In a society where content is constantly mediate to us, it can be difficult to separate the real from the fabricated. To understand how we got to this point it is important to look at the role of the media in society.
Using the metaphor of a mirror, we can discuss the purpose of the media in society. Ideally, the media is to mirror our society, as it is seen through our own perspective. A certain amount of trust is placed on news media in particular. We enter into an agreement that the news will mediate the facts as they are so that we can receive these facts as if we witnessed the story with our own eyes. However, this is not the case. There can be confusion as to what is truly reality and what is presented as reality. Reality is what one sees with their own eyes. Yet the media packages content and “re-presents” this content as if it is reality. It is important to distinguish between what is the real and what is mediated as the real.
The media constructs reality by the mediating events. However, when we look at what occurs in society, it can be broken down into three events. Bourstein (1961) described the role of these events in the construction of reality.
Genuine Events are occurring regardless of media presence. An example of this is a Natural Disaster. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina still, would have occurred even if a camera wasn’t present to report on it. Events such as this will happen, and the media will report the event as it occurs.
Media Events are similar in that they are events that still would have occurred without media presence, yet the media packages the event for audiences to watch. This can alter the audiences decoding of the event. An example could be Sky News coverage of Micheal Jackson’s death in 2009. His death and subsequent fan reaction would have still occurred. However, the presence of cameras and Sky News’s constant updates from the hospital created a sensationalised version of events.
Pseudo-Events are events that only occur due to the media’s presence. An interview with a politician or celebrity can be hyped up in the lead up to the event to draw in an audience. The event itself may be presented as live or spontaneous, however, the questions would have been agreed upon, answers may have been prepared and graphics or inserts would have been ready to go. A fabricated reality is constructed and re-presented as reality.
The medias construction of reality is important to be concious of in society. The ability to question and analysis what is real can allow audiences to either accept or reject the content mediated.