chapter 12 the media ap classes november 20 2013 n.
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Chapter 12: The Media AP Classes, November 20, 2013. Today’s headlines. Let’s look at a couple of websites and newspapers today and see what they’re telling us is news.

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Chapter 12: The Media AP Classes, November 20, 2013

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today s headlines
Today’s headlines

Let’s look at a couple of websites and newspapers today and see what they’re telling us is news.

  • On the conservative side of the spectrum: Fox ( and the Wall Street Journal (
  • On the liberal side: NYT (very) ( and Washington Post (sorta) (
  • And for your daily Alabama/Auburn update: The Mobile Press Register (
wonky things you may have just seen and didn t know it
Wonky things you may have just seen and didn’t know it:
  • Gatekeeping
  • Scorekeeping
  • Watchdog-ing
  • Guv’ment regulation
  • A healthy dose of bias
  • Maybe some leaking
  • And good ol’ fashioned linking
the media are a linkage institution

And what’s a linkage institution again?

  • Something that links people to policy.
media as linkage institution cont
Media as linkage institution (cont.)

How are the media a linkage institution?

  • Media provide information – and shape it in the process.
  • The media reflect and influence public opinion. They affect what we think is important, which, in turn, affects what makes it on the policy agenda (which gets reflected in all sorts of ways).
  • In addition, we can provide information to the government through letters to the editor, comments on stories, and simply supporting one media outlet or another.

What sorts of things are the media shaping today? Let’s revisit the websites.

media as linkage institution cont1
Media as linkage institution (cont.)
  • The mass media connect people to their government officials by interviewing citizens, presenting poll results, and covering protests.
  • The mass media connect government officials to the public by interviewing political leaders and reporting on government committees and programs.
some textbook shtuff definition of mass media
Some textbook shtuff: Definition of “mass media”
  • It Includes all forms of communication to the general public.
  • Considered the “fourth branch” of government given the importance and influence on the electorate, policy-making, politics, and the government.
    • (Sometimes called the “fourth estate” – the first three being the estates of the Realm: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners.)
more textbook shtuff journalism in political history
More textbook shtuff: Journalism in Political History
  • I’ve posted to your Chapter 12 materials a grid that summarizes this material.
    • It is, in my opinion, only moderately interesting until you get to modern times.
    • But take a look at the grid so that you’ll at least be familiar with the terms.
declining competition
Declining Competition
  • The number of papers

is declining (see chart at


  • …while so is number of

readers, particularly ages

18-34 (see next slide)

internet is filling the gap quickly
Internet is filling the gap quickly
  • Should we care? What does this mean for the quality of news?
internet impact on politics
Internet Impact on Politics

It’s a game-change. Its low marginal costsallow for…

  • “Narrowcasting” by politicians, interest groups
  • Fund-raising from small contributors
  • Easier organizing of activists, voters, supporters, opponents, etc.
  • Instant (albeit not terribly reliable) temperature-taking
  • And a forum for analysis, some useful, much just garbage
but some national papers continue to have clout
But Some National Papers Continue to Have Clout

Some contrasting views:

“A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.” H. L. Mencken

“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.” Gore Vidal

  • They have broad circulations (albeit declining; NYT is doing well).
  • The political elites start their day with them.
  • TV and radio often take their cues from them.
some very interesting things going on
Some very interesting things going on…

Facebook founder Chris Hughes buys The New Republic.

eBay founder Pierre Omidyar starting new organization dedicated to “investigative journalism.”

  • Amazon founder Jeff Bezos buys Washington Post.
media s relationship with the fed l gov t
Media’s relationship with the fed’l gov’t
  • Gatekeeper: Can shape which issues are prominent. Without media attention, an issue is likely to get less attention in gov’t. May skew perceptions.
    • Ex: Is crime really going up or is it just being covered more?
relationship with the fed l gov t cont
Relationship with the fed’l gov’t (cont.)
  • Scorekeeper. Of lots of things, like –
    • Who’s up/down in the polls
    • Who’s a likely contender in the next presidential race.
    • Whether the Republicans or Democrats are “winning” on an issue
    • Example: WaPo’s “Worst Week in Washington” (
    • Another example: “horse-race journalism.” (See next slide)
horse race journalism
“Horse-race journalism”
  • Reporting on who’s winning, who’s losing an election. Success begets success – win Iowa and New Hampshire (for instance) and you’re legit.

