The Mass Media and Politics
The mass media possesses a great deal of influence in society and politics in the United States. Newspapers, radio, magazines and television are able to use their own judgment when reporting current events. The power of the mass media is an asset to the government in some instances and a stumbling block in others. Recent technology and regulations given to the mass media have improved the means by which the public can get information. The final say in what goes into a story, however, belongs to the reporter alone. His opinions and biases are often a main part of the news the public receives.
The mass media is the means by which the citizens of the United States are informed of current events in politics. This gives the media huge amounts of power and control. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell stated in 1974, "An informed public depends upon accurate and effective reporting by the news media. No individual can obtain for himself the information needed for the intelligent discharge of his political responsibilities." Powell is saying that it is the media's responsibility
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to inform the citizens of the news, because people cannot get this information by
themselves, and in order for the people to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens, such as voting, they need to be informed. Lewis Powell goes on to say,
"For most citizens, the prospect of personal familiarity with newsworthy events is hopelessly unrealistic. In seeking out the news, the press therefore acts as an agent of the public at large. It is the means by which people receive that free flow of information and ideas essential to intelligent self government."
No citizen is able to obtain all of the "newsworthy" information they need alone. The press provides the people with the information necessary for democracy in the United States.
According to our textbook, United States Government Democracy in Action, the mass media has been referred to as the fourth branch of government. (527) By simply associating the media with the other three branches of government implies the power of the mass media. The information relayed by the media to the people has played a major part in the democracy of the United States.
The advancing technologies in today's world help the media to portray their political views. Television provides the opportunity for political figures to address the public directly, instead of through written means only. In the early 1800's few
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people actually subscribed to a newspaper. Those who didn't could hear the latest
news in local taverns, and often those who did subscribe would mail the newspaper to their friends after they read it. (Remy 52) This way of circulating news was slow and ineffective. Newspaper distribution increased through the 1800's and mid-1900's. Television proved to be a more convenient way to convey information, so eventually, television caused a decline in newspaper usage.
Whether it be newspapers, radio shows, or television, the media will find a way to tell the public their stories. The technology that has come about over the years has made it easier for the media to convey information.
The technological aspect of the media has other effects too. When newspapers were the only source of information about politics, voting citizens could only read about politicians ideas and views. The invention of television and radio allowed those people to see and hear the country's leaders. This has both positive and negative effects. For example, a candidate for president is speaking to the general public over a television. He is young, relatively handsome, and charismatic. His opponent, who airs on television immediately following, is an older gentleman with a rough voice and gray hair. Obviously, the younger man is the "people pleaser."
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to handle the broadcast media well. Most newspapers did not support him, and television broadcasting did not exist, so
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he presented his views to the people over the radio with "fireside chats." His voice
was strong and confident. He set a good impression for the public. Technology has proven to be an asset to the media.
The president and the mass media have a mutually beneficial relationship. The president is a great source of news