• The rise of the blog
• 60 Minutes story in 2004
• By 2004, 1/5 of all people between 18 and 29 got campaign news from the Internet.
• American government are less tough with restrictions on the media and speech
• Long tradition in America of the privately owned media
• Newspapers require no permission from government to operate. Radio and TV stations must obtain licenses from the FCC.
• Privately owned newspapers and broadcast stations must make a profit
• Media bias
• The Party Press
– In the early years of the United States, newspapers could not be easily distributed, and printing them was very expensive.
– Newspapers were basically controlled by factions and political parties to further their interests
– Hamilton- Gazette of the United States
– Jefferson- National Gazette
– Many different party papers, but rare to find a paper that presented both sides of an issue.
• Changes in society and technology made mass publication of newspapers possible
• Invention of telegraph in the 1840s allowed news to travel very quickly
• Associated Press created in 1848.
– Hard to be biased or partisan when you are giving out brief stories that are going to newspapers of all different types of opinions and partisan beliefs.
• Urbanized nation means larger concentrations of people in areas
• Newspapers become cheaper because of larger populations in a given area as well as merchants advertising
• The new mass-readership newspapers were not unbiased or nonpartisan, but the bias was not because of party sponsors.
– Bias was because of the publishers and editors views.
• Joseph Pulitzer vs. William Randolph
• Both had large newspaper empires, and they subscribed to the idea that the way to attract many readers was to sensationalize the news
• Spanish-American War
• National magazines developed as a result of the belief in the Progressive movement and political reform
• Provided a forum for muckrakers to do
• National magazines that focus on politics have been steadily dying out. Most focus on entertainment and leisure today.
• Radio in 1920s, TV in 1940s
• Television is more expensive
• News segments must be brief to avoid boring the audience
• Rise of the talk show
• Sound bites- short video or audio clips of a politician speaking. (7.2 seconds in 2000)
• The Big 3 Networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) dominated media coverage of politics until around 1990.
• Since 1990, the creation of 24-hour news networks (FOX News, CNN, MSNBC) have steadily increased their share of viewers.
• The Daily Show, Colbert Report, The Tonight
Show are rapidly becoming ways that politicians gain access to new groups of people who may not tune into traditional news stations.
• Blogs, online newspapers, web magazines all are becoming increasingly important ways that Americans get their news
• Every candidate for an important office now has a website
• The Internet has made it possible for ordinary voters to have their voices heard by politicians and political activists through blogs, Email, etc.
• Large decline in the number of newspapers serving large communities in the 20 th
By 1972, only 4 percent of American cities had competing newspapers
• Many large cities have competing newspapers, but in some of these cities the “competing” newspapers operate under a joint operating agreement (JOA)
– Business side merges, and editorial independence is preserved…..to a certain extent.
• Less than 40 percent of Americans age 18-34 read newspapers today.
• As newspaper competition has declined, television and radio competition has intensified.
– Over 1,000 TV stations
– Nearly 10,000 radio stations
– Not all of these cover “news”, but the number is sufficiently large to create huge competition for viewership and listeners
• While many media have a distinctly local flavor with newspapers, local newscasts, local radio stations, the national media has been steadily increasing
• Wire services- AP and UPI
• Magazines- Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World
• 24-Hour Cable News
• Newspapers such as USA Today, NY Times, Wall Street
Journal have a national distribution.
– Huge distribution
– Read by political elites
– Radio and TV take news cues from these publications
– Editors and reporters for these are better educated and better paid.
• The media influences what subjects become national issues and for how long they stay in the public spotlight
• Crime example
– Media paid little attention to rise in crime rates in early
1960s, so Washington gave it little attention.
– Attention increased in late 1960s and early 1970s, decreased in late 1970s, and rose again in 1980s.
– The reality is that crime was going up during most of these years. The reality did not change, but the perception did because of media coverage
• The media keeps track of and helps to make political reputations
• Getting the press to cover you is half the battle in becoming a candidate for a major office
• Doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire gets you lots of free media publicity in presidential primary season.
• The media closely scrutinizes candidates
• The media knows it is profitable to investigate and expose scandal
• Tolerant of underdogs, tough on front-runners
• This trend really developed after Woodward and
Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal.
• If you are a young reporter, and you can find a scandal and report the story, your career is launched.