These guys weren’t even

subtle about it:

relationship with the fed l gov t cont1
Relationship with the fed’l gov’t (cont.)
  • Watchdog: Important but arguably diminishing role. Takes time, money, talent.
    • Ex: Woodward & Bernstein/Watergate; Gary Hart and “The Monkey Business”
rules governing the media
Rules governing the media

Prior restraint:

  • Prohibiting the publication of something (a/k/a censorship).
  • Ain’thappenin’, except in narrow circumstances.
    • Obscenity
    • Threat to national security – Near v. Minnesota
      • Near published a paper attacking local politicians. Minnesota officials got an injunction under a statute that said anyone who publishes a "malicious, scandalous and defamatory" newspaper can be enjoined (i.e., stopped).
      • Court: Nope. Except in rare cases (such as those involving national security), the gov’t can’t censor a publication in advance, even though the communication might be punishable after publication.
      • But what’s a threat to national security? Unresolved.
prior restraint cont
Prior restraint (cont.)
  • NYT v. U.S. – the “Pentagon Papers case.”
    • Daniel Ellsberg leaks a copy of the Pentagon Papers, which showed that presidents going back to Truman lied about our involvement in Viet Nam War.
    • Court upholds the publication.
    • “[P]aramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.” Hugo Black (pictured at right)
rules cont
Rules (cont.)
  • Can sue after the fact if publication is libelous or incites someone to commit illegal act (good luck with that), but won’t be able to stop publication beforehand.
  • A public figure has an even higher hurdle: must show that publication was printed with “actual malice” – i.e., knowing or reckless disregard of the truth. NYT v. Sullivan (1964)
  • Invasion of privacy if your picture is in the paper? Not so if it’s part of a legit news story. Miami Herald v. Tornillo
rules cont1
Rules (cont.)
  • Confidentiality of sources
    • Most states and the fed’l gov’t do not provide absolute protection of sources (called a “shield law”).
    • A balancing test: do the needs of a “journalist” to protect sources outweigh the interest of the gov’t in gathering info for a criminal prosecution?
regulating broadcasting
Regulating broadcasting

Fairness doctrine v. equal time rule

Equal time rule: Provide equal access to politicians – treat all candidates the same.

Still applies. Basically means charge candidates the same rate for ad time.

Exceptions for news shows, interviews, documentaries.

Fairness doctrine: Air one side of a story? Give time to opposing points of view.

  • No longer applies.
  • Competition among media outlets now serves same purpose.
regulating cont
Regulating (cont.)
  • Done through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • The Federal Communications Act of 1934 established the FCC as an independent regulatory agency on interstate communication.
regulating cont1
Regulating (cont.)

3 basic areas:

  • Technical
    • Licensing, signal strength, digital conversion
  • Structural
    • Organization and ownership of broadcast media outlets
  • Content
    • Limitations on what you can broadcast
technical regulation
Technical Regulation
  • “We the people” own the airwaves.
  • Anything transmitted over the airwaves is subject to regulation.
  • Radio and television broadcasters must obtain a license renewable every 5 years (TV) or 7 years (radio).
    • Subject to hearing if a group objects/complains
    • May ask how the applicant plans to serve “community needs”
structural regulation
Structural Regulation

Media Consolidation

  • Before 1980s, media monopolies were prohibited

Telecommunications Act of 1996

  • “Deregulated” (i.e., removed lots of restrictions) the industry.
  • Led to fewer but larger media conglomerates.
  • Radio industry in particular became consolidated.
  • One consequence: less local news coverage.
content regulation
Content Regulation
  • Public Decency
    • FCC imposes fines and may revoke licenses in violation of decency standards set by law
    • Obscenity prohibited
    • Profanity prohibited between 6AM and 10PM
    • Only enforced on over-the-air broadcasts; cable not subject

Are the media biased?

  • The book’s answer:
    • Study showing 91% of “media members” voted D in 1992, compared to 43% of gen’l population.
    • More secular, too.
  • The media exist in LARGE part to sell ads. They will use whatever tools they have to do so, including bias.
  • Other perspectives:
bias cont

A view of liberal media bias is widely, but not universally, shared.

Check out graphic at the right, suggesting that Obama got his fair share of negative press.

(Maybe he got more comments b/c he was president? Just sayin’….)

