Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Top Two News Words (by hour)

Back in my college days at U of I, I became familiar with the loud sounds of a band called Poster Children. They were relentless in their dedication to DIY ("do-it-yourself") touring, DIY music -- and, for our purposes, DIY thinking.

In that spirit, Rick Valentin, one of the founding members of the Poster Kids, created a piece of art which is deceptively simple. On the surface, the art piece appears to be completely functional in its purpose. According to Rick, "Top news sources are parsed by a computer every hour and the two most frequently used words are determined and printed out on a continuous sheet of paper."

But as critical thinkers, we might ask the question: what are the sources of "top news"? Scroll down to the bottom of the online version and take a good look. Our blog, An American Studies, will feature the "Top Two News Words" all year long in the blue field above the blog banner. What, if anything, does this automated tool say about the state of our media in the USA?

Curious about this seminal band who once worked with the inimitable Steve Albini? Listen here:

Poster Children - "Get a Life" from Junior Citizen.
Poster Children - "6x6" from New World Record.
Poster Children - "If You See Kay" from Daisychain Reaction.
Poster Children - "Machines (Take Good Care of)" from the Single of the Moment.


Molly Hunt said...

I'm actually interested in broadcast journalism or working in tv as a possible career choice, so I found it interesting to look at the top news words. In many of the news hours, the name Obama and the name of a country or region in the middle east were mentioned, which included Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel, and Gaza.
In my opinion, this means that news in america tends to focus on two emotions; hope and fear. President Obama brought hope to his supporters during his campaign, and brought fear to the people who didn't agree with his policies. Similarly, the issues of terrorism, conflict, and war in the Middle East are a source of fear to many americans, but the idea that the war might resolve conflict is an idea of hope. Taking advantage of these two emotions attracts readers and viewers.

S. Bolos said...


Love this interpretation of "hope" and "fear". It makes me want to go back to the archive of the original sources to see if it holds true. If so, I wonder how unique these perceptions are to Americans.

Bob P said...

I looked back at the tape and since the start three years ago, most if not all the words describe situations of hope and fear. I do not think these perceptions are unique to only Americans because many are things outside our borders (middle east and natural disasters). I believe all the world is interested in stories that describe hope and fear. Hope and fear are emotions that are intangible and cannot definitely defined as they are different for every person. These two emotions are like opposites, things that create fear in some create hope in others. This gets people of both opinions to search the same topic since it applies to both ideas.

For example, Obama's election gave hope to all his voters, yet has cause fear in some of today's news. Fox has shown many times anchors and guests saying Obama will turn America socialist, create death panels, and ruin "our" America. Where was all this criticism when George Bush was president on his policies? What is or was "our" America?