The Media


Bell Ringer

What role does the media have in our society, especially regarding politics?

The Media

The Media

Public officials have a love-hate relationship with the media

“No news is good news” is better for them than the adage “No such thing as bad publicity”

They have to “woo” the press

America is one of the freest countries regarding press

Out of 96 countries only 16 of them had “free press”

Even in England politicians can sue for libel and collect big bucks for “defamation”

(British) Official Secrets Act v.

(American)Freedom of Information Act

The Media

In America almost all TV and radio stations are owned by private citizens

They do require a license, good for 5-7 years

In France all broadcasting is done through the government and they can/do prohibit airing anything that may “disturb public order” or make government look bad

We have some regulation but the content is not—media is free air virtually all stories

The downside of it being private is that they have to turn a profit meaning they have to entertain as well, not just report

Journalism in American Political History

Party Press

Politicians created/controlled newspapers; they were expensive

Expressed the views of the politicians such as Andrew Jackson’s

Washington Globe

Popular Press

Technology made it possible for private citizens to go into the news business for themselves

1848-Associated Press was created to send messages around the world via telegraph

Had to be brief, thus no bias/partisanship, “just the facts”

Journalism in American Political History

Popular Press

With private ownership came yellow journalism

• sensationalism

(violence, romance, etc.)

• muckraking (someone who seeks stories about politicians acting against public policy)

Journalism in American Political History

Magazines of Opinion

Americans who wanted more serious news sources turned to magazines like



Writers would contribute stories and gain national followings and

Today’s magazines rarely focus on politics

Electronic Journalism

Radio (1920s)

TV (1940s)

These venues allowed politicians ability to speak directly to the people without editors and reporters

But, in order to get air time they have to have serious political clout, be entertaining, and/or pay big bucks for the time slot

Journalism in American Political History

Electronic journalism

Political talk shows are still relatively new media

Until the 90s the “big three” channels (ABC,

NBC, CBS) had 80% of the viewership

Evening newscast dominated the evening time slots and if the president was on, you were out of luck unless you had cable

This is where the rise of morning news and cable news got it’s start(Ross Perot announced his presidential candidacy on Larry King Live)

Journalism in American Political History

The Internet

The 2000 election was the first one where both candidates had a site

With 24 hour cable and internet news sites, the fate of newspapers is questionable

The Structure of the Media

“No Spin Zone” HA!

The media is not a mirror of what is going on in politics

They provide their own “spin” on things creating bias

In the radio and TV markets, competition is fierce

There are 5 major networks now and over 1,000 other channels (most of which have some sort of “news”)

Each of these have some audience that they play to

The Structure of the Media

National News

CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, MSNBC all carry news aired nationally

Most newspapers are geared toward local news


Wall Street Journal, Christian Science

Monitor, and USA Today


New York Times and Washington


are gaining in readership)

National press is important because:

Politicians care about what is written in the national press

The national press plays the role of gatekeeper, scorekeeper, and watchdog

The Structure of the Media


The national press determines what becomes national issues by what they choose to publish


Determines who is

“winning” in the press

Treats elections

– like horse races

The Iowa Caucus and other primaries are given great importance as the season openers for the election

The Structure of the Media


Once candidates are chosen for the race

– the media pays extra attention to them

How did we know that

Clinton “didn’t inhale” or that Bush did cocaine before his time in office?

While the media has their favorites, they are always willing to run them over if it will improve ratings

Rules Governing the Media

Newspapers/magazines are given some of the greatest freedom

Only restrictions-can’t print libelous, obscene, and/or material created to incite violence or overthrow of the government

Even in these cases, the Court has found in favor of the newspaper in most instances

For libel you have to not only prove that they printed something false, but also have to prove they did it maliciously

Obscene material is even harder to regulate without stepping on “artistic rights” and freedom of speech

Rules Governing the Media

Confidentiality of sources is not a guarantee

It is decided on a case by case basis

Usually the Court finds in favor of the government and forces that reporter to release his source data

Regulating Broadcasting

The Federal Communications Commission heavily regulates what is broadcasted

To have a radio/TV station you have to have a license and the FCC can turn you down

People are pushing for deregulation

Rules Governing the Media


Equal time rule: if you sell time to one candidate you have to allow the other airtime as well

Right-of-reply rule: If a person is attacked

(verbally) on your station, you have to allow for (verbal) retort from the attacked person

Political editorialization rule: If a broadcaster endorses a candidate, the opposing candidate has right to reply

Fairness doctrine: (removed in 1987) required time for opposing side of an issue to be presented if station gave time to controversial topic


Choose one of the following and write a 500 word response (Due Monday, Feb. 4,


What is the role of the media in a democracy?

