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The mediaTMs role in American democracy is to provide the public with sufficient information about current political issues. These issues include giving the public a clear picture of candidates running for public offices, providing information about political policies, and making sure that politicians conduct business ethically and in the publics best interest. Much to the chagrin of government officials, this all must be done free from government interference. There are different venues, some of which are more valuable than others, in which the news media can provide this information.
In addition to providing this information, the media must also give it in such a way that the message is not trying to persuade the public to feel one way or another about the issue being reported, which is unfortunately not always the case. Although the news is not always reported in a neutral fashion, there are enough conflicting views about the different topics being covered that the public does have opportunity to listen to both sides and form their own opinion of what is happening in the political world.
The most influential form of news media at the current time is television news. Television news takes two main forms, from the network news that focuses on events and issues in the viewers local area, to cable news which focuses on politics at a national level. Both of these forms of news have upsides and downsides. Because television is the easiest way to get information, it oreaches more Americans than any other single news source.
Upsides of local network broadcasts include the news being tailored to what individuals in that area may deem as more important or relevant because the events are happening in their area. The downside to this is that not enough time may be spent on National issues.
Cable news is afforded the luxury of being able to ocriticize and questionl the statements and actions of politicians. The downside to this is that the reporter giving the story will sometimes interject their own personal feelings about what is being said in an attempt to persuade the viewer for or against what is being said. Journalists care likely to have their reportage attenuated or skewed by the inherent psychological function of their own mindsin the writing or delivery of their reports and may unintentionally lose their objectivity. On the other side of the issue, the pursuit of ceobjectivity makes us wary of seeming to arguel with the person being interviewed and cause a journalist to oelose (their) accessl to the interviewee. This power of television media to persuade the viewer and shape his views is most apparent during times of election. Radio and Internet news also play important roles in getting information to the people. Many Americans commute to work in their cars, which allows for radio news to be listened to. Radio news is basically a synopsis of the days or weeks news events. It is likened to a oeheadline service.l It gives a general idea of what is going on in the world currently, but doesnTMt give in depth details about the issues at hand. Some radio news programs are exceptions to this notion. Talk radio programs tend to go into great detail about political events, but often the information given is heavily opinionated by the host and callers of the show. Internet news comes in two main forms, blogging and headline news. Headline news on the internet reads very similarly to a newspaper and often contain reprints of articles written by journalists of newspapers and the Associated Press. In fact cemost of the other media that provide news to people are actually recycling news that has been provided by newspapers.
Blogging on the other hand is more closely related to the talk show programs on the radio. Both play important roles in the media as oeyou dont see anybody between 20 and 30 getting their news from the evening news, theyre getting it online. While blogs on the internet dont usually create news stories, except in the case of Trent Lott saying he supported Strom Thurmans segregational policies which was missed by other forms of news media, they keep stories alive and help set the political agenda. Newspapers, in my opinion, play the most important role in news media today. Many of the stories carried by television, radio, and the internet originate in newspapers. Unfortunately, newspapers are under pressures from Government and from corporate owners which makes their jobs more difficult, ultimately affecting the quality of the information given to the public. The vast majority of ænewspapers in the United States are owned by large media conglomerates. This system prevents the media as a whole from oeproducing a diverse set of views. Corporate ownership of media outlets also adds pressure to newsrooms to produce profit from their efforts. This has lead to the recent influx of news stories full of sensationalism and lacking substance on television. It is all too common that ce the line between news programs and entertainment on radio and television often is blurredl in order to boost ratings. It has also forced the reduction of the staff of news outlets which æreduced the amount of information they are able to give the reader.I Government pressures are also influencing what news sources are able to provide the consumer. During the plame incident, government officials gave newspaper reporters classified information about an undercover CIA operative influencing a government investigation about IraqTMs nuclear capabilities. This information led to a battle between a news reporters right to keep a source of information confidential if the source committed a crime that the reporter may or may not be aware of.
The investigation of news sources is œnot good for the free flow of information to the public.I The ability to keep sources confidential is seen as in important tool in gathering information as it allows the source to feel safe about giving that information in the interest of the public without fear of consequences. The current administration seeks to erode that right in the case of criminal investigations by cus[ing] the Espionage Act against the people who gather information. Even while facing pressures from corporate owners to increase ratings and profits, pressures from government to make sources of information public, and pressures from the general public to keep them entertained, the news media is performing their duty as providers of information about political candidates and political policy as well as being the publicTMs watchdog by keeping us aware of any political wrongdoing. Their job is both easier and more difficult than it has been in the past, but I believe that it is still being done effectively.
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