the news media -

Chapter 15
Mr. Manzo
American Government:
Continuity and Change
In this chapter we will cover…
• Changes over the years
• Nature of media coverage today
• Effects of the media
• Regulation of the media
• Politicians and media
• Symbiotic relationship
Who are the Mass Media?
“Traditional” media.
A. Newspapers: NY
Times, Washington Post,
Wall Street Journal.
Declining circulation.
B. Television: CBS, NBC,
ABC -- decline of 3 major
networks w/advent of
greater competition from
C. Magazines: Time,
Newsweek, US News and
World Report. Declining
D. Trend towards mergers
and consolidation less
Declining Readership of
• Newspapers lost
nearly 5.5 million
readers between
1986 and 1996.
• The phenomenal
growth of the Internet
has given the
newspaper industry a
new source of
Who are the Mass
The "new media."
A. Examples: the Internet,
web logs (“blogs”), YouTube,
CNN, Fox News, The
O’Reilly Factor, Daily Show,
Colbert Report, Rush
Limbaugh and talk radio.
B. Characteristics:
1. More interactive.
2. More emphasis on
entertainment -"infotainment."
3. Personalized.
4. Emotional.
5. Informal
6. Opinionated
7. Topical
Which social
networks are
people using to get
breaking news?
Technological Advances
• Papers became cheaper and easier to produce
and distribute, the telegraph and telephone made
reporting simpler and faster.
• Radio became widely available in the 1920s and
television was introduced in the late 1940s.
• Cable was invented in the 1970s, CNN was
founded in 1980, and the Internet didn't become
well-known until the late 1990s.
Expansion of Internet
The Media and Public Opinion
I. Do the media influence public opinion? Mixed evidence:
A. Yes.
1. Television "personalizes" candidates and elections.
2. Media stress short-term elements of elections at expense of long-term elements (e.g., party affiliation).
3. Those who "consume" media in turn influence others.
4. Media help set national agenda.
5. Rise of advocacy journalism/adversarial journalism rather than objective journalism. Journalists
“comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable
The Media and Public
Studies show that
journalists are more liberal
than public as a whole.
7. Media are a primary
linking mechanism
between public and
8. Profit motive emphasis
on boosting ratings
“trivialization” of news
with people less informed
on important issues.
The Media and Public Opinion
Liberal bias in the media occurs when liberal ideas have undue influence on
the coverage or selection of news stories.
The Media Elite, 1986 a survey found most of journalists were Democratic
voters whose attitudes were well to the left of the general public on a variety of
topics, including such hot-button social issues as abortion, affirmative action,
and gay rights. Then they compared journalists' attitudes to their coverage of
controversial issues such as the safety of nuclear power, school busing to
promote racial integration, and the energy crisis of the 1970s. The authors
concluded that journalists' coverage of controversial issues reflected their own
attitudes, and the predominance of political liberals in newsrooms therefore
pushed news coverage in a liberal direction. They presented this tilt as a
mostly unconscious process of like-minded individuals projecting their shared
assumptions onto their interpretations of reality.
The Media and Public
B. No.
1. Mass public pays little attention to
the news (e.g., surveys showing how
little people know about current
affairs) and often forgets what it sees
or reads.
2. Selective attention: many focus in
on media sources they already agree
3. Selective perception: many perceive
news in the way they want to view it -they see what they want and filter out
the rest.
4. Media are only one source of
influence -- political socialization
suggests importance of family, schools,
peers, and other influences.
5. People consume media for variety of
reasons other than information:
boredom, entertainment ---> these
people are less likely to pay close
attention to "hard" news and analysis.
The Media and Public
II. Impact of newspapers.
A. Typical perception of liberal
bias, but they generally endorse
Republican candidates.
(Publishers tend to be
B. Complaints from both liberals
and conservatives:
1. Conservatives claim that
reporters are too liberal: college
graduates (often from elite
schools) with hostility towards
middle class values.
2. Liberals claim that publishers
are conservative and therefore are
more concerned with sales and
profits than exposing
social/political/economic evils --> status quo bias.
Seventy-five percent of Republicans and conservatives say the media are too liberal. Democrats
and liberals lean more toward saying the media are "just about right," at 57 percent and 42
percent, respectively. Moderates and independents diverge, however, with 50 percent of
independents saying the media are too liberal and 50 percent of moderates saying they are just
about right.
Media and Public
C. Lack of competition: most
cities now have only one
major newspaper.
D. Largest amount of pres.
campaign coverage devoted to
day-to-day campaign
E. “Horse race” coverage
The Media and Public
III. Impact of television.
Most people now get their news
from television. Most get their
political info from t.v and a
decline of substance in coverage
and rise of images and slogans.
B. Concern that television is allied
with "big government:" use of
television as electronic throne of
1. President can now bypass
journalists' annoying questions
and go right to the people with a
2. Decline in number of
presidential press conferences.
3. White House manipulation of
television with photo
opportunities and sound bites.
The Media and Public
C. Concern that television has
fostered cynicism, distrust and
negativism towards
government and politics -adversarial journalism.
D. Lack of competition
(although advent of cable has
made this less of a
E. Concern that people look at
politics through the "camera
lens" rather than the "party
lens" ---> further decline of
F. Decline of network TV
news and rise of cable TV
Changing: Role of the Media
Yellow Journalism (Publishers of yellow journals, such as Joseph Pulitzer (New York
World) and William Randolph Hearst (New York Journal), were more intent on increasing
circulation through scandal, crime, entertainment and sensationalism)
Muckraking (Investigative journalism, Upton Sinclair, The Jungle)
Chain Ownership (Viacom, Walt Disney, Time Warner, News Corporation)
The “Big” Three (NBC, ABC, CBS)
“Off the Record”
Adversarial Press
Effects of the Media on
Symbiotic relationship between
government and the press: journalists
need politicians to inform and entertain
their audiences, and politicians need
journalists for media exposure.
