The Medium is the Massage (or, how closely are we paying attention?)

The mention of Marshall McLuhan on Page 24 of the reading inspired me to look up exactly what McLuhan, the media theorist, meant by his famous phrase, “the medium is the message”. It summed up his view that the method by which content was delivered was more important than the content itself. It was introduced in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, but a subsequent book, The Medium is the Massage, was printed with an error in the title (“Massage” instead of “Message”). McLuhan decided to keep and replicate the error because it illustrated his thesis better than the original title did. He saw the forces that controlled the media as “massaging” messages to suit their aims. (For a fascinating collection of audio recordings featuring McLuhan, click here.) The fact that one’s eyes may easily pass over the minor typo without registering it illustrates the point that we are “consumers” of media information, ingesting it so quickly that we fail to notice hidden or erroneous messages, whether they are intentionally so or not.

The first three chapters of the reading include discussion of the individual journalist’s relationship to the larger media machine. Here’s my question to the group: Given the choice between Strat Comm and MMJ, choosing MMJ was a no-brainer because “pure” journalism seemed a more “honest” field, less subject to message manipulation by a client, etc. Now entering my third year in the program, I’m no longer so sure. What do you think?