The Mass Media What is the Mass Media? • The vast array of sources of information that are available to the public. • Newspapers • Television • Radio • Blogs • Online Sources • Cell Phones • Social Networks like Facebook
The News Media What is the News Media or Press? • A subset of the mass media that has traditionally provided the news of the day, gathered and reported by journalists. • Changing as a result of technology. • Includes Internet sources like blogs and YouTube. • Characterized by “speed” of access.
The Press as Watchdog A free press is vital to the success of a democracy. • Provides citizens with free or low cost information about politics and current events. • Serves as a watchdog on government. • Role of the press in monitoring government actions • Insures transparency • The ability of citizens to know what it is their government is doing.
The Function of the News The news plays a variety of key roles in a democracy. • Informing • Investigating • Interpreting • All three areas introduce the potential for bias on the part of the Press.
The News as Informer Journalists, simply put, inform. • Wars • Political events • Economic crisis • Campaigns • Governmental activities
The News as Investigator The media can also make news by researching and revealing information about events. • Watergate • Scandal uncovered by Washington Post reporters that led to resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein became legends for their work in following up on a news story about what seemed to be a routine break-in.
The News as Interpreter When the media inform, they also interpret the news. • In 1960, 90 percent of the campaign stories focused on describing what happened in the campaign that day. • By the 1990s, more than 80 percent of campaign stories were interpretive. • Why has the news moved away from description and towards interpretation? • Which is better?
Free Press and the Law The First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . freedom . . . of the press.” • As with any right, there are, however, limitations. • Prior Restraint • The government’s ability to restrict the publication of sensitive material .
Limitations on the Press When can government invoke prior restraint? At what point does prior restraint become censorship and thus undermine the ability of the press to be a watchdog? • Near v. Minnesota (1931) • Supreme Court case that declared that only in exceptionally rare cases can the government prevent the printing of a news story.
Limitations on the Press continued The Court has also reinforced the protections of press freedom against libel cases. • Libel is publishing false and damaging statements about another. • New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) • Supreme Court case establishing that proof of actual malice is required to convict in a libel suit. • Standard of actual malice • Making a statement against public officials or public figures with knowledge that the information was false or with “reckless disregard” of whether it was false or true.
The Free Press in Modern Times The Pentagon Papers (1971) • Supreme Court case permitting publication of classified documents on the Vietnam War and thus favoring freedom of the press over the executive authority of the president • The electronic media, however, are more heavily regulated by government.
The FCC Federal Communications Commission • Executive branch agency charged with regulating and overseeing radio, television, and electronic broadcasting. • Telecommunications Act of 1996 • Eased the rules concerning multiple ownership of media outlets. • Should we as citizens be concerned that only a few people own or have shared interest in the most popular media outlets?
The History of the Press in America The Colonial Era (1620 to 1750) • In the early colonial period, newspapers were not widely available, and there were few printing presses. • The notion that the press had the right to criticize government was not widely accepted. • Seditious Libel • Conduct or language that incites rebellion against the authority of a state
History of the Press continued The Founding Era (1750 to 1790) • The circulation of newspapers grew twice as fast as the population between 1760 and 1776. • Antifederalist vs. Federalist Newspapers • Federalist Papers • Series of essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay under the pseudonym of Publius, arguing for the ratification of the Constitution.
History of the Press continued The Partisan Era (1790 to 1900) • Following the adoption of the Constitution, most newspapers allied themselves with the Federalists or with the newly emerging Jeffersonian party. • Sedition Act (1798) • Made it a crime to criticize the government, later repealed.
History of the Press continued During the 1830s and 1840s, new steam presses reduced the cost of publishing newspapers. • Penny press • Newspapers sold for a penny, initiating an era in which the press began to rely on circulation and advertising for income, and not on political parties. • Move toward sensationalism and yellow journalism. • Style of journalism in the late nineteenth century characterized by sensationalism intending to capture the readers’ attention and increase circulation.
History of the Press continued The Professional Era (1900 to 1950) • Characterized by increased efforts to investigate wrongdoing in government, business, and industry. • Muckraking • Journalistic practice of investigative reporting that seeks to uncover corruption and wrongdoing. • The Ethic of Objectivity • The goal of being impartial and unbiased. • Can we expect the Press to be objective?
History of the Press continued The Television Era (1950–2000) • By the 1960s, the three major networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—had a near monopoly on television news. • Rise of news personalities like Walter Cronkite • TV news began to shape the outcome of elections. • Kennedy-Nixon debates
News in the 21st Century The changing media environment. • Americans adopt new media quickly. • There are more options for news than ever before.
The Decline of Newspapers Traditional printed newspapers are in decline. • The decline of newspapers raises concerns, because newspapers tend to contain more hard news. • More fact-based stories as opposed to interpretive narratives. • The decline may be accounted for, however, by a migration to online newspapers.
The Durability of Radio Radio remains an important source of information in the 21st century. • Political talk radio • A medium dominated largely by conservatives, is increasingly popular. • In 2008, nearly 50 million Americans listened to talk radio. • National Public Radio is the country’s most listened to talk radio that does not present a consistent political bias.
The Durability of Radio During the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt used radio to speak directly to the American people. His first fireside chat was broadcast on March 12, 1933, a week after he took office. Addressing the banking crisis, he explained government’s response in clear terms: “We have provided the machinery to restore our financial system,” he said, “and it is up to you to support and make it work. . . . Together we cannot fail.”
