news media and its growing dependency on advertising revenue, corporation ownership, and public relations firms. The news industry has a growing number of threats and weaknesses that become opportunities and strengths for public relations firms which are discussed in the chapter by Stauber and Rampton (1995).

Journalism has long been revered as a government watchdog and a guardian of the public with an undeniably interesting image that lends itself to fiction well. The strength to unearth corruption like the Watergate scandal was one only the press could have. These traditional strengths of the news media are being called into question in recent decades, however. Hallahan states in this chapter that the increasing dependency of news teams on quick and easy news (often provided by public relations contacts) “‘cheapen[s] the value of their product,’” (p.196). And of course, the news media doesn’t want to expose its own corruption because of the increasing number of weakness and threats collapsing upon them from all sides.

One of the major weaknesses the news companies are facing is underpaid reporters. In this chapter, one journalist reveals that his paper asked him to fudge his time clock so they could underpay him without raising suspicion. Underpay becomes a real problem for many reporters especially once they reach their thirties and have families to support. Many leave the industry for better paying careers creating another weakness for journalism: a perpetually changing workforce resulting in a constant influx of new reporters resulting in a less tight knit community.

This less tight community and the low earnings of reporters presents an opportunity for public relation firms. If journalists have less of a bond to their fellow journalists they are more likely to participate in the actions of Dean Rotbart and his TJFR firm that sells information about journalists with the expressed goal of successful manipulation of that journalist. In a less extreme example, public relations firms can take advantage of the underpaid journalist with paid training opportunities. Du Pont, a chemical company, hired journalists for $250 each to participate in a training activity that functioned as practice for crisis management and media manipulation for public relation flacks. One journalist recounts the training experience by saying “‘I came out of there and I felt really disgusted that I had to earn money in this kind of way,’” (p.188).

Another weakness for journalists that functions as an opportunity for public relations firms is that on top of being underpaid, journalists are overworked. One of the main tools for a public relations practitioner is the press release giving public relations both strength and opportunity to influence news. This is due to companies buying out newspapers and treating the “editorial material [as] the grey matter that fills up the space between ads,’” says Donham (p.182). Staff is cut and the remaining journalists gain extra responsibilities. This is where the press release becomes easy news to break requiring little to no extra investigation on the part of the journalist. This is true for all forms of news, including the radio. Kalbe from KKIN praises RadioUSA as ‘“a life saver on a slow news day,’” (p.184). Because of this dynamic created by the weaknesses of the journalism industry and the strengths and opportunities of public relations, whole sections of news are “practically owned by public relations,” such as entertainment, food, and the automotive news factions. For television news, VNRs are used to deliver polished and raw news stories to news stations.

In the case of the VNR, a weakness for public relations firms emerges: deniability and potential anger from journalists. If journalists black list you or your public relations firm functioning for your clients becomes virtually impossible. One case of anger from the mews press over a VNR was the example in the chapter of King Hassan II. Hasan II of Morocco had an interview that was packaged and mailed to journalists and news casters that had been previously denied interview opportunities with him. Like an eager beaver, they snatched up the VNR and aired it without asking the question “why was this log given to me?” After the segments aired, many journalists were outraged claiming they had been tricked into supporting propaganda.

The threat facing news media of a shrinking industry was quite the opportunity for public relations firms. However, this increased demand and dependency for firms to have a close relationship with journalists has resulted in over saturation of public relations firms and their attempts to gain press for their clients. This creates a lot of noise that public relations practitioners must fight through in order to be heard. “Today the number of PR flacks in the United States outnumbers working journalists…a working reporter is deluged daily with dozens if not hundreds of phone calls, letters, faxes and now e-mailed press releases,” (p.183). Pam Berns expresses in the chapter just how “annoying and overwhelming” this is for the overworked and underpaid journalists (p.183).

