Created on: December 12, 2007 Last Updated: December 14, 2007
The media plays a substantial role in the development of government. The media gives people access to be able to choose a political party, devise attitudes on government parties and government decisions, and manage their own interests. From newspapers to television to radio to the internet, the media is the leading factor in political communication and fund-raising.
The mass media performs six main functions, almost all with political insinuations: 1) entertainment, 2) reporting the news, 3) identifying public problems, 4) socializing new generations, 5) providing a political forum, and 6) making profits. Its influence is more prominent during political campaigns because news coverage of a single event could turn out to be the most significant factor in putting a candidate ahead. In fact, countless national political figures, including the president, plan public appearances and statements to expand their influence through the media.
Candidates and their consultants consume much of their time devising strategies to get the most impact on television viewers. Types of coverage used by candidates for any office include advertising, management of news coverage, and campaign debates. The appearance of candidates in presidential debates is as important as the news coverage itself.
In general people already have their own ideas when they view television, read newspapers, or log on to websites. This leads to "selective attentiveness" and acts as a type of filter that allows the viewer to pay attention to the details that agree with his or her own opinion. The media are more effective with those who have not formed a stable political opinion, whether it is on issues or candidates. Studies show that commercials and debates aired right before election day have the most effect on undecided viewers. Voters who have already formed their opinions are hardly influenced by the media to the point of changing their minds.
Not only does the mass media have extensive authority in political campaigns, but they can even exercise power over government officials and affairs. The media and the president both need each other; "The media need news to report, and the president may need coverage." Therefore, both the president and the media work hard to utilize one another. Public problems that receive the most media coverage are considered to be the most important ones by the public, giving the media an important role in the public agenda. The media provides the government with a better understanding of the need and desires of the society.
Several studies have taken place to decide which way media bias sways. Some say they lean more towards the liberal side, while others say they go more towards the conservative side. Even so, some say there is no notable bias. Yet others agree that the media has a bias toward the "status quo" or towards candidates labeled as losers- making it difficult for candidates labeled as such to regain their ground. Calvin F. Exoo "concluded that journalists are constrained by both the pro-America bias of the media's owners and the journalists' own code of objectivity."
Overall, the media are always present with new stories on political activities. Political discussions cannot be avoided in the print media, political stories are aired on television everyday, commercial radio airs political news every hour, and paid political announcements are encountered in all media during campaigns. The media remains important since they are the means by which people obtain current affairs both inside and outside of the United States- however bias it may be.
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