Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jack Miller, Research Report #10, Week 12

This article, entitled “How Luther Went Viral,” is a piece published by The Economist about the similarities that can be seen in the so-called “social media” of the Lutheran reformation in 16th century Europe and Martin Luther’s “95 Theses”. The article does not list an author so it is reasonable and necessary to credit The Economist itself with the content of the article. The publication, founded in 1843, is a weekly news outlet that specializes in international affairs, and this article is an example of one of its pieces that connects history to more current forms of the medium. Many good points are made in this article that connects the media of the past to that of today, such as Facebook, Twitter and other recent forms of media. It claims that the media and printing of Luther and his associates worked in a fundamentally similar way to that of the modern era, by serving as a forum for voicing opposing opinions and inciting change in organizations.

The Economist has a positive reputation and has received few criticisms and been accused to very few incidents of low-integrity journalism since its founding in 1843. In order for its authors to maintain anonymity, it rarely includes a by-line in its articles, as it chose to do with this piece. The publication claims that this allows for unbiased judgment of the articles, as well as a collaborative process that each new article is subject to. In some cases it also makes it hard to judge bias based on the past history of individual journalists. Its mission statement claims that it was first created for the purpose of taking part in "a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.” Several of its pieces have been the subject of awards and honors across the world, and the company has even started its own award program called the Innovation Awards, which speaks even more toward the credibility of its journalism.

The blog responses to this article have most often been positive, and no one can effectively refute the claims that The Economist makes about social media throughout history. They are also predominantly posts of a religious tone, criticizing Luther for splitting up the church, which really has nothing to do with the message of the article at all. The article was noting the importance of media throughout history, not claiming that Luther’s intentions were noble, but claiming that he efficiently used media to spread the message of him and his contemporaries. In fact, I couldn’t find a single post responding to the actual content of the article, only about religious matters. This type of subject is only used to illustrate the phenomenon of different types of social media and how they have been utilized throughout history, and are being utilized today. Many other examples exist, the author(s) of the article merely thought they could better use the example of Luther and the Catholic Reformation to illustrate their point, which they do clearly and effectively.

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