• Mass media= newspapers and magazines, radio, television (broadcast, cable, and satellite), Internet, films, recordings, books, and electronic communication
  • News media= parts of the mass media that tell the public what is going on in the country/world
  • The distinctions between news and entertainment have become increasingly blurred.
  • Social media-the newest "game changer" in the political world.

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  • The relationship between these two entities is best described as mutual dependence.
  • That is, they both rely on each other for something or another
  • The media relies on politically weighted subjects to fill up broadcast time, sometimes putting a spin on the story, ultimately hoping to increase readership/viewership (bottom line = $)
  • Meanwhile, politicians rely on the media to create a good public image
  • There are many different avenues for the media, from the immemorial newspaper and pamphlet to the newfangled Internet.
  • Each medium provides the public and politicians new ways to be influenced and influence others, respectively.
  • As more and more mediums have been introduced, more and more regulations have been put in place to combat issues presented by the recent development.

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  • The print media was the first form of news media in the United States and remained the primary source of news until the the early to mid-twentieth century.
  • Pamphlets saw their rise to fame with Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Pamphlets had a distinct advantage over a newspaper: they were much more durable and could be passed around, thus increasing circulation.
  • The advent of parties brought about the advocacy of party platforms and candidates in the print media, which in turn provided benefits for the publishers, such as subsidies or appointments.
  • The rise of the “penny press,” or cheap newspapers, allowed readership to explode.
    • Newspapers were now covering other stories, such as crime, business, and social events.
    • Newspapers also decreased partisanship, in a desire to reach more of an audience.
  • Yellow journalism was brought to the fore in the latter portion of the 19th century. Newspapers desired to catch readers with sensationalism. (Something to think about: Is yellow journalism still prevalent in today's media??)
  • During the Progressive Era, many newspapers participated in muckraking, publishing scalding exposés of big business.
  • After the radio--and later the television--was introduced, print media experienced a significant decline in circulation.
  • The print media has not been subject to a ton of regulation in the sense that it is “overcrowded” or “congested,” but some of its covered topics have been subject to contest from the government.
Famous Yellow Journalism Cartoon Character
Famous Yellow Journalism Cartoon Character


  • The broadcast media includes anything distributed over the airwaves available to the public or cable, basically including radio, normal television, and cable television. Narrowcasting is different, since it is not available to the public and is usually designed for a very specific audience based on some factor of that audience (special interests, geographical region, etc.)
  • In the the former portion of 1920s, the radio was nothing more than a hook for the public to read the full story in the newspaper.
  • In 1928, the radio played a huge role in the presidential election, since it was the first election that prominently featured radio campaigning.
    • Al Smith, while a pretty good candidate, came off sounding awkward with his New York accent on the radio, distancing himself from many voters (not to mention the fact that he was “wet” and Catholic)
    • Hoover, conversely, was able to woo voters with his suave radio voice.
  • Radio waves became to be congested as the amount of radio stations increased.
  • This begged for regulation. Since airwaves are considered “public property,” the government has the responsibility to regulate it.
    • Communications Act of 1934 gave licenses to broadcasters in return for those broadcasters serving “the public interest, convenience and necessity”
    • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was established, charged with implementing Congress’s regulation. Today, the FCC regulates the radio, television, telephone, cable, and satellite.
      • Oversees their licensing, financing, and even content
      • Issues fines/penalties for violating decency standards
    • This act also included the equal time provision, a controversial provision that required stations to provide equal access to candidates running for office.
  • FDR’s “fireside chats” denoted a huge increase in presidential radio addresses. This allowed the public to be informed on the war’s progress. These chats symbolized the power of the politician over that of the news editor.
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  • Television viewership boomed in the 1950s. Radio now had to vy for its first-place position.
  • In 1949, the government instituted the fairness doctrine, which was a requirement that stations devote some airtime to public affairs programming, which was to be done in a fair and equal way.
  • This was removed in 1987, supposedly because stations wouldn’t cover public affairs programming since they feared what a regulator’s definition of “fairness” was.
  • Television, much like the radio, affected how the public viewed candidates and current events.
    • Nixon vs. Kennedy debates: Nixon was somewhat disheveled, while Kennedy was clean and crisp. The television viewers said that Kennedy won, but the radio listeners claimed Nixon won.
    • Public opinion began to be rallied against Vietnam when the public saw that the war was not going smoothly and it saw what was really going on.
  • The FCC regulates the airwaves in three important ways:
    • Preventing monopolies of control over a broadcast markets, it has placed rules to limit the number of stations owned or controlled by one company. Furthermore, the FCC has ruled that newspapers cannot control a local TV station in the same market served by the newspaper.
    • The FCC conducts periodic examinations of the goals and performance of stations as part of its licensing authority.
    • The FCC has issued a number of fair treatment rules concerning access to the airwaves for political candidates and officeholders.
  • Something that is highly regulated by the FCC is wireless spectrum, or the specific frequency that radio waves operate on. For a press release detailing Verizon Wireless's spectrum transactions, which mentions the requirement for the FCC's approval, follow this link.

