Chapter 12 Overview
Introduction: Case Study--A New Web of Influence: Bloggers Rewrite the Rules of
This chapter examines the evolution of the modern mass media, noting the impact of new
technologies such as satellite transmission, cable television, and the World Wide Web. It
then focuses on the content of political news coverage. Attention is devoted to the
question of how journalists decide what is newsworthy. Finally, the ways in which
government officials manipulate the media are evaluated. The opening case study deals
with the explosion of political online diarists known as bloggers.
The Emergence of the Media and Functions of the Media
Today Americans can get the news from a wide variety of sources. Early Americans
depended on the newspapers of the day, while later citizens became dependent on
broadcast media - first radio and then television. Modern technologies, particularly
satellite, cable, narrowcasting, and the Internet, have extended the reach and impact of
television. In addition, the mass media today play several essential roles: surveillance,
interpretation, investigation, and socialization.
Limits on Media Freedom
Because of the First Amendment, the newspapers are protected from government
interference. The broadcasting media, on the other hand, have been regulated. These
regulations have been justified on grounds of scarcity: there are only so many frequencies
and the government, in granting licenses, can choose to regulate the broadcasters. So, for
example, the Federal Communications Commission has required broadcasters to provide
equal time and time for rebuttal.
Ideological Bias and Media Control
While reporters may describe themselves as liberals, there is little evidence that such an
ideological bias permeates media coverage of politics. First, the media are plural; there
are so many news organizations, many of which try to present more than one political
viewpoint. In addition, the media "elite" are plural, consisting not only of journalists but
also their more conservative editors, publishers, and owners. Finally, to the extent that
reporters are dependent on government sources, they are unlikely to take a very critical
stance. In the end result, any bias in the media is likely to be a pro-corporate bias rather
than a liberal one.
The Media and Elections