Gov: Mass Media

news-media-images   The American press was initially tied to the nation’s political party system but gradually developed an independent position or objective press. During this process, the news shifted from a political orientation, which emphasizes political values and ideas, to a journalistic orientation, which stresses newsworthy information and events. Today, traditional news organizations face increased competition for people’s attention from cable and the Internet, which has contributed to an increase in opinionated and entertainment-laced journalism. News audiences have been shrinking and fragmenting, partly as a result of new technology and partly because young adults are less likely to pay attention to news. One consequence has been a widening gap in the information levels of America’s more-attentive and less-attentive citizens. While the mass media may help shape public opinion, they are also shaped by it.

The mass media includes print media and broadcast media. The Internet, electronic media, has emerged as a powerful new interactive medium. The media have an even more basic effect on political attitudes and values. The mass media decides which issues are brought to the attention of the public and government. In fulfilling its responsibility to provide public information, the news media capably perform three significant roles: those of government watchdogs, agenda setters, and forums for an exchange of views. In its watchdog role, the news media scrutinizes official behavior for evidence of deceitful, careless, or corrupt acts. News editors and producers have to choose what to cover and what to leave out. These decisions help determine what issues get placed on the public agenda. Politicians and activists try to harness this agenda-setting power of the media to focus attention on issues they care about. The news media serve as a marketplace of ideas and opinions. The airwaves today are filled with opinion journalism. Most people who tune into these electronic debates do so not to receive objective analysis, but rather because they share the talk show host’s political point of view.



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