The Media and American Politics Dr. Christopher S. Rice
What do we mean by  “the media”? <ul><li>News organizations and journalists of either the print (newspapers, magazines), b...
What gets covered? <ul><li>News is often described as a mirror held up to society, but actually it is  a highly selective ...
The importance of information <ul><li>Popular sovereignty  requires  high-quality information and debate. </li></ul><ul><l...
Trust and Information <ul><li>Americans skeptical about the quality of information from mass media.  </li></ul><ul><li>Sti...
Media Giants!
Roles for the media in a democracy <ul><li>Common-Carrier </li></ul><ul><li>Watchdog </li></ul><ul><li>Signaler </li></ul>...
The media as common carrier <ul><li>The media can serve as critical links among political and governmental institutions. <...
The media as common carrier <ul><li>Channels of communication among political and governmental institutions. </li></ul><ul...
The media as signaler <ul><li>“ Reporting”: alert the public to important events as soon as possible, keep public informed...
The media as public representative <ul><li>Critical political linkage serving as spokesperson/ advocate for the public. </...
The media as public representative <ul><li>Why journalists may not be well suited to this role: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack...
The media as watchdog <ul><li>Press should dig up facts, warn public when officials doing something wrong. </li></ul><ul><...
Effects of the media on politics <ul><li>Media coverage influences public opinion and policymaking. </li></ul><ul><li>Agen...
What is bias? <ul><li>Bias is difficult to define and measure. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Count the proportion of references to...
 
What is bias? <ul><li>But “bias” can’t just be negative coverage, right? </li></ul><ul><li>What  IS  objectivity, anyway? ...
Media Bias - a definition <ul><li>The tendency to present an unbalanced perspective so that information is conveyed in suc...
An interesting note… <ul><li>People tend to be more concerned about media bias than they are about government censorship i...
Objective Journalism <ul><li>Still standard for US news coverage. </li></ul><ul><li>Most interpretations left implicit, or...
Objective Journalism <ul><li>Descriptive Reporting  – older form of objective journalism, so-called because of its straigh...
Is the media biased? <ul><li>Observers disagree whether media biased in liberal or conservative direction. </li></ul><ul><...
Dominant points of view <ul><li>Even if we can’t be sure media is biased (or to what extent), we CAN identify certain tend...
Dominant points of view <ul><li>Foreign affairs  – most news about foreign affairs takes an ethnocentric viewpoint. </li><...
Dominant points of view <ul><li>Ethnocentrism + dependence on US government news sources = most foreign news coverage fits...
Other dominant points of view <ul><li>The media tend to run stories that generally approve of American-style capitalist ec...
Subtle techniques of slanting news <ul><li>How you choose your sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Controlling the prominence of a ...
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PS 101 The Media And American Politics

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Slide show prepared for a series of lectures on the media and American politics for PS 101 American Government at the University of Kentucky, Fall 2007. Dr. Christopher S. Rice, Lecturer.