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  • The internet provides an unprecedented variety and volume of information.
  • The internet is an increasingly popular outlet for campaign media, which is surprising since the internet is a relatively young entity.
  • The internet continues the trend towards increasing the volume of information available, while providing this information at a cheap price.
  • The internet is a medium of the media in which other media mediums may enter. For example, just look at the number of cable broadcasters and newspapers that have news information on a website.
  • Blogs:
    • Can either be personal pages of individuals or “news aggregators”
    • Early blogs usually embraced political gossip
    • But, major blogs began to develop and employ a team of writers and the sites began getting many visits per day.
    • There is a symbiotic relationship between mainstream print and broadcast and blogs.
      • The blog publishes the unconfirmed story
      • The mainstream reports factually that the blog reported the story
      • FRENZY in all the media to find leads that allow them to write the next chapter
      • Monica Lewinsky scandal began on a political exposé blog
  • Young people generally consume more news on the internet versus other age groups, which makes a lot of sense.
  • Yet, older age groups are starting to pick up the internet and as a result, news consumption via the internet is generally increasing.
  • Social Networking:
    • On the rise
    • Federal officials (President, Congressmen, etc) use Twitter and Facebook to spread political messages
    • Twitter trends are becoming a powerful force to measure the public’s interest (e.g., #StandWithRand in reference to Rand Paul’s filibuster)
    • Democrats believe that social networking is more important than Republicans and Independents do (see chart below)external image jWE9Id3kcIf5cLPsyQzLpd7tC5pcOcuKipMGjj8smn2TjHGJfdXP6MjUoaXFUdgidE5L5vbewW_Wxz6i6n78O4TmGlaFLqTLn5ISq18IoYtxrsppTI-Pqug
  • If you're percentages person, the Pew Research Center has a multitude of percentages regarding media use (especially internet!) to suit your fancy. Here's one on online news, especially the growing trend of mobile devices.


  • There is the continuing question of whether censorship is acceptable in dire times.
  • The government seeks prior restraint whenever it desires to prevent the publication or spreading of speech, be it written or spoken.
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  • Near v. Minnesota (1931): The Supreme Court upholds prior restraint citing that national security may sometimes require government censorship.
  • Nixon’s prior restraint debacle:
    • The New York Times and other newspapers wanted to publish the Pentagon Papers, top secret government information regarding Vietnam.
    • The Nixon administration was able to get an injunction against the publication of these papers, citing national security concerns at a district court.
    • Nevertheless, the Supreme Court said NO--the government must demonstrate that the publication would damage national security. According to the Supreme Court, the Nixon administration had not adequately done this with the Pentagon Papers.
  • Today, prior restraint is rarely invoked, except “troopship” circumstances, or the disclosing of the position of American soldiers, which would thus endanger their livelihoods.


  • Libel (written damaging, false statements) and Slander (spoken damaging, false statements)
  • In libel and slander cases, those between private citizens have different rules than those between newspapers and public figures.
  • Public figures must prove that the story was false, in addition to proving the media acted with “malice” by publishing the false story.
  • This sets the bar of proof incredibly high, resulting in the press essentially being free from the threat of litigation.
  • Therefore, the press will feel free to tell the truth about politics.
  • On the other hand, some critics feel like this high requirement of proof allows the news media to distort the actions and motives of politicians.



