Hamlet and William Shakespeare's Play Within a Play - Commentary by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Jun 19, 2023 at 03:30 pm by WGNS News

Hamlet and William Shakespeare's play within a play - - all to catch a murderer. With today's Media Commentary, here's Dr. Larry Burriss from the MTSU School of Journalism...



Verbatim: “In the play "Hamlet," William Shakespeare cleverly devised a play within a play in an attempt to catch a murderer. For the theater-goer it is important to keep the play itself separate from the pseudo-play Hamlet devises to trap his uncle.

In a similar vein, it is important these days to distinguish two different kinds of news and information: the documentary and the so-called docu-drama.

Recreating history through drama is nothing new for television. In the early years of the medium, Edward R. Murrow participated in a series called "You Are There." The news program purported to take viewers back in time to see events occurring early in American history. Somehow the audience seemed to understand they were not seeing actual history, but a fictionalized account of what transpired at, say, the Boston Tea Party.

Now, however, the docu-drama has changed all of that. We are at times no longer sure if what we are seeing is reality, a mediated view of reality or simply fiction.

That would be funny if it weren't for the fact that television news can, with artificial intelligence create what appears to be reality.

Most people understand that when they see a news report they are not seeing the actual event, but a taped, edited version of an event. They are seeing an interpretation.

In the docu-drama interpretation is even more stretched. Do the actor's lines really accurately reflect what someone actually said? Or is it the director's or producer’s impression of what went on.

Television and Internet news departments in this country are having a hard enough time convincing the public they are presenting a truthful, balanced account of the day's events, without them getting bogged down in recreating reality.

Reality and the impression of reality are two different things, and the line between the two must be firmly laid out and maintained.

In this regard the Federal Communications Commission has come down hard on stations that have staged events and then tried to pass them off as real news.

Calling a piece of fiction a documentary, or calling a view of reality a drama, is blurring the already too-thin line between televised news and televised fiction. So it is in the greatest public interest those distinctions be maintained.- 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.


Sections: News