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Mass Media

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Mass Media

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  1. Mass Media Mass Media: All forms of communication that transmit information to the general public; the only linkage group that specializes in communication

  2. Roles of Media • Inform the public • Shape public opinion • Provide link between citizens & gov’t • Serve as watchdog that investigates & examines personalities & gov’t policies • Setting public agenda by influencing what subjects become national political issues • i.e. protests against Vietnam Conflict

  3. Development of Modern Media • Reflects development of country, inventions, technology, attitudes about role of gov’t • Newspapers • In colonial days: expensive, small circulations, often prepared by an organization with a particular cause • Improvements in printing, telegraph, rotary press led to growth of newspapers & circulation • By 1890 almost all major cities had 1+ daily papers • Circulation wars led to “yellow journalism” • Since 1950s, newspaper competition decreased • 2009: many newspapers had gone out of business, future called into ??

  4. Magazines • Tended to have smaller circulations & less frequent publication • Earliest public affairs magazines published in mid-1800s • Often exposed political corruption & business exploitation • 1920s-1930s: Time, Newsweek, and US News and World Report attracted mass readership • Liberal & conservative magazines have smaller circulations • Radio • Wide use began 1920s, made celebrities of news personalities • FDR used radio to broadcast “fireside chats”

  5. Television • Claims largest audience of mass media • Increased visibility of broadcast journalists • Promoted careers of politicians (Joe McCarthy, JFK) • Recent growth of cable TV news & 24/7 news cycle have greatly changed coverage of political system

  6. Internet as Media • Newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio & TV all have websites • Benefits: • “What you want, when you want it” – vast number of articles, records, video segments available for immediate consumption • Global reach of its content • Critics note Internet news has less “fact-checking” associated w/ it than does news from more traditional forms of media • Claim rumor & unsubstantiated allegations make up large portion of Internet “news” • Rumors, opinions confused with facts, Known as “disinformation” • Especially true of political blogs

  7. Media Ownership & Gov’t Regulation • Mass media are privately owned in US • Gives them more freedom than in most other countries • But more dependent on advertising profits • Gov’t regulation affects broadcast media more than print media & Internet • Technical regulations: Federal Communications Act of 1934 created FCC as independent regulatory agency to regulate interstate & foreign communication by radio, TV, telephone, telegraph, cable & satellite • Structural regulations: control the organization & ownership of broadcasting companies • 1996: Telecommunications Act broadened competition • Content regulations: mass media protected by 1st Amendment, but broadcast media subject to regulation of content

  8. What is News? • News: an important event that has happened w/in the past 24 hours • Media decide what is news by deciding what to report • Generally directed through gatekeepers – media executives, news directors, news editors, prominent reporters – who decide which events & how to present them • Time limitations & potential impact of the story are major elements in selecting what is news • In political coverage, horse-race journalism focuses on which candidate is winning or losing, rather than issues of election John Boehner says ‘one-in-three’ chance GOP loses House Posted by Aaron Blake at 05:00 PM ET, 04/23/2012 The Washington Post

  9. Media Coverage • Virtually all candidates & every president feel that the media is unfair in how they cover a campaign or administration • Attempt to control & manipulate the media, creating media events & photo opportunities • Presidents (i.e. Reagan) have developed strategies to control media access • Planning the event • Staying on the offensive • Controlling flow of information • Limiting access by the media • Talking only about what the administration wants to talk about • Speaking in one voice as an administration • Constantly repeating the same message • Worked for Reagan… Clinton & press didn’t have a strong relationship

  10. Studies indicated on balance, media covered both Bush & Clinton • Praising & criticizing them when events dictated • 2008 presidential campaign raised questions about coverage of major candidates during primary & general election • i.e. 2008 Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism – • Obama’s coverage started out negatively, but became more positive as his poll numbers increased • McCain’s coverage became increasingly negative after he suspended his campaign at start of economic crisis • Nature of media being driven by the “horse-race” (which candidate is up or down) • Overall, press treatment of Obama somewhat more positive than negative, “but not markedly so” while coverage of McCain described as “heavily unfavorable”

  11. Media & the President • Washington DC has largest press corps of any city in the US • 1/3 assigned to cover the White House (WH) • Media Events: staged news events • WH allows special access to the president • Most information to press through the Office of the Press Secretary

  12. Ways journalists receive information: • News releases: prepared texts to be used exactly as written • News briefings: announcements and daily questioning of the press secretary about news releases • News conferences: questioning of high-level officials, often rehearsed • Leaks: information released by officials who are guaranteed anonymity; may be intentional to interfere w/ the opposition or to “float” in idea & measure reaction • Reporters are expected to observe “rules” when talking to officials: • On the record: the official may be quoted by name • Off the record: what the official says cannot be printed • On background: what the official says can be printed but may not be attributed to the official by name • On deep background: what the official says can be printed, but it cannot be attributed to anybody