The result of this relationship of dependency has culminated in a circle of protection for the media, the government, and public relations. The ownership of news by private companies, the noose of advertisement revenue, and the dependency on public relations has caused the news media to censor itself. Stauber and Rampton (1995) discuss this revelation in regards to the Dictating Content conference in 1992. Overall, many of the threats and weaknesses faced by the journalism industry has served as opportunity for public relations playing off of its strengths. The weaknesses associated with client need and journalist trust can occasionally become a problem. The continued expansion of public relations firms is also serving to threaten the prosperity of individual practitioners. However, the overall evolution of media in the past decades has largely served public relations firms and private companies while adding pressure to journalism as it once was: a free press and a government watchdog.


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Hacking The Matrix

Cyberculture have become a large part of our lives. This is a paper exploring the impacts of the Internet on American life and media written for a class at Portland State with Dr.Rill.

Hacking The Matrix

Imagine every particle in your body was not, in fact, a particle of matter at all. What if our world wasn’t made up of tiny atoms binding together but rather a series of ones and zeros creating a code, a computer code? This is the reality within The Matrix. This film brings cybercultures to life, communicates cultural messages, and presents elements of cyberpunk.


            Cyberculture is an element of The Matrix, specifically the cyberculture of hacking. In order to understand what cyberculture is and how it applies to The Matrix, culture must first be defined. According to Samovar and Porter (1997), “culture is ubiquitous, multidimensional, complex, and all-pervasive,” (p.12). Culture that flourishes due to electronic wired networks is known as cyberculture (Nayar, 2010). Culture helps mankind to understand the world and aids “in the transition from the womb to this new life,” (Samovar & Porter, 1997, p.12). This concept of understanding the world through the lens of culture is a reoccurring theme in The Matrix.

When the audience first meets Mr. Anderson, he understands the world in relation to the culture that exists within the matrix. After taking the red pill, Mr. Anderson is ripped from ignorant bliss and is born into a new culture and a new understanding of reality. The red pill symbolizes the invention, or discovery, of a new concept of reality that is eventually accepted by the majority of the members in a culture (Samovar & Porter, 1997). The scene in the film where Mr. Anderson struggles to free himself from the machine’s hibernation chamber, that strongly resembles a womb, and is symbolically reborn as Neo speaks directly to Samovar and Porter’s cultural transition from one life to another. Cypher’s betrayal is a manifestation of the outlier that Samovar and Porter mention in relation to the invention. There are also specific examples of cybercultures in The Matrix.

Hackers are the unique example of a cyberculture in The Matrix. When Trinity is first introduced to Neo at the club, Neo recognizes her hacker tag from a historic event that occurred within their culture. The hackers that belong to Morpheus’ crew all dial the switch board operator (Tank and Dozer) for information and pathways. This operator controls the flow of information by directing the hackers within the matrix, adding to the cyber element of the culture.

Cultural Messages

            Cyberculture is accompanied by cultural messages from offline America (where the film was created). These cultural messages include those of rules and norms, gender, plus freedom and individuality.

Rules and Norms

Cultures and cybercultures teach people the rules and norms of life. The real world that exists in the film is a post-apocalyptic reality where nature has been completely stamped out. Nayar (2010) would call this a post-human society. However dismal reality may be Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and the others reenter the matrix to save humanity. Now that Neo’s culture has changed, he must relearn the rules that govern him. In other words, he must be enculturated (Samovar & Porter, 1997). Online interactions and discourse in cyberspace follow different rules than tradition interactions. Silver (2000) identifies this as key concern for cyberculture scholars.

This is a key concern because of instances such as the woman in the red dress. Mouse offers Neo intimate time with the program and argues that there is no need for self-control in the digital realm because it is not real. In the offline culture, that would be considered prostitution or even rape. Either of these instances are accompanied by negative reactions from society but that changes online simply to what is called “tiny sex” (Silver, 2000). “Tiny-sex” leads to the next culutural message: gender and male dominance.



