Media vs. Masses...who controls who?

In the United States or any country with favorable or democratic government, freedom of the media is essential. However, many analysts believe that freedom granted to the media gives it power that may be used abusively, power to influence the public. These critics are against a sort of, "Lesse-fairre" attitude of the government towards the media. At the other end of the table however, some feel that freedom given to the media may go unchecked, for it is the people that influence the media and control that power. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between...

James Hallow attempts to approach this issue in his work "Why Americans Hate the Media". In this text Hallows examines the evolution of the media and its relationship to the public it caters to. In the thirties, media mimicked sleepytime Sunday morning political debates that one would watch on the public access channel. They, in many ways were considered "boring." Networks were growing more interested in attracting their audiences. As the years advanced and technology followed, media began taking different approaches to arouse the public. Conflicts on television where seen as a more interesting and productive approach to increasing ratings. After a while, interviewers would attempt to provoke debate, mud throwing and even emotion out of it’s political guests. Politicians who be allowed air-time to address questions presented by viewers and interviewers. One major complaint however, was that the media was more interested in evoking a response in the interviewed rather than probing issues that really mattered to the audiences. They would infact be more interested in impressing their peers with the questions they asked, rather than being interested in the answers. They ask questions like "Do you think Mr. Clinton will be re-elected? How do you plan to handle Newt’s new tax bill?" rather than "How is your tax bill going to directly effect the economy? How are your reforms going to change welfare and improve American life exactly?" The members of the media are seen as jackals eager for a story, prepared to place anything in the public’s eye in the name of ratings. In the thirties reporters as characters in films where seen as nitty-gritty heroes that shared the views and concerns on the every day common man. In recent films these same ‘heroes’ are portrayed as story hungry and unmoralistic. In many cases they are joked as being worse and less trust worthy than lawyers. This change in the portrayal of media in movies is a reflection of the publics cynical view towards them. The fact that many real life figures of media participate in such films, knowing in advance how they will be portrayed, further supports the view the public has towards them.
Some critics argue that the media is not completely at fault. They are after all, trying to "give the people what they want". Unfortunately the advancement of communications technology has superseded the audience’s capacity or desire to absorb it. There is only so much news a person wants to hear. People have Newschopers with nightvision, satellites, cameras, recorders, computers, E-mail, Cable television and CNN. Something has to be more interesting than the next in order to get the viewers to watch. So in many cases the media mimics the behavior of a sleazy talk show. Jerry Springer is a current talk show host in Chicago. He attracts his audiences by promoting violence and conflict between his guests. This concept of "Shock TV" grants him the rating levels he seeks. The people seem to love this. Mr. Springer himself was a politician, and had his show been about addressing important issues in the country he may not have been as successful. So the media may spend it’s energies slandering president Clinton and covering his affair, O.J Simpson’s Trial or Princess Diana’s death. None of these stories affect the country as a whole but people enjoy scandal, so who better to give it to them? Many of these critics therefore argue that it is the people that influence the media.
The media portrays unmoralistic behavior and conflict because that is what ‘they’, the people, ask for. Based on a ratings system the people steer the media in deciding their information diet. But