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Chapter 6 THE MASS MEDIA “Political Maneuvering, Yes; Substantive Issues, No”

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Chapter 6

THE MASS MEDIA


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“Political Maneuvering, Yes; Substantive Issues, No”

  • The opening vignette is based on a story about how Linda Tripp at the suggestion of book agent Lucianne Goldberg secretly taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky about her sexual relationship with President Bill Clinton.

  • Major TV networks and news magazines picked up the story based on innuendo, without having listened to t he tapes.

  • The story illustrates that the media are not very interested in informing the public about important and substantive political and policy issues but concentrate, instead, on the game of politics.


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  • In Chapter 6, the authors ask whether the media enrich or diminish democracy in the United States.

  • The text addresses major issues concerning the media:

    • Organization of the mass media

    • How political news is generated and presented

    • The relationship between reporters and politicians

    • How the media influence how citizens think about politics and public policies


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Roles of the Mass Media in Democracy diminish democracy in the United States.

  • The central idea of democracy is that ordinary citizens should control what their government does.

  • Watchdog over government

  • Clarify what electoral choices the public has

  • Present a full and enlightening set of ideas about public policy to the public


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The Mass Media As Important Elements of the Political System diminish democracy in the United States.

  • The mass media serve as critical links among political and governmental institutions.

  • They also act as political institutions in their own right.

    • Vehicles for government, political parties, and interest groups to speak to citizens

    • Channels of communication among political and governmental institutions

    • The media, primarily owned by large corporations, are themselves political actors with their own goals and interests.


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Development of the Mass Media in America diminish democracy in the United States.

  • The nature of the mass media has been shaped by structural factors:

    • Population expansion and dispersion

    • Technological innovations from the invention of printing presses to satellites

    • New forms of corporate business organization


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  • Newspapers diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Modern newspapers have been made possible by technological developments and economic growth.

    • Changing structural factors of industrialization and technology changed the shape of political communication and the shape of politics.

    • Newspaper readership: competition from television and radio


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  • Magazines diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Journals of opinion

    • Weekly newsmagazines

    • Large-circulation magazines

    • Specialized journals


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  • Resurgence of modern radio


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    • Transformation of the media by television diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Television was invented just before World War II.

      • Developed commercially in the late 1940s

      • Adopted on a large scale in the 1950s.

  • Polls regularly have shown that most people name television as their most important source of news.


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    • The diminish democracy in the United States.new media have the potential to revolutionize politics.

      • Personal computers and modems in many homes and offices

      • The Internet


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    How the Media Work diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Organization of the mass media

      • Corporate ownership — concentration of ownership has been increasing.

      • Effects of centralization


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    Political Newsmaking diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Where the news comes from

    • Dependence on official sources

    • Mutual needs of the media and public officials

    • Foreign news tends to be sporadic and episodic.

    • Interpretation of political news


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    Is the News Biased? diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Observers disagree about whether the media are biased in a liberal or a conservative direction.

    • What is bias?


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    Prevailing Themes in Political News diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Tendencies in media coverage

      • Beliefs that are assumed

      • Values and points of view that are emphasized

      • Values that seldom are given coverage

      • Ethnocentric point of view in most news reports about foreign affairs

  • The combination of ethnocentrism and the dependence on U.S. government news sources has meant that most foreign news coverage supports U.S. foreign policy.


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    Impact diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Results of relying on incumbent politicians as essential news sources

    • Negativity and scandal

    • Limited, fragmented, and incoherent political information


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    Effects of the Media on Politics diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Media coverage influences public opinion and policymaking.

      • Agenda-setting effects — the topics that get the most coverage in the media are the same ones that most people say are the most important problems

      • The media’s framing or interpretation of stories affects how people think about political problems.

      • Trends in what the media cover sometimes diverge from actual trends in problems.

      • What appears in the media affects people’s policy preferences.


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    • Influence on policymaking diminish democracy in the United States.

      • By affecting what people think is important, the media indirectly affect what government does when the government responds to public opinion.

      • What appears in the media has a direct effect on policymaking when government reacts to news coverage and investigative reports.


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    • Cynicism diminish democracy in the United States.

      • As the adversarial attack journalism style has taken over political reporting, serious consideration of the issues or of the behavior of institutions has lost out to a steady diet of charges about personal misbehavior.

      • Is mass media coverage of American politics responsible for increased cynicism about political parties, politicians, and incumbent political leaders?


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    Censorship and Government Regulation diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Government has less legal control over the media in the United States than in most other countries.

    • The U.S. government does enforce various technical and substantive regulations on the electronic media.


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    Constitutional Protection diminish democracy in the United States.

    • Overt censorship since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 has primarily been confined to wartime.

    • The Constitution now is interpreted as forbidding government from preventing the publication of most kinds of political information.

      • Exceptions involving national security

      • Limitations on prior restraint

      • Protection of the media after material has been published


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    • The electronic media are subject to more direct government regulation, though such regulation is now very limited.

    • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

    • Rate regulation

      • Government regulation of the media is no longer significant.

      • The trend has been toward a free market system with little government interference.


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    How to Judge the Media regulation, though such regulation is now very limited.

    • Is it a flaw if the mass media fail to present informative, analytical, and sophisticated coverage of political issues?

    • Is it essential for people to have a lot of detailed information?

    • Does a shortage of good information make it difficult for citizens to form intelligent political judgments?


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