The patriarchal society is one of the cultural messages that are infused in The Matrix. All of the positions of power in the film are occupied by men. Neo, is ‘the one’ who has the power to save mankind from the machines. Morpheus is the leader of the Nebuchadnezza. Although Trinity is a strong character, she answers and aides both of these men and devotes every action to them and their destinies. She is, essentially, a deadly tool for them to wield. Evil is also considered, within American culture, to be male. For example, the agents of the machines are all male. The real villain, Cypher, is also a man.

Women are represented as strong but also soft. Switch begins to tear up, as does Trinity, after Cypher kills one of the other hackers. Neo never shows sadness or compassion. Even the oracle is shown as a caring mother figure that bakes cookies for Neo. Nayar (2010) discusses the genderfication of electronics by pointing out nouns like “motherboard” and verbs such as “jacking in” (p. 18). Motherboard reinforces this giving aspect of females while jacking in reinforces the cultural message that men use women (of course this is not always the case). The woman in the red dress is once again a perfect example. Mouse tells Neo “she doesn’t talk much but” that doesn’t matter because female needs, desires, and thoughts are unimportant. Trinity’s refusal to express her opinion about Neo throughout the first section of the film also reflects this cultural belief. Why should she share her opinion if she doesn’t think it will matter? This symbolically silences women.

Although there is a definite message of male dominance in American culture and The Matrix, women are portrayed with a measure of strength. This is a much more progressive view of women then back when Thomas Edison was creating films. Women from the inception of film were portrayed as weak and helpless. This reflects the culture’s gradual march towards sexual equality both online and offline, which is evidence of cyberfeminism taking effect. Although still subordinate, females are gaining autonomy in cybercultures at a much faster pace than ever before.

Freedom and Individuality

A very strong cultural message that is found in The Matrix is that of autonomy and individuality. America is an individualistic culture. The Matrix features a hero who has been reborn in order to free mankind from being enslaved by machines. The physical world that awaits a freed human is not a pleasant one, but it is still valued over slavery and comfort. Zion represents the ultimate freedom for humans in this film. Suffering and self-sacrifice illustrates just how important freedom is to the culture. The hackers risk their lives every day to fight for freedom and many of them die. Morpheus is more than willing to sacrifice himself for Neo because Neo is the best chance humanity has for autonomy. Even being bugged, or spied on, is something worth going through a measure of pain to avoid. When Trinity sucks out the bug from Neo, it is clear that he is in pain and there is blood on the device once it is removed aiding to its unpleasantness.


Cyberpunk is a type of science fiction that deals with the limitations of the human body and cyborgs, reproduction, time and space, plus environment, information, and politics in relation to cybertechnology (Nayar, 2010).

Cyborgs and the Body

Wetware is another term for the natural human body that cyberpunk is concerned with (Nayar, 2010). After all, the human body has major limitations. Cyborgs are nature and technology combined together to create what Lister et al. (2009) call “the living machine,” (p. 322). The hackers are all cyborgs and therefor have access to the matrix. When Neo first awakens he is shocked to find himself comprised partly of machinery. A natural human is rare and establishes a kind of hierarchy for something as simple as being human. Tank’s display of joy at being completely natural and describing the difference between him and Neo is evidence of this. It also creates a division between wetware and cyborgs.  Although natural humans are considered better, the cyborgs are the warriors and the strongest weapons in the war for freedom. This strength elevates cyberpunk beliefs.


In The Matrix humans no longer reproduce with other humans. The scene where Neo is birthed from the machine reflects cyberpunk as well as cultural change. This seems fictional, but even in America today, in vitro fertilization occurs. Cloning is the next step for science. Nayar (2010) describes cyberpunk’s attitude towards cloning (and alien reproduction) as something to be feared and predicts that it will create monsters. This is evident in the scene described earlier of Neo being reborn from the machine’s womb. Keanu Reeves is considered an attractive actor by many but in this scene, he is horrific and frightening. Skinny, pale, bald, disoriented, and gasping for air Mr. Anderson resembles a monster. The fact that his body was nourished into adulthood by feeding off of liquefied human corpses, ads to this monstrous image. Once his muscles are rebuilt and he is oriented to his new culture, Neo becomes a cyborg that can be identified with as human.