  13. Media & Congress • Fewer reporters regularly cover Congress • Does not maintain as tight a control over news stories as WH • Most coverage covers the HoR, the Senate, or Congress as a whole, not individual members • News could include: • Confirmation hearings • Oversight investigations, scandals among members • Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) • Created to increase coverage of Congressional activity • Floor & some committee proceedings are broadcast • Members may also record radio & TV messages to constituents

  14. Biases in the Media • Key questions: • Is it fair and balanced? • If there is an editorial stand, does it make a difference? • Cannons of good journalism • Objectivity • Responsible reporting • No correlation between newspaper endorsements and the candidate winning the election b/c of it • Legal restraints • Slander, libel • FCC direction – during the campaign, FCC sets = time provisions for all candidates who seek the same office

  15. Critics contend media are biased in reporting • Reporters are said to have liberal bias • Media owners, publishers, editors are said to be more conservative • Studies confirm Reporters have a liberal orientation • But bias tends to be against incumbents & frontrunners • But bias in news reporting is less than is claimed by critics • Tendency for “pack journalism” w/ journalists adopting viewpoints of other journalists w/ whom they spend time & exchange info • Commercial concerns reinforces trend toward objectivity • Biased reporting may appeal strongly to one segment of society, but goal is to offend the fewest possible audience members

  16. News media does not achieve complete objectivity • Local newspapers ignore all but most major international stories • Network news broadcasts shy away from more complex stories • Time constraints, don’t want to bore viewers • Primary source of media bias: need for immediate audience appeal • Time & space constraints • Biased by sources reporters use for information • Must rely heavily on politicians & gov’t sources • Reporters try not to offend gov’t sources w/ uncomplimentary reports • Danger reporters will become too close to the people & events they cover • Reporters must maintain credibility & so must demonstrate independence • Surveys show reporters are more skeptical about motives of politicians than average Americans • Bias extends to viewers, listeners, readers b/c often read/watch/listen to news outlets that support their political views

  17. Effects of Media on Modern Politics • WH staff members shield president from many questions & control when, how, and who asks questions • Presidents universally use teleprompters, earphones, charts, so appear prepared and in command • Campaigns & debates are events that are crafted to the finest detail • Public sees only what has been planned by campaign staff • Staff groups who try to control every media image attempt to orchestrate election debates • Only certain debate questions are allowed, each team spends days preparing • Special media rooms, created by congressional leaders, afford them instantaneous access to TV coverage

  18. Debates & speeches timed to take advantage of news cycles or C-SPAN • Press conferences usually held only when issues can be effectively addressed • Presidential staffs have created a “constant campaign” that presents president in favorable light at key events to keep popularity polls high • Candidates now use websites for national attention and fundraising • Elections that used to be local in scope can now target a wider audience & collect $ • Personal attacks on parties and candidates have escalated dramatically through the use of Internet, blogs • Every group can disseminate propaganda

  19. Effects of Media on the Public • Influences what public perceives as important by selecting events that are covered • Capability also applies to political leaders • CSPAN encourages House & Senate members to play to a sophisticated TV audience • WH Office of Communications monitors media daily • Media has been blamed for decline of party identification & party politics • Why get involved w/ a party when interactive media makes it easy to access information & influence officeholders • Candidates & officeholders use media to get message out • Use selective leaks (trial balloons) • Become talking heads w/ media focusing on face of politicians during speeches & talk shows ending up as sound bites

  20. The Internet • Is growing in importance, but… • The faster it grows, the less direct control policymakers may have on the average citizen • Does the media have the power to alter public opinion? • Media affect public opinion when coverage is extensive & predominantly negative or positive • i.e. negative coverage of the Vietnam War • Media affect public opinion when it is volatile • i.e. public approval of the president changes depending on positive or negative coverage • Most other instances, media do not greatly impact public opinion • b/c news media cover many stories simultaneously, diluting ability to influence public opinion on any single issue • b/c people choose the news media that reinforces their political beliefs

  21. Dominance of TV, video reduced amount of time spend presenting issues & candidates • News organizations use sound bites • Since 1960s, average time spent by media reporting candidates speeches has dropped from a minute to <10 seconds • As a result, campaign staff focus on presenting easily digestible messages, memorable lines, quotes • Try to find memorable mistakes by the other side • Being able to sum up an agenda in 10 words or less is key to advancing that agenda to the people

  22. Setting of Political Agenda • Media looks for events & issues that sell or offer controversy • Items become “crisis of the day” that politicians must at least appear to address • Selection of such events can show a media bias toward parties and leaders, change directions of policies, or enflame public • i.e. illegal immigration • i.e. coverage of the Tea Party movement