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Mass Media and Public Policy

Mass Media and Public Policy

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Mass Media and Public Policy

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  1. Mass Media and Public Policy

  2. Popular Conceptions of the Media

  3. Popular Conceptions of the Media

  4. Popular Conceptions of the Media

  5. Defining Mass Media • "Media" = Institutions that control communications technologies that comprise a crucial means of political communication. • "Mass" media = products (messages) are "mass-produced" • So, mass-mediated communication = messages made available to large groups of people through technology.

  6. The Power of the Media is • to define and interpret events and issues; to provide "the pictures in our heads" • to provide the constant threat/promise of publicity • to enhance or inhibit communication among and between citizens and officials

  7. Struggles over the power of the media involve • >>>Access to the media<<< • Control/influence over the media • Proper role of the media in democracy

  8. What does the mass media consist of? • Daily newspapers • Internet • Over 450 weekly magazines • Weekly papers • Many more specialty magazines— • TV stations, TVs in 98 percent of all households • Cable systems hundreds of channels

  9. Wow, this sounds like incredible diversity of channels • 1920: 700 cities with competing papers • 1990: only 12 cities had newspaper competition • 2000: less than 10 • Most papers are parts of chains of newspapers, such as Hearst, Gannett, Times-Mirror, or McClatchy. • Why does this matter?

  10. Wow, this sounds like incredible diversity of channels • Seven thousand cities in the US have no local newspaper at all. • TV news organizations buy footage from centralized suppliers • More outlets do not equal more choices.

  11. Defining News

  12. What is news? • A representation • A product

  13. What news is not: • a neutral "mirror" of the world. • reporter-generated (usually).

  14. What sort of norms do journalists follow • Fairness • Balance • Accuracy • No obvious ideological bias • The problem with this: news coverage is often more “objectivistic” than objective.

  15. Deciding What's News: The "Gatekeeping" Process • "relevance"/familiarity to audience/proximity(->personalization) • violence, conflict, disaster or scandal (-> dramatization) • timeliness and novelty (-> fragmentation) • subjects getting government attn (-> normalization)

  16. Pressures On Reporters: • Pressures to cooperate w/official sources • Pressures to standardize the news to fit with organizational constraints: • "News hole" • Time • Beats • Camera crews/bureaus • Media attributes (e.g. visuals for TV) • Pressures to agree with "the pack"

  17. Ideological bias: in the eye of the beholder? • This bias runs with the current ideological consensus of the times • AIM and FAIR are both reflections of how bias can be found no matter where or how you look. • We all “find” ideological bias in the things we read • Journalists are not in some ungodly conspiracy to brainwash us (they have to report to editors and owners)

  18. Meaning of "bias" = both empirical and normative: • news is necessarily a systematically patterned/distorted representation of the world. Why? • There isn’t enough time to cover everything • There aren’t enough resources to cover everything. • a critique: news doesn't have to be patterned/distorted in these particular ways. If we are sensitive to these biases we can overcome them.

  19. Lance Bennett: News contains "information biases." • Personalization: what does it mean to say the news is personalized? • Dramatization • Fragmentation • Normalization and consensus journalism • Consider the political costs of all this

  20. Why is news patterned this way? • It’s cheaper—thereby guaranteeing profit margins • Audience Characteristics • How do journalists defend themselves? • We’re just a reflection of the world. • People choose what to consume—they’re not stupid • This is what people want, as measured by ratings • The result of all this: the most restricted range of choices of information in the democratic world • The news is biased because of the very safeguards to ensure “fairness” not objectivity

  21. Media and public policy

  22. Graber’s Muckraking cycle • Journalistic investigation • Publication • Public opinion • Policy Initiatives • Policy consequences

  23. Things don’t always work the way the model would suggest • An investigation may not yield publication • Publication may not stir public opinion (Whitewater) • Even when public opinion is stirred, policy initiatives may not result • Even when policy initiatives result, those consequences may not result. • if something does happen, we may never know (fragmentation)

  24. Other Benefits of Investigative Journalism • It might alter the behavior of viewers, as with stories on how to protect yourself against crime or fires • Or it might alter the behavior of bad guys (“leaping impact” muckraking)

  25. Is public opinion actually mobilized? • We know from the media effects studies that this sort of influence of the media is sort of hard to measure and prove • Is there any necessary relationship between public opinion and actual policy change?

  26. The role of the media in all stages of the policy process

  27. Agenda setting and “agenda building” • Doris Graber: Agenda building is when the media “create a political climate that determines the likely thrust of public opinions.” • Examples Watergate, economic recovery policy

  28. Alternative selection • The media can influence this by determining the acceptable range of opinions • This become obvious when they cover “both” sides of a story, as if there were only two.

  29. Adoption and enactment are often treated as dramas • Conflicts between competing actors on highly personal grounds • These conflicts are often the result of a set of institutional and constitutional processes

  30. Implementation and feedback • Covered when there is some sort of failure or conflict in the implementation of a program • Prime example: waste, fraud and abuse • Which gets us to the liberty/security tradeoff, and the efficiency criterion

  31. Your goals, as an advocate • Get your ideas out there • May yourself and your group available to journalists • Influence the agenda • Don’t tell people what to think—tell them what to think about • This is where the op-ed assignment comes in.

  32. Practical Considerations

  33. Your goal: getting your ideas out there • Persuading people that there’s a problem (this week’s assignment) • Persuading people that there are good solutions.

  34. How do you work with the media? • Cultivate relationships with editors and reporters • Send press releases • Text • Raw video • Raw audio

  35. Who do I want to reach? • What types of people? • General public • Specialists and experts • Where are these people? • Nationwide • Regional • State • Local

  36. What outlets can I use to reach people? • TV • Radio • Newspaper • Magazines • Internet • Web sites • Blogs • Other? (Youtube, Facebook, etc.)

  37. What sort of things attract the media? • Topical news conferences • Protests and rallies • Sponsoring famous and controversial speakers • Developing a reputation for expertise

  38. The Assignment: An Op-Ed Piece • What makes a good op-ed piece? • Timeliness • Good writing—no big words. No long sentences • Logical analysis • Brevity. No more than 750 words. • A compelling story and argument • Two examples: one published, one not. (these aren’t perfect!)