Time and Space

Time and space become blurred in the realm of cyberpunk. Incongruent experiences of time are a concern for cyberpunk.  “Real time slips under cyber-time,” is most clearly manifested in The Matrix when the audience learns that the 90s reality was false and the year is actually much closer to year 3000. Human slaves to the machines are born, die, and recycled through feeding tubes for other human slaves that are born into the same time their predecessor, were born in the matrix. This slipping of time is clearly inspired by the cyberpunk movement.

Space in cyberpunk and cyberspace is irrelevant. As long as a person is close to a wire they are connected. One important element of cyberculture in the film is that in order to actually travel to and from the matrix, a hardwired phone must be used. This is representative of the fact that networked societies do in fact rely on elements (such as wires) that exist in the physical world.

Environment, Information and Politics

It is clear that in The Matrix the environment of nature and the environment of cyberpunk are fundamentally different. The cyberpunk environment is represented within the matrix and portrays Earth as healthy and vibrant. The sun is shining and plants are growing. The natural reality, according to cyberpunk, is represented on screen as the real world that has a scorched sky and only metal and darkness to make up the scenery. This speaks directly to Nayar’s (2010) description of cyberspace as “an electronic universe that is surreal [and] hallucinatory,” (p.39).

When Neo is being nursed back to health by Morpheus and his crew Neo asks “why do my eyes hurt?” (Berman et al., 1999). Morpheus calmly responds, “because you have never used them,” (Berman et al., 1999). Information is an essential theme for cyberpunk and The Matrix “where the right kind of data is truly priceless or dangerous,” (Nayar, 2010). The information that the matrix is real is the perfect example of this. It is priceless because Neo now has his freedom. However, it is also extremely dangerous because after learning this knowledge he is being hunted both within the matrix and in corporeality. This constant quest for Neo’s life sends a clear us versus them message for politics. This also feeds off of the cultural messages of individuality and freedom discussed earlier. The gender messages within the film also communicate the politics of cyberfeminism.


            The Matrix is a complex film with intricate layers. There are many lenses that can be used to examine this film. However, cyberculture is clearly influential for the premise of the film and its content. Cultural transitions are dealt with in the film as well as a particular cyberculture: hackers. The Matrix also touches on the way rules and norms are altered in cyberspace. The film can also be studied through the lens of gender and American culture. Cyberpunk is clearly influential on the film. It manifests in relation to cyborgs, the human body, reproduction, time, space, environment, information, and politics.


Berman, B., Cracchiolo, G., Hughes, C., Mason, A., Mirisch, R., Osbornne, B., … Wachowski, L. (Producers), & Wachowski, A., & Wachowski, L. (Directors). (1999). The Matrix [Motion picture]. Retrieved from imdb.com

Lister, M., Dovey, J., Giddings, S., Grant, I., & Kelly, K. (2009). New Media: A Critical Introduction by Jon Dovey, Martin Lister and Seth Giddings (2009, Hardcover): A Critical Introduction (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Rutlidge.Nayar, P. (2010). An introduction to new media and cybercultures. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Nayar, P. (2010). The new media and cybercultures anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Samovar, L., & Porter, R.(1997). Intercultural Communication (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Silver. (2000). Looking backwards, looking forward: Cyberculture studies 1999-2000. Web studies: Rewriting media studies for the digital age, 19-30. Retrieved from http://www.newmediastudies.com/index.htm

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There's No Way Like The American Way

During the great depression America’s morale was low in the best of cases. Propaganda was dispersed to try and raise the zeitgeist (spirit of the time) like the billboard “There is no way like the American way.” This billboard was created by Arthur Rothstein in February of 1937 (Picture History) and displayed in Kentucky (Abagonds). Not only was this billboard displayed during the Great Depression but it was also displayed during the aftermath of the Louisville flood (Abagonds). According to the National Weather Service the flood caused over seventy percent of Louisville to be submerged under river flood waters. Of course, this seventy percent of land submerged was a low income area and displaced about 175,000 people (National Weather Service).