The Rise of Cable “News” Households are now watching two or three hours a week of cable news. • Fox has the largest audience, more than CNN and MSNBC combined. • These channels are dominated by interpretive news and political commentary.
Infotainment Infotainment, or soft news, has also risen in popularity. • News with fewer hard facts of the kind newspapers generally report, but with more emphasis on personal stories that engage (or shock) the public and often appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect. • Is The Daily Show infotainment? • Who decides what is “news”?
Blogs A blog is a website that provides a forum for “bottom-up” commentary, description of events, video postings, and general conversation. • Provides average citizens with a forum to express their opinions. • Provides average citizens with the opportunity to influence blogs. • Blogs also provide a lot of biased and misleading information. • Trent Lott resigned as a result of blogs about a comment he made supporting Strom Thurmond’s failed presidential bid.
Citizen Journalists Citizen journalists are ordinary individuals with no formal journalistic training and independent of news organizations who play an active role in reporting the news or commenting on current events, primarily through the Internet and web blogs. • Mayhill Fowler reported on huffingtonpost.com that BarackObama had said working-class people were “clinging” to their “guns and religion” because they were “bitter.” • Once the comments were posted, the Obama campaign faced a firestorm of protest.
Social Networking Facebookis a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study, and live around them. • 32 percent of 2006 senatorial candidates and 13 percent of 2006 congressional candidates posted information on their Facebook profile. About 1.5 million people were connected to either a candidate or an issue group. • In December 2007, Facebook teamed up with ABC News to create a presidential campaign application entitled “U.S. Politics,” allowing users to get involved in political discussions. • Facebook also teamed up with ABCNews in early 2008 to sponsor Democratic and Republican debates on January 5.
Twitter Another development in social networking is the rise of Twitter. • Politicians, actors, sports figures, and other celebrities are using this technology to share information, and it has spread rapidly around the world. • In June 2009, Iranians used Twitter to organize people to attend rallies protesting the outcome of the presidential election.
Text Messaging Cell phones have made possible yet another means of communication—textmessaging. • About 10 percent of text messages contain some kind of political information. • Obama announced his selection of Joe Biden as his vice presidential nominee via a text message (and e-mail) to supporters.
The News and the Millennials The millennial generation consumes news differently from the way older Americans do. • Young people rely more on Internet news. • What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to information? • Millennials appear to be more interested in politics at this point in their lives than previous generations.
State Owned Media The Propaganda Model • Extreme view of the media’s role in society, arguing that the press only serves the interest of the government, driving what the public thinks about important issues
How Much Does Media Affect Voters? The Minimal Effects Model • View of the media’s impact as marginal, since most people seek news reports to reinforce beliefs already held rather than to develop new ones. • Selective exposure • Process whereby people secure information from sources that agree with them, thus reinforcing their beliefs. • Selective perception • Process whereby partisans interpret the same information differently.
The Not-So-Minimal Effects Model View of the media’s impact as substantial, occurring by agenda setting, framing, and priming. • Agenda setting is the ability of the media to impact how people view issues, people, or events by controlling what stories are shown and what are not. • Framing is the ability of the media to influence public perception of issues by constructing the issue or discussion of a subject in a certain way. • Priming is the process whereby the media influence how the public views politicians by emphasizing criteria that make them look either good or bad.
Evaluating the News Media Concerns about the News Media are growing. • The media is biased and not presenting objective information. • Is the media biased? • Claims abound that the news media has a liberal bias despite the fact that the majority of news outlets are owned by conservatives. • It is fair to conclude that, individually, news outlets are biased, but collectively, the media provide a full range of ideological viewpoints. • Important to get information from a VARIETY of sources.
Evaluating the News Media continued Quality of information • More and more people are getting their “information” from soft news sources like Oprah or Jon Stewart. • Image over substance • Sound bites • Brief snippets of information that stress the short, catchy statement over substantive analysis, timed to fit the average news story on contemporary television. • Evidence shows that voters are not less informed, they just get information from different sources.
Implications of the Internet The Internet is not equally available to all Americans. • Only about 35 percent of those Americans making less than $20,000 a year in 2009 had access to the Internet. • For those making $75,000 or more, the proportion climbs to 85 percent. • Older Americans also have less access to the Internet than younger Americans.
Censorship There is no government agency regulating the print media, but the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to regulate the content and ownership of radio, television, the Internet, and all electronic media. • Obscenity • FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978) • Established the precedent that the FCC has the legal authority to fine any media outlet that knowingly allows the expression of obscene content, under certain circumstances.
Censorship continued • FCC v. Fox Television Stations • Fox claimed that on previous broadcasts, participants had used similar language and the FCC had ruled that they were “fleeting” and were not seriously harmful. • the Supreme Court ruled that the FCC only needed to prove that its new policy was justifiable and reasonable.
Censorship continued • CBS Inc. v. FCC • The FCC fined CBS $550,000 for allowing the viewing of indecent images, and CBS sued to appeal the fine. • The Supreme Court sent the case back to the court of appeals for reconsideration in light of its decision in the Fox Television case.
Focus Questions • How do the mass media help to make government accountable to the people? • How has the rise of the Internet increased or decreased the ability of the public to hold government accountable? • How does the bottom-up approach of twenty-first-century mass media affect citizen participation and equality? What are its other effects? • When, and under what conditions, should government regulate the media? • In what ways do the mass media offer gateways to American democracy? In what ways do the modern media establish new gates?