• The First Amendment has been interpreted to say that no government can place prior restraints, or censorship, on the press except in very narrow circumstances
(usually national security issues)
• Terms like libelous, obscene, and incitement are defined so narrowly that it is nearly impossible to sue or prosecute a newspaper or magazine for something they have published.
• To prove libel of a public official, the person must show the information was wrong and damaging and prove with clear and convincing evidence that it was printed maliciously (with reckless disregard for the truth)
• In general, sources may be kept confidential EXCEPT
• The government may compel reporters to give up their sources or information if it is part of a properly conducted criminal investigation.
• Radio and television stations must have FCC licenses. Must be renewed every 7 years for radio stations and every 5 years for TV stations
• Applications for renewal are rarely refused
• There has been massive deregulation of the broadcast media in the past few decades
• Fairness Doctrine- Required broadcasters that air one side of a story to give time to opposing points of view.
• Broadcasters must provide equal time to candidates for office
• Candidates for president use the television in large quantities to reach a national audience.
• In more local races, candidates may or may not use the television in large amounts to campaign.
• Much higher percentage of Senate candidates use television ads than House candidates.
• Near v. Minnesota (1931)
– State governments cannot impose prior restraint
• New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)
– Not libel unless the reporter made the statement knowing it to be false or with reckless disregard for the truth
• Miami Herald v. Tornillo (1974)
– Newspapers don’t have to give you the right to reply to a story
• New York Times v. Sullivan (1971)
– Federal government could not prevent the Times from printing a story about the Pentagon Papers
• Three questions to answer
– Do members of the media have a distinctive political attitude?
– Does that attitude affect what they write or say?
– Does what they write or say affect what citizens believe?
• Majority of the national media is liberal
• 1992- 91% interviewed said they voted for
Clinton (Only 43% of the public did)
• More secular than average American
• Public perceives the media as liberal even as some conservative outlets are rising
• 30% of Americans listen to talk radio at least several times a week.
• Media owners care about ratings. Conservative hosts have better ratings. Therefore conservatives dominate talk radio.
• Three types of stories
– Routine stories
• Major political events, usually involve simple matters and are covered by many reporters
– Feature stories
• Cover public events not routinely covered by the press
• Typically have to persuade an editor it is worth publishing
– Insider stories
• Cover things that are often secret.
• Investigative reporters
• Often the story is leaked to a reporter by a government insider
• Routine stories typically have little bias
• Feature and insider stories can reflect the views of the reporters and editors
• Bias can be most easily seen not by how a reporter or editor covers a story, but by WHAT they actually cover
– Conservative media- drug abuse, crime, welfare abuse
– Liberal media- Feminism, civil rights, environment
• Times and Post- Three times more likely to describe conservative senators as conservative than liberal senators as liberal
• Time and Newsweek- Did not quote scientists and engineers that were in favor of nuclear power because magazines opposed it
• Economic headlines given a more positive spin with Democratic administration in the White
House by Top 10 Newspapers and AP
• Public perceives media as being less trustworthy
• Selective attention- People remember or believe what they want to. We pay attention to what is consistent with our personal beliefs
• Voters typically have more positive feelings about endorsed incumbents than nonendorsed incumbents
• Fox News study- When Fox News was on the air in one city and not in another similar city, the vote for Republican candidates increased by 3 to 8 percent, and about half a percent for
Republican presidential candidate.
• Prominence of the President
– White House press secretary and the White
House press corps
– Because of the level of proximity the media has to the president, we know almost every move the president makes
• C-Span has greatly increased the coverage of Congress
• After 1978, television and radio were allowed on the floor of both Houses of
• Since 1979, C-Span has shown live coverage of the House, and the Senate since 1986.
• Separation of powers and news leaks
– Each branch competes with the other branches for power
– Using the press to make the other branch look bad on an issue
• Adversarial Press
– The national media is extremely suspicious of government officials and loves to reveal stories that cast them in a negative light
– Era of attack journalism
– Attack journalism and the adversarial press have made negative advertising in campaigns more socially acceptable.
• Sex wasn’t covered in politics up until the
• What changed?
– The economics of journalism
• Increased competition for viewership leads to using big stories like sex, violence, political intrigue to sell the news
• Used to have to have two sources to run a story
• Now you break stories with one unnamed source, or even about an Internet rumor
• On the record
• Off the record
• On background
• On deep background