  • Politicians have learned that one way to guide the media's focus successfully is to limit what they can report on to carefully scripted events.
  • Used as a tool in politics to boost approval.
  • Events are purposely staged for the media that nonetheless look spontaneous. In keeping with politics as theater, media events can be staged by individuals, groups, and government officials, especially presidents.
  • If the media were not there, the event would probably not happen or would have little significance.
  • Example: the sight of a major national candidate, Barack Obama, going door-to-door in an Iowa neighborhood asking ordinary people for their support is something that the media finds difficult to pass up. Obama met around 30 individuals, but the number of people who saw this story in the news was far greater.
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  • Trial balloons are planned leaks to gauge public reaction.
  • Reporters and their official sources have a symbiotic relationship. News makers rely on journalists to get their message out at the same time that reporters rely on public officials to keep them in the know.
  • When reporters feel that their access to information is being impeded, complaints of censorship become widespread.
  • Example: Clinton- Lewinsky controversy. Aides to the president leaked the story to see how the public would react and to provide guidance from the public on which direction to take.
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  • Politicians try to frame issues to win support and try to influence the “spin” the media will give to their actions or issues.


  • By calling public attention to certain issues, politicians can influence the media which determines what topics become subjects of public debate and legislation.
  • “If I had to give up the opportunity to get on the evening news or the veto power, I’d throw the veto power away. Television news is the president’s most indispensable power.” – Vice President Walter Mondale.

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Interesting analysis presented by the folks at Freakonomics.
  • Most U.S. news media sources are committed to being unbiased and some even go to great lengths to insulate their reporters from their advertising and business operations in order to reduce any favorable treatment.
  • Journalists have opinions/beliefs/preferences/attitudes for themselves. Whether consciously or not, at some point some bias will be seen through the angle of story, or even content chosen to be reported. The celebrity status of journalists increases the likelihood of bias.
  • Most bias tends to lean to the Democratic, socially/politically liberal, highly-educated sides.
    • Ex: nightly news, mainstream media
    • Majority of journalists are registered Democrats: left side of spectrum, in favor of gun control, gay rights, abortion, affirmative action
    • 35% of the public is politically conservative whereas 6% of media is politically conservative
  • Conservative bias does exist, however. Ex: Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, morning radio talk shows, Rush Limbaugh
    • More right than most conservatives
    • Strive for political attacks and controversy
  • A person who gives their opinion in an authoritative manner is said to be a pundit
  • Conservatives argue that the more liberal worldviews of journalists leads to media bias. Liberals counter that conservative forces, like corporate ownership in the media, leads to bias.
  • Bias on both sides only exists because people are willing to listen/watch.
  • Bias can sway voters one way or another. The Limbaugh show convinced more voters to choose Republican candidates.
  • However, bias does not always change the outcome of elections.
  • The media favorite tends to receive more press, increasing the chance of more votes. This is not always the case. Senator McCain was the media's favorites and failed. Presidents Carter and Nixon were disliked by the media and succeeded anyway.
  • This is how many Americans feel about the media:

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There are many types of bias in the media, including
  • Omission--leaving a side of a story out or leaving a series of stories out
  • Selection of sources--including more sources that favor one side over the other
  • Story selection--repeatedly choosing stories that coincide with one side of the spectrum and ignore the other side
  • Placement--for example, placing the story in smaller print on the bottom of the page versus front and center to catch the attention of the reader
  • Labeling--tagging one side with extreme labels while leaving milder labels for the other
--not identifying a liberal/conservative as a liberal/conservative or calling him/her "an expert"
  • Spin--presenting only one interpretation of a story, including the subjective comments and tone of the reporter
This article does an excellent job explaining each type of media bias in more depth.

  • Investigatory journalism is the use of in-depth reporting to unearth scandals, scams, and schemes.
  • This adversarial role of the media often pits reporters against political leaders. There is evidence that TV’s fondness for investigative journalism has contributed to greater public cynicism and negativity about politics.
    • Changed ideology of media and campaigns-focused on personal lives
    • Attracted new “breed” of journalist
      • Often mistrusting of authority
      • Tired of “politics as usual”
      • Now: 2/3 of all journalists are under 36 years old; investigation is a major news activity
      • Idea: get to the bottom of the story before others, which often leads to misinformation
  • Investigatory journalism changed the face of foreign policy. (e.g., Vietnam War--false war briefs caused reporters to analyze government statements)
  • Examples of political consequences:
    • CBS 60 Minutes broke a story about the torture of Iraqi prisoners held by U.S. soldiers in 2004.
    • Without persistent reporting by two young reporters and a columnist, the Watergate Scandal would probably have been limited to a report of a failed burglary of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. The news reporting and subsequent congressional investigations shined an important light on the inner workings of Nixon’s administration.

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An example of two sides of the same story:

Media Bias-Democratic
Media Bias-Republican

Video showing several examples of media bias.