Be sure to include the following in your response:

Is the media truly the 4th branch of government?

Should it or does it have a “check and balance” function?

Consider issues of National Security and war

Is it possible to have an independent “For Profit” media?

Provide 2 specific examples to support your argument.


Evaluate the following statement by evaluating the role of each of the following: the media in all forms, the corporate owners, the government, and the citizens.

“The only way to establish a free democracy is through a free press. Without a completely free press, democracy dies and the result is despotism. In short, a free and unfettered press is the life blood of a democracy”

Bell Ringer

Does the media do a good job as “watch dog” over Washington?

Explain what a “good job” looks like and then give examples of how they are or are not doing so.

The Effects of the Media on Politics

Media plays some role in our political behavior-but how much?

Americans suffer from selective attention-we only listen to the news that backs up our beliefs

While our voting habits don’t seem to change much based on media, our policies do

Remember the data from issues in 2008 to 2009

Healthcare went from 9% to 22% in importance

White House officials, knowing the importance of media, spend most of their time trying to get someone to be nice to the president

Government and the News

Politicians and government agencies know that they must cultivate public opinion or perish

T.R. was the first to use “cultivate”—he made it a goal to do something news worthy everyday

He built the West Wing and included a Press Room and only granted insider stories to friendly reporters and iced out hostile ones

The President now has a Press Secretary whose job is to handle news and media for him

They brief president on likely asked questions, controls flow of cabinet department news, deals with out-of-town news editors

No other country on earth has the press so close to their government (literally in the president’s home)

Government and the News

Coverage of Congress

Congress envies the coverage the president gets, but can’t compete

Until 1970s filming equipment wasn’t allowed in the House while Congress was in session

Since 1979 CSPAN has been filming non-stop

What event could have provoked their change of heart?

Senate is much more likely to be covered since it’s the incubator for future presidents

Governors hoping to be president have to pray for a natural disaster to get TV time on the national level

Government and the News

“Rules of Politics” Media

All secrets become public knowledge

All stories written about me are inaccurate; all stories about you are entirely accurate

The rosier the news, the higher ranking the official who announces it is

Always release back news on a Saturday

Never argue with a person who buys ink by the barrel

Interpreting Political News

Most Americans trust TV news to written news because they can hear how things are being said plus what is said

Since 1985 people have become less trusting in news in general

Dan Rather lost significant credibility as did

Ted Koppel; CNN gained credibility

People feared that when newspapers endorsed a candidate, it would slant the public—the

1948 and 1996 elections proved that was not the case

What is in the media doesn’t reflect the public

1972 election 61% of public voted Nixon, 19% in the press

1992 election 41% of public voted Clinton, 80% in the press

Interpreting Political News

Types of stories:

Routine stories: things that everyone in the press knows and regularly reports on (State of the Union address)

Feature stories: Something any reporter can investigate and report on, but must take the time to do so; not plainly known

Insider stories: Information not known without

“insider” info; must be “leaked”

When evaluating insider stories:

What beliefs led the editor to run this story?

How are the “experts” in the story related to the issue?

What adjectives are being used to “spin” the story?

Interpreting Political News

American government is the leakiest in the world

Why? Too many cooks in the kitchen who are competing with each other

We have an adversarial press—one that is suspicious of officials and eager to break the “real story”

Many people do not like modern press’ attack on leaders such as Quayle’s misspelling of potato, Clinton’s sexual relations, or Obama’s bowing

This is reflected by the people’s distrust in the media

Interpreting Political News

Media constantly attacks big business which is leading to distrust in businesses

Funny thing, media is big business so it is slowly coming around to bite them

News wasn’t always so sensationalized

FDR, JFK, and MLK all had affairs that the press knew about and didn’t report, why?

Money—press is a business and thus seeks to turn a profit by having the largest number of viewers/readers

Politicians, such as Clinton, tried to

“spin” the stories in their favor by depicting those speaking against him as liars, bimbos, or stalkers

Kenneth Star was accused of being a muckraker




Follow your Senator or Representative in Congress on Twitter and/or

Like him/her on Facebook and answer the following questions:

Name and District

Committees on which the member of Congress serves



What is your Senator or Representative doing in the district this week or recently?

What is your Representative/Senator doing in Washington this week or recently?



Tell us what ideas/legislation has your Rep/Senator taken on recently on behalf of constituents and/or on behalf of the country?

Finally, comment on the use of social media to connect with constituents and other important supporters.

Due Wednesday, February 6, 2013!