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Culture, Society and the Media by Janet Wollacott, Michael Gurevitch, James Curran, Tony Bennett

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11

Media, ‘reality’, signification

TONY BENNETT

THE MEDIA AS ‘DEFINERS OF SOCIAL REALITY’

In making the national press awards for 1977, James Callaghan referred to the media as a ‘mirror held up to society’. The analogy is, of course, a hackneyed one. The concept of the mirror with its attendant series of questions—do the media offer a faithful reflection of reality, or do they mirror the real in a one-sided, distorting way?—has haunted the study of the media since its inception. The difficulty with the analogy, however, consists in the suggestion that a dividing line can be drawn between ‘reality’ or society on the one hand and the world of representations on the other. It implies that the media are secondary and derivative, somehow less real ...

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