The billboard displays the proud claim that America has the “World’s highest standards of living” and has a smiling family glowing with American Pride to support this claim. The family in Rothstien’s work is a white family driving in a brand new car. Father is driving the car and mother is happily sitting next to him with perfect makeup decorating her slender face. The couple has two children: a boy and a girl. The children share the back seat of the automobile with their medium sized dog who is happily sticking his head out of the window. Everyone is happy and content. The people in this image represent the perfect nuclear American family and the ideal for American life.

The photographer Margaret Bourke-White took a photo during the aftermath of the flood in 1937 that captures the truth of American life for many people (Women in History). White’s photo shows a long line of flood refugees waiting for rations. The people in line are real Americans standing underneath the dominating billboard of the ideal nuclear white American family. The people in line are all African Americans who are bundled up in layers of clothing to protect against the cold, they are hungry, they are probably going without showers, and are living with the heavy weight of having lost everything to the flood and with the Great Depression threatening that what was lost will be near impossible to regain.

White’s image represents a huge disparity between reality and propaganda. Rothstein’s image shows the ideal American family and therefore exposing the prevailing ideology of the time. There are clear racial, economic, and political ideologies being portrayed by Rothstein and White’s photo points these out. One ideological subtext to these images that isn’t as obvious but there are gender ideologies as well. The same year as the creation of the billboard and the flood “FDR delivered his second inaugural address: ‘I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished,’” acknowledging the fact that the ideal was not the reality (America’s great Depression). “There is no way like the American Way” shows racial, economic, gender rolls, and political ideologies. My final ideological assignment will explore the ideologies that White’s and Rothstein’s images display.



America’s Great Depression


National Weather Service:


Picture History


Women in History


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What’s the JTTF? Click the link to find out.


The JTTF story, is one relates to the threat of terror in Portland Oregon. I was one of those people who had the attitude that terror was never something that would happen here because it happens other places. As many may recall, in late November of 2010 there was an attempted terrorist bombing in the heart of our dear city and the holiday tree lighting ceremony (for those of you who need a refresher). Oregon live covered it in their blog as well as in traditional reports:




Many other news sources covered the story like: http://www.portlandonline.com/mayor/?a=346719&c=52750




and many more. All of these articles try and be objective about the reports. Many report the same facts some focusing more on certain aspects then others (like the history of the JTTF or the future of it).

The comments by users on the Debates Captures Portland’s Idiosyncratic Attitude seemed to be a breeding ground for anti-Portland soap boxes. Many comments seemed to paint Portland in an anti-Patriotic light. For an example of a mild comment: RalphCramden posted “Portland should stay out of the JTTF. The rest of the nation would suffer if Portland got involved,” (Katu News). However, seem to offer good information. Such as this video of the event on Youtube which is linked in one comment from the Oregon Live blog post: http://www.youtube.com/user/zebra334#p/u/3/vIOS3WlvJjE

Another good youtube recording of the event offers a look at the protest that the traditional sources do not cover.


This shows how security and the representatives react when protestors try and deliver the petition. The security guard would only allow 5 individuals into the “empty City Hall.” The video is actually very interesting to watch. I suggest it. It really does enhance a person’s understanding of the JTTF debate by highlighting the opposition when many articles highlight the benefits the Mayor is hoping to achieve by reworking the contract. Before looking at the new forms of media I didn’t even know what the downsides could be.

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