The Media

Does the media just report politics, or does it shape political events? When politicians play to the media, does the media then control politics? The media—such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet—has the power to connect citizens and their government. Many people criticize the media for unfairly using this power. Does the media fairly explore issues, or does it impose its own positions?

Has the media simply replaced political parties as the primary force behind candidate selection? The media's influence is increased by the fact that campaigns usually focus on the individual candidate, not the political party. To win primaries, candidates seek media attention to gain attention from voters.

The media can shape government and politics in many ways. Here are a few examples:

  1. By influencing political opinions of voters. The media probably does not change the voting behavior of people who are actively interested in politics. Committed Democrats and Republicans selectively learn what they want to from media sources. However, the media can sway people who have no strong opinion about politics. Since these voters often decide elections results, the power of media in elections can be substantial.
  2. By determining the behavior of candidates and officials. Many good politicians have learned that they can succeed if they know how to use the media. Government officials and candidates stage media events and photo opportunities. Critics believe that too much attention is focused on how politicians look on camera, rather than on how they are doing their job.
  3. By setting the public agenda. Most Americans learn about social issues from the media. The fact that the media focuses on some issues and ignores others can affect what gets done in government. Media sources might emphasize scandal and high-interest issues instead of less interesting but more important political problems.

The media has a great deal of power in American politics today. Some people believe the media abuses its power, especially when it tries to make sales by giving people what they want to read or hear. On the other hand, perhaps the media acts as a modern "checks and balances" system. Reporters serve as "watchdogs" to be sure that Presidents, Representatives, and Justices do not abuse their powers. The media in turn is checked by government regulations, by skilled politicians, and by the people's own good judgment.

Source: The Media
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