OPINION: The Vast Wasteland of Today's Times, by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

May 03, 2022 at 09:00 am by WGNS

Rutherford County, Tenn. –  Larry Burriss, a Professor of Journalism at MTSU, recently shared his thoughts on the media and the multitude of options available in today’s times…

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Larry Burriss – Continued…

VERBATIM: “In early May 1961, former FCC chairman Newton Minnow shocked the broadcasting industry with his famous, some would say infamous, "vast wasteland" speech.

Television was only 13 years old that night, hardly into adolescence, when the chairman challenged broadcasting executives by telling them when television was good, it was very good, but when television was bad, nothing was worse.

Minnow asked the executives to look up from their balance sheets and take a glimpse at what was going out over the air. What they would see, Minnow said, was a ''vast wasteland populated by game shows, violence, formula comedies, cartoons, and screaming, cajoling offending commercials."

And has anything changed? Well, yes and no.

With the development of the Internet, the vast wasteland has taken on a new character. Now, if you want to live in a media desert, you can do so, but if you want to stay in one of the few oases of quality content, you can do that, too.

In 1961 the three major networks were the only games in town. You either played by their rules, or you didn't play at all.

Now, a vast pluralism has taken over and, more than ever, if you don't like what is on, you can watch something else. Sports, news, entertainment, drama, comedy, even X-rated movies, are all there 24 hours a day.

Something else interesting is that almost everyone complains about this wasteland, with liberals and conservatives, republicans and democrats, right and left, saying the media are biased against them and in favor of the other side.

So I figure, if everyone is mad at you, you must be doing something right.

When you watch, and participate in media, what do you see? If you still see a horrible vast wasteland, maybe you should look somewhere else.

Almost all forms of media have become not so much a vast wasteland but a vast marketplace, and no one is forcing you to buy anything you don't want. - I'm Larry Burriss”


About Dr. Burriss

Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.



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