oa Global Media Journal - African Edition - A critical and functional analysis of the mirror metaphor with reference to the media's responsibility towards society

Volume 2 Number 1
  • ISSN : 2073-2740



Attempts to define the media's role and function as the fourth estate often rely on the use of the mirror metaphor to descriptionbe its relationship towards its audience. The metaphor suggests the media and its contents are merely a reflection of reality. The assumption is that this reflection serves society's need to have an unbiased, objective and critical view of itself. The image presented in the reflection should therefore enable society to evaluate and adjust itself accordingly.Although this apparent pragmatic approach satisfies the most basic descriptionption of the media's role as a mediator of reality, it fails to consider the factors that may influence the reflection that is presented and the manner in which it is received.This paper applies critical theory to examine the manner in which factors, such as media concentration and commercialisation, distort the reflection in the mirror. It also analyses the notion of a mass audience which consumes media content. The paper challenges the outdated assumption in normative theory that the media serves a homogenous society. Instead it proposes a move towards pluralism of the media as a means to address the needs of diverse and multicultural societies.

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