While reporters have a liberal orientation, the bias tends to be against incumbents and frontrunners.

detecting bias
Detecting bias
  • Less visible in routine stories
    • Stories regularly covered by all.
    • Jones beat Smith in local race.
  • More so in feature stories
    • Reporter seeks out the story about a public event.
    • Jones beat Smith, and Jones’s husband helped her win the election with his hilarious Kardashian impersonations.
  • Also more visible with insider stories
    • A story about something that otherwise wouldn’t become public, maybe something leaked.
    • Jones beat Smith, and Jones’s husband turns out to be a Kardashian.
detecting bias1
Detecting bias
  • What stories are covered? What do the omissions tell you?
  • Where is the story printed? P. 1? Above the fold?
  • Who are the sources? How are they credited? If as anonymous “source,” watch out.
  • Even if description is used (“high ranking official in the White House”), watch out: they probably have some purpose in giving you the information. Could be –
    • Trial balloon
    • Death by premature leak
    • Credit by claiming it first
  • Nice summary:
detecting bias cont
Detecting bias (cont.)
  • Be skeptical of advocates as sources.
  • Look at the language used. Is it “loaded”? Examples:
    • “Bureaucrat” v. “civil servant”
    • “Government pork” v. “investment in public services”
    • “Terrorist” v. “freedom fighter”
    • “Processed cheese” v. “embalmed cheese” (no, this is not a joke)
class exercise on bias
Class exercise on bias
  • Read the selected articles and look for any signs of bias, perhaps including the following:
    • What is the main point of the article?
    • What did the author highlight?
    • What was omitted?
    • Who are the sources?
    • Any loaded words used?
so how influential are the media
So how influential are the media?
  • We have “selective attention.” To put it another way, many of us live in an echo chamber where we hear only those things with which we agree.
  • Depends in part on the issue. Things we know about (high prices, unemployment, etc.) we don’t need the media to tell us about.
  • But media can matter. Can highlight certain issues (see, e.g., global warming) and disconnects between what the gov’t is saying and reality (see, e.g., Katrina).
  • Media can hurt (see John Dean’s “I Have a Scream” speech:
how is the gov t reported
How is the gov’t reported?
  • The President receives the most attention by the media. Easier to cover one person than 535.
    • He (actually, his office) will stage media events.
    • He has a Press Secretary who cultivates relationships with the media.
  • Sources of Information
    • News/press releases
    • News briefings
    • News conferences
    • Leaks
the reagan r ules
The “Reagan Rules”
  • Stay on the offensive
  • Control the flow of information
  • Limit reporters’ access to the President
  • Talk about issues you want to talk about
  • Speak with one voice
  • Repeat the same message over and over again
media and congress
Media and Congress
  • Limited coverage in relation to President
  • Coverage of confirmation hearings, oversight investigations, scandals
  • C-SPAN

Why so many leaks?

  • The books blames the Constitution and its separation of powers
    • Branches compete, use the media to advance an agenda (and defeat the opponent’s).
  • Also blames the “adversarial press”
    • Politicians and press don’t trust each other; press always looking for someone to leak the “real” story
    • This can lead to …
leaks cont
Leaks (cont.)
  • … “gotcha” journalism and a reversion to a sensationalist press.
  • A related point: it’s easier (and more lucrative for the media) to cover a sex scandal than it is to cover a hearing on amendments to the tax code.
  • Lots of leaks are “trial balloons.”
gov t constraints on journalists
Gov’t Constraints on Journalists
  • Book: Journalists can’t be too ideological or they will lose lots of sources. Not sure I buy that; journalists have ideological outlets now, so having mainly D or R sources isn’t fatal.
  • People who speak with the media often try to control the final story. They do this by controlling terms of interview:
    • On the record – quote freely, name the source.
    • Off the record – don’t use; informational only.
    • On background – use, but don’t name the source. “A high ranking official said….”
    • On “deep background” – use but don’t attribute to anyone.
gov t constraints cont
Gov’t constraints (cont.)
  • Ultimate presidential stick: access.
  • If a reporter can get an “exclusive” interview, that’s cool.
  • Reporter may be willing to tailor questions to get one.
the media cartoons
The media: Cartoons
  • Cartoons frequently are used to editorialize. See, e.g.,

  • See also Tom Toles
class exercise
Class exercise
  • Let’s take a practice AP essay on the media and grade each other.
  • Essay:

“One of the most important ways the news media influence politics is through agenda setting.

  • Define policy agenda.
  • Explain how the national news media engage in agenda setting.”
a full point answer
A full-point answer

“A policy agenda is a set of important issues that the national government intends to focus on. The policy agenda is greatly influenced by the news media. By choosing what issues to cover, the news media affects which issues the voters think are important, which in turn influences policy agenda. For instance, the media’s heavy coverage of the current economic crisis has caused the economy to be one of the top priorities on the government’s policy agenda.”