II. Roles of media.
A. Gatekeeper: influence which
subjects are of national importance, i.e.
help to set national agenda.
B. Scorekeeper: keep track of, and
help make, political reputations, e.g.,
importance attached to Iowa caucuses
and New Hampshire primary.
Emphasis on horse race element of
elections at expense of issues.
C. Watchdog: scrutinize people,
places and events (e.g., Watergate,
Iran-Contra). "Comfort the afflicted
and afflict the comfortable.
War in Afghanistan
Scandals (corruption)
Effects of the Media on Politics
III. Nature of media influences.
A. Most influential at the agenda-setting phase of the policy
making process.
Issue framing: once an issue is on the national
agenda, media provide context for understanding that issue
C. “Sameness” – homogeneity of coverage.
D. Media companies are businesses, where the main objective
is to make money.
E. Provide forum for building candidate images.
The Effects of the Media on Politics
F. Act as linking mechanism between govt. and people:
1. In the past: People ---> Parties ---> Government.
2. Now: People ---> Media ---> Government.
G. Contribute to higher cost of campaigning.
H. Contribute to candidate-centered campaigns.
The Effects of the Media
on Politics
Increase the role of campaign
consultants. Instead of parties telling
candidates what to say, media
consultants report on findings of polls
and focus groups and then tell
candidates what to say.
J. White House manipulation of media
(use of television as “electronic
1. Photo opportunities.
2. Sound bites.
3. Spin control.
4. Staged events.
5. Trial balloons.
6. “Going public:” when the president
takes his case directly to the people
The Effect of the Media on Politics
Negative coverage of Congress. Congress seen as obstructionist foil to
Emphasis on sensationalism and scandal “feeding frenzy” when a story is
Far less coverage of Supreme Court than of Congress and presidency.
Media most influential:
In primary elections rather than general elections.
On undecided voters. Most voters make up their minds before the fall
campaign, and many make up their minds even before the conventions.
Increasing importance of Internet (“net roots”)
Communicating w/public: web sites, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook
Media Regulation
Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
regulates interstate and international
communications by radio, television, wire,
satellite and cable in all 50 states, the
District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It
was established by the Communications Act
of 1934 and operates as an independent U.S.
government agency overseen by Congress.
(fair treatment rules (fairness doctrine for broadcast news disbanded
1986), licensing, prevents monopolies)
No Prior Restraint
The first notable case in which the United States Supreme Court ruled on
a prior restraint issue was Near v. Minnesota , 283 U.S. 697 (1931). In
that case the Court held prior restraints to be unconstitutional, except in
extremely limited circumstances such as national security issues. The
ruling came about after Jay Near's newspaper, The Saturday Press, a
small local paper that ran countless exposés of Minneapolis's elected
officials' alleged illicit activities, including gambling, racketeering, and
graft, was silenced by the Minnesota Gag Law of 1925, also known as
The Public Nuisance Law. Near’s critics called his paper a scandal sheet,
and alleged that he tried to extort money threatening to publish attacks on
officials and others. In the Near case the Court held that the state had no
power to enjoin the publication of the paper in this way – that any such
action would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
Telecommunications Act 1996
• The Telecommunications Act of 1996, a comprehensive law
overhauling regulation of the telecommunications industry, recognizes
the importance of access to telecommunications for people with
disabilities in the Information Age. Section 255 of the Act requires
telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people
with disabilities.
Telecommunications products covered include:
• wired and wireless telecommunication devices, such as telephones
(including pay phones and cellular phones), pagers, and fax machines
• other products that have a telecommunication service capability, such
as computers with modems
The Pace of the News
• In 1961, when the Berlin
Wall went up, President
Kennedy had 8 days to
respond to the provocative
• In 1989, when the wall
came down, President Bush
was forced to respond
How Politicians Use the Media
• Politicians and government officials often stage
media events in order to gain free media
coverage. Love Hate Relationship (symbiotic)
• Candidates and politicians try to control or 'spin'
media focus regarding campaign and policy
• Candidates and politicians may 'leak' a story to
the press in order to get their story out without
being the focus of that story.
• Sound bite – comments compressed into several
• Press Release, Press Conference
How Politicians Use the Media
Equal Time Rule – if a stations sells time to one candidate it must
be willing to sell time to the opposing candidate.
Right of Reply Rule - if a person is verbally attacked on a
broadcast program he/she has the right to respond on that same
On the Record - all that is said can be quoted and attributed
Un-attributable - what is said can be reported but not attributed
Off the Record - the information is provided to inform a decision or
provide a confidential explanation, not for publication
On deep background - information may not be included in the article
but is used by the journalist to enhance his or her view of the subject
matter, or to act as a guide to other leads or sources.
On background -briefing may be reported (and the source
characterized in general terms as above) but direct quotes may not be
New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) sets libel boundaries.
Covering Government
• The President garners attention from the bully pulpit.
• The President speaks through the press secretary or press
• Coverage of the President is generally unfavorable.
• Congress’s 535 members pose a challenge
• Coverage of Congress is generally negative
• Supreme Court is more private, coverage is limited.
• PolitiFact