Chapter 12


Chapter 12

The Media

Media Facts

• 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.

Potential Limits on media freedom

• Privately owned newspapers and broadcast stations must make a profit

• Media bias

History of American Journalism

• 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.

The Popular Press

• 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.

The Popular Press

• 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.

Yellow Journalism

• 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

Opinion Magazines

• National magazines developed as a result of the belief in the Progressive movement and political reform

• Provided a forum for muckrakers to do

“investigative reporting”

• National magazines that focus on politics have been steadily dying out. Most focus on entertainment and leisure today.

Electronic Journalism

• 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)

Changes in Electronic Journalism

• 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.

The Internet

• 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.

Competition in the Media

• 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… a certain extent.

Competition in the Media

• 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

The National Media

• 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.

Media as Gatekeeper

• 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

Media as Scorekeeper

• 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.

Media as Watchdog

• 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.

Rules in the Media

• 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)

Source Confidentiality

• 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.

Regulation of Broadcasting

• 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.

Media and Campaigning

• 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.

Important Supreme Court cases

• 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

National Media Bias

• 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?

Views of the National Media

• 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.

Do the beliefs of the media affect how they report news?

• 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

Do the beliefs of the media affect how they report news?

• 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

Media Outlets and Bias in Stories

• 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

How much does the media influence what we think?

• 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.

Government and the News

• 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

Coverage of Congress

• 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.

News Leaks

• 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.

Sensationalism in the Media

• Sex wasn’t covered in politics up until the

1980s really.

• 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

Government Constraints on


• On the record

• Off the record

• On background

• On deep background