The term news media refers to groups that communicate information and news to the public. Most Americans get their information about government from the news media because it is impossible to collect all the news on their own. Media outlets are responding to Americans’ increasing dependence on television and the Internet by making news more and more available to people. There are three main types of news media: print media, broadcast media, and the internet.
The oldest forms of media are newspapers, magazines, journals, newsletters, and other printed material. These publications are collectively known as Print Media. Even though the readership of print media has decreased in recent decades, many Americans still read daily newspapers or news magazines on a regular basis. Therefore, the influence of print media is significant. Regular readers of print media tend to be more politically active.
The print media are responsible for more coverage than any other news source. Many news stories on television, for example, are only follow-up stories about the news that first appeared in the newspaper. Top American newspapers, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, often set agendas for a variety of other media sources.
The Newspaper Of Record
Because of its history of prominence and influence, the New York Times is sometimes called the famous newspaper: If a story isn’t in the Times, it doesn’t matter. However, in 2003, the newspaper took a crushing blow to its credibility when Times journalist Jayson Blair admitted that he had fabricated some of his stories. The Times has made extensive efforts to prevent similar scandals, but some readers have lost faith in the paper.
Broadcast media are news reports broadcast via radio and television. Television news is very important in the United States because more Americans get their news from broadcast television than from any other source.
The major broadcasting networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC – each have news divisions that broadcast their nightly news programs. Over the past fifty years, most Americans have watched one or more of these broadcasts. However, since the 1980s, cable news channels have eroded broadcasting networks. CNN and MSNBC broadcast the news all the time. Since cable news channels always broadcast news programs, many people who want to follow a news item carefully to listen to this station first. Fox’s relatively new network news program has also attracted large audiences from the three major networks.
Another type of broadcast media is radio. Before the advent of television in the 1950s, most Americans relied on radio broadcasts for their news. Although fewer Americans rely on radio as their main source of news, many people still listen to radio news on a daily basis, especially during morning and evening commutes. Local news stations have large audiences because they can report local weather, traffic, and events.
Since the 1980s, talk radio has emerged as a major force in broadcasting. Talk radio is a radio format in which the host combines interviews with political commentary. As a result, many talk radio shows are very partisan. Conservatives have had a strong influence on American talk radio through programs hosted by influential commentators, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
The internet is slowly changing the news media as Americans rely more on online news sources than on traditional print and broadcast media. Americans are exploring the sites of more traditional media outlets, such as NBC and CNN, but are also turning to unique online news sources such as weblogs. Websites can provide text, audio and video information, all of the ways traditional media is transmitted. The web also allows for a more interactive approach by allowing people to personalize the news they receive through personalized web portals, news groups, podcasts and RSS feeds.
Blogs – known colloquially as Blogs – have become very influential since the early twenty-first century. Leading bloggers write their opinions on a variety of issues, and thousands of people respond on message boards. While many blogs are deeply partisan and inaccurate, some have been instrumental in spreading big stories.
The media have enormous power in American democracy because nearly all Americans get their news from the media rather than from other people or other sources. Media coverage shapes how Americans view the world and what they perceive to be important. Voters and politicians alike must pay attention to the media. In the American political system, the media perform a number of important functions in the democratic process. The media report news, serve as intermediaries between the government and the people, help determine which issues should be discussed, and get people actively involved in society and politics.
Perhaps the most important role of the media in politics is reporting the news. As mentioned above, most of the people have to trust the media to provide them with information. Democracy requires citizens to be informed because they must be able to make educated voice choices.
In recent times, politicians have often complained of bias in the media, usually a liberal bias towards the views of conservative politicians. They complain that the media’s ability to decide which stories to report often reflects their bias. While this is true to some extent, most newspapers and television news stations report the same news more objectively. Bias is often limited to media outlet comments and opinion pages.
For much of American history (up to the early 20th century), most of the news media had a clear and open bias. Many newspapers, for example, are only the votes of political parties. This type of journalism is called Partisan Journalism. Other newspapers practice Yellow Journalism, reporting shocking and disgusting stories to attract readers and sell more newspapers. Objective reporting (also called descriptive reporting) did not appear until the early twentieth century. Newspaper publishers such as Adolph Ochs of the New York Times champion objective journalism and praise journalists for simply reporting facts. Although most journalists today still practice objective journalism, more and more are starting to analyze and interpret the material they present, a practice known as Interpretive Reporting.
The media have influenced politics throughout American history. The most prominent – and well-known – example is the role of the newspaper William Randolph Hearst in starting the Spanish-American War in 1898. According to legend, the Hearst newspaper contained many stories chronicling the atrocities of the Spanish colonial administration. When the American battleship Maine mysteriously exploded, Hearst took advantage of the moment, alleging that the Spanish had destroyed the ship. War soon followed. Some media moguls have this direct influence, but with the consolidation of the media, some worry that the media have too much power.