Published in: News & Politics, Business

PS 101 The Media And American Politics

  1. 1. The Media and American Politics Dr. Christopher S. Rice
  2. 2. What do we mean by “the media”? <ul><li>News organizations and journalists of either the print (newspapers, magazines), broadcast (television, radio) or internet (websites, newsfeeds, blogs) media. </li></ul>
  3. 3. What gets covered? <ul><li>News is often described as a mirror held up to society, but actually it is a highly selective portrayal of reality . </li></ul><ul><li>News is an account of events which are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Timely – new, unfolding events rather than old, static ones. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dramatic – striking developments vs. commonplace ones. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Compelling – developments which arouse people’s emotions </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. The importance of information <ul><li>Popular sovereignty requires high-quality information and debate. </li></ul><ul><li>Quality of democracy depends upon quality of the media… </li></ul>
  5. 5. Trust and Information <ul><li>Americans skeptical about the quality of information from mass media. </li></ul><ul><li>Still willing to accept content of “mainstream media” as (reasonably) accurate. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Media Giants!
  7. 7. Roles for the media in a democracy <ul><li>Common-Carrier </li></ul><ul><li>Watchdog </li></ul><ul><li>Signaler </li></ul><ul><li>Public Representative </li></ul>
  8. 8. The media as common carrier <ul><li>The media can serve as critical links among political and governmental institutions. </li></ul><ul><li>Vehicles for government, political parties, interest groups to speak to citizens. </li></ul><ul><li>Spin - Officials try to get the most favorable coverage they can. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Spin can often fail </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Spin can take legitimate and illegitimate forms. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. The media as common carrier <ul><li>Channels of communication among political and governmental institutions. </li></ul><ul><li>The Incredible Shrinking Sound Bite </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sound Bite – amount of time a candidate speaks in a news story without interruption. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1960’s – average sound bite was 40 seconds. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recently – average sound bite has been less than 10 seconds. Hardly enough time to utter a complete sentence. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. The media as signaler <ul><li>“ Reporting”: alert the public to important events as soon as possible, keep public informed in a timely manner. </li></ul><ul><li>Report “the facts” </li></ul><ul><li>Clarify electoral choices </li></ul><ul><li>Present ideas about public policy to the American public. </li></ul>
  11. 11. The media as public representative <ul><li>Critical political linkage serving as spokesperson/ advocate for the public. </li></ul><ul><li>Two flavors: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Advocacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acting as self-interested actor. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. The media as public representative <ul><li>Why journalists may not be well suited to this role: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of accountability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Representation requires a point of view - media bias? </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The media as watchdog <ul><li>Press should dig up facts, warn public when officials doing something wrong. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Watergate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Iraqi Prisoner Mistreatment Scandal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Justice Dept. US Attorney Firing Scandal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Importance of the First Amendment… </li></ul>
  14. 14. Effects of the media on politics <ul><li>Media coverage influences public opinion and policymaking. </li></ul><ul><li>Agenda-setting effects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Media covers what people believe is important? Or vice-versa? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Framing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Policy Preferences </li></ul><ul><li>Effects on policymaking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Indirect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. What is bias? <ul><li>Bias is difficult to define and measure. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Count the proportion of references to a political figure or policy which seem to be positive or negative? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A deviation from some perfect representation of objective reality? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Some studies have looked at slanted language. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All of these methods questionable, involve personal judgment. </li></ul>
  16. 17. What is bias? <ul><li>But “bias” can’t just be negative coverage, right? </li></ul><ul><li>What IS objectivity, anyway? </li></ul><ul><li>The problem with “Fair and Balanced” </li></ul>
  17. 18. Media Bias - a definition <ul><li>The tendency to present an unbalanced perspective so that information is conveyed in such a way that consistently favors one set of interests over another. </li></ul>
  18. 19. An interesting note… <ul><li>People tend to be more concerned about media bias than they are about government censorship in the United States. </li></ul>
  19. 20. Objective Journalism <ul><li>Still standard for US news coverage. </li></ul><ul><li>Most interpretations left implicit, or given by “experts” interviewed for comments. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How experts selected </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trends </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How Fox News has blurred the line between commentators and reporters. </li></ul></ul>
  20. 21. Objective Journalism <ul><li>Descriptive Reporting – older form of objective journalism, so-called because of its straightforward description of events. </li></ul><ul><li>Interpretive Journalism – style of reporting where journalist analyzes and explains developments rather than merely reporting on them. </li></ul>
  21. 22. Is the media biased? <ul><li>Observers disagree whether media biased in liberal or conservative direction. </li></ul><ul><li>Little to no evidence reporters’ personal values regularly affect what appears in the media. </li></ul>
  22. 23. Dominant points of view <ul><li>Even if we can’t be sure media is biased (or to what extent), we CAN identify certain tendencies in media coverage… </li></ul>
  23. 24. Dominant points of view <ul><li>Foreign affairs – most news about foreign affairs takes an ethnocentric viewpoint. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Focuses on things that interest and concern Americans. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tends to put US in a good light, opponents in a bad light. </li></ul></ul>
  24. 25. Dominant points of view <ul><li>Ethnocentrism + dependence on US government news sources = most foreign news coverage fits well with US foreign policy. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Media have tended to go along with government conjectures in assuming the worst about those who oppose us. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reliance on official news sources = media sometimes propagates false, misleading government statements. </li></ul></ul>
  25. 26. Other dominant points of view <ul><li>The media tend to run stories that generally approve of American-style capitalist economic system. </li></ul><ul><li>Incumbent politicians tend to get a pass from the media. </li></ul>
  26. 27. Subtle techniques of slanting news <ul><li>How you choose your sources. </li></ul><ul><li>Controlling the prominence of a story – above or below fold, page 1 or buried. </li></ul><ul><li>Solicitation and selection of quotations. </li></ul><ul><li>Choose which facts to report. </li></ul><ul><li>Frame the meaning of stories with the headline or first line of story. </li></ul>

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