“The Fourth Estate”
Key Terms
• A medium is a means of
• Media is the plural of medium.
• The mass media are means of
communication that can reach large,
widely dispersed audiences.
• Examples??
Functions of the Media
• Entertainment – very ratings driven.
• News reports – since the late 1700’s.
• Agenda setting – ability of the media to
draw public attention to certain issues and
to ignore other issues.
• Political forum – place for politicians to
make announcements or draw attention to
– Presidents have the greatest direct access.
The Bully Pulpit
Print Media
• Yellow Journalism – Sensational style of
reporting characterized newspapers at the turn
of the century.
• Chains - Groups of newspapers published by
media conglomerates and today accounting for
over four-fifths of the nation’s daily newspaper
• Circulation of newspapers and magazines have
fallen steadily as the internet and social media
sites have grown in importance.
Print Media
• Among the most influential newspapers today are the New York
Times the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.
• For most newspapers in medium-sized and small towns, the main
source of national and world news is the Associated Press wire
• Newsweeklies such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World
Report rank well behind popular favorites such as Reader’s Digest,
TV Guide, and National Geographic.
• Serious magazines of political news and opinion (such as the New
Republic, the National Review, and Commentary) are primarily read
by the educated elite
Broadcast Media
• Radio
– FDR was the first to take advantage of radio
with his “fireside chats”.
– Most radio stations devote very little time to
reporting political news.
– Recently, “talk radio” has gained prominence
in discussion of political issues.
• Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck – conservatives
• Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz - liberals
Broadcast Media
• Television
– 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates led TV to
replace newspapers and radio as our main
source of political news.
– 98% of American households own at least
one television.
– The “Big Three” (NBC, ABC, and CBS)
dominated political coverage for years,
Broadcast Media
• From Broadcasting to Narrowcasting:
The Rise of Cable and Cable News
– Viewership of major networks has declined as
cable news networks that offer continuous news
coverage have become available.
– Cable TV news channels can bring the news to
people and political leaders as it happens.
– Narrowcasting - Media programming on cable
TV or Internet that is focused on one topic and
is often aimed at a particular audience.
The Internet
• The Internet is quickly overtaking other media,
particularly with people under age 30.
• The Internet is purposive – People choose what to
learn about and can do so at their convenience.
• Websites exist for all ideologies.
• Blogs and podcasts provide additional information
about news stories (be wary – there are also
dragons on the internet...).
• Social Media has become a major source of
information in real time.
Government Regulation
• 1st Amendment – freedom of press
• The Government can’t place “prior
restraint” on news (can’t censor news
before it is released)
• The press is not entirely free – they are
regulated with respect to what they can
and cannot allow to be broadcast.
– This is perhaps why Howard Stern went to
satellite radio…
• Federal Communications Commission –
regulates the use of airwaves
– 7 words you can’t say on television…
– Jeannie’s naval…
– The Flintstones had separate beds!!
• Who are they? – 5 members (no more than 3
from the same political party) nominated by
US President for 5 year terms.
FCC’s Role
• Prevention of monopolies of control over a
broadcast market
• the FCC has instituted rules to limit the number of stations owned or
controlled by one company.
• Since a simplification in 1996, the rule has been just that no single
owner can control more than 35 percent of the broadcast market.
• Controls the media,
• no one may operate radio or TV stations without an FCC issued
• a station must serve the public interest.
• The FCC has on only rare occasion withdrawn licenses for failing to do
so, as when a Chicago station lost its license for neglecting informational
programs and for presenting obscene movies.
FCC’s Role
• Fair treatment rules concerning access to
the airwaves for political candidates and
• The equal time rule stipulates that if a station sells
advertising time to one candidate, it must be willing to
sell equal time to other candidates for the same office.
• And the right-of-reply rule states if a person is attacked
on a broadcast other than the news, then that person
has a right to reply via the same station.
Who Owns the News?
• Private Control of the Media
– The First Amendment means that our media is
independent in what they can report.
– Profits totally depend on advertising revenues.
– Primary objective is getting the biggest possible
audience (then advertising spots are worth more
– Chains – Massive media conglomerates that
account for over 80% of the nation’s daily
newspaper circulation.
Media Conglomerates
• Remember Andrew Carnegie and
Horizontal Integration???
• Gannet owns USA Today and controls the
biggest circulation in the nation + owns
100 additional papers
• Rupert Murdoch owns 124 radio stations,
New York Post, Weekly Standard, and
FOX News
Who Owns the News?
Impact of Media on
• Finding the News
– Beats – Specific locations from which
news frequently emanates, like Congress
or White House.
– Trial Balloons – An intentional news leak
for the purpose of assessing political
– Reporters and their sources depend on
each other for stories and to get them out.
Information is key…
Information is key…
Impact of Media on
• Presenting the News
– Superficial describes most news coverage
– Sound Bites – Short video clips of
approximately 10 seconds.
– Major TV networks devote less time to
covering political candidates.
– Horse Race Journalism - Coverage is often
dedicated to the latest polling rather than the
candidate’s position on issues.
Impact of Media on
• Bias in the News
– Many people believe the news is biased in
favor of one point of view.
– Generally is not very biased toward a
particular ideology.
• Cable networks and websites are usually
exceptions to this…
– News reporting is biased towards what will
draw the largest audience, such as good
pictures and negative reporting.
Media Bias
Impact of Media on
• Agenda Setting
– By increasing public attention to specific
problems, the media influence how the public
evaluates political leaders.
– By emphasizing one event over others, the
media can have an effect on how the public
evaluates specific events.
Media and Political
• Individualism
– Candidates run on their own by appealing to
people on television.
• Likeability trumps issues
– This lessens the influence of Parties.
– Easier to focus on one person like the
president, than groups, Congress, or the
• This allows most Congressional incumbents to be
Media and Political
• Advertising – very expensive on TV, a way
to reach many voters, but raises campaign
• Media Events – “free” coverage, politicians
will attempt to create events where media
will attend for free publicity
– Spin doctor – one who tries to influence
journalists with interpretations of events that are
favorable to the candidate
• Presidential Debates – also FREE
Media and Gov’t Officials
• White House Press Corp – journalists
whose sole job is to follow the President
• White House Press Secretary –
responsible for addressing the press daily
and answer questions for the president
• State of the Union Address – annual
policy speech
Media Good?
– “Information is the fuel of democracy.”
– But news provides more entertainment
than information; it is superficial.
– News is a business, giving people what
they want…which sadly is often fluff
rather than good journalism.
Media Good?
– Politicians stage media events for the
primary purpose of getting attention
from the media.
– These events are artfully stagemanaged to present the intended
– Campaign commercials are also
carefully crafted to convey specific
images and information.
Media Good?
– Our free press SHOULD act as a
watchdog to monitor and restrict the
actions of the government.
– New proposals are met with skepticism
which restricts scope of government,
what it can do.
– Media reports problem and force
government to address it, which
expands the scope of government.