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The Hidden Face of Power

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    Describe and evaluate how certain major concepts/ theories or theorists considered in this course help to identify and explain both 1. Key aspects of the ‘hidden face of power’ and 2. how the news media relate to such forms or sources of power. Throughout history it is evident that the media is necessary and at the core of liberal governance, it changed and improved the way ideas and information were addressed and communicated in society, therefore giving rise to public opinions and improving the level of debate.

    The association between a free press and a liberal democracy was ultimately necessary to keep absolutist governments in check. The media have acquired a set of responsibilities over time to ensure that society are aware of essential information and current news, resulting in having an informed citizenry. This essay will highlight key ideas and theories, exploring the diverse realm and space which the media control. Combined with technical innovations and news convergences it is clear that the media have the power to shape a society and can alter the way people view specific concerns and how they may view the world.

    Based on my research I believe there are two primary functions of the mass media that need to be addressed. The first is the responsibility to ensure the society consists of informed citizens and the other is the ability to generation hype according to the Mill’s ideal and the Northcliffe Pulitzer press model. In todays society, it is thought that the media are now a ‘mixed system’, that there are different roles within the large terrain. There is a requirement to generate news and information, essentially creating the informed citizen and there is also the need to satisfy the role of the journalists acting as watchdogs.

    The mass media are known for and are used to influence and change public opinion and over time we have seen this. I will examine this in greater detail later in my essay but I feel it is important to note when examining the Hidden Face of Power that, “ a liberal democracy is a multifaceted system, and one part of the system involves hype making, geared towards taming mass publics and managing public opinion for policy elites. ”- Louw Agenda setting is the idea ‘ that the news media indicate to the public what the main issues of the day are and this is reflected in what the public perceives as the main issues. ’- McQuail.

    The term was derived by Shaw and McCombs to explain the occurrence of factors during election campaigns. Mass media researchers have become enlightened with this idea and find agenda setting interesting as it gives researchers a new reason to explore different types of media effects on citizens behaviors, opinions, perspectives and in general on their lives. Two researchers that wrote and explored the notion of agenda setting, Dearing and Rogers state that “ agenda setting is related to several other kinds of effects, including; the bandwagon effect, the spiral of silence, the diffusion of news and media gatekeeping. According to Dearing and Rogers three alternative agendas need to be clearly differentiated when understanding agenda setting; ‘the priorities of the media, those of the public and those of the policy. ’ The fact that the media can alter in integrity and that the interest of the people may not always be the same as the interests or values of the media should to be taken into consideration when exploring this hypothesis.

    The hypothesis involves different aspects and categories of influence, the interests and prime concerns of political parties (or other interest groups) to those of the media, both the concerns and news morals of the audience play large roles also giving rise to the creation public opinion. Studying and researching the three agendas mentioned above, it seems that the media are instrumental in the combination. Research carried out by academics Trenaman and McQuail stress the importance that there is ‘ the evidence that strongly suggests that people think about what they are told but no level do they think what they are told’.

    Compiling of data shows there is a ‘correspondence between the order of importance given in the media to ‘issues’ and the order of significance attached to the same issues by politicians and the public ’- Trenaman and McQuail. Politicians and interest groups need a domain in which to represent and express themselves and their opinions, and also a space where they can debate with one another allowing the public to make sense of, and understand what they are fighting for, the mass media allows this to happen consequently providing a medium for change and power.

    Lang and Lang 1983 noted that the media ‘ present political actors with a looking glass image of how they appear to outsiders. ’ The CNN effect was given its title due to the medias ability to excursive and effect foreign policy, with reference to Gilboa, “global communication can play a number of different roles; displacing policy makers; constraining actions in real time; promoting intervention; and being used as an instrument of diplomacy. There is little doubt that global communication in general has become a more important factor in foreign interventions and it is more difficult to manage than domestic media. I feel all factors here I mentioned are relevant suggesting that the media can be said to be the hidden face of power. It is necessary to explore the notion of power and counter power, and the definitions are explained by Manuel Castells and how the two form a necessary symbiosis that over history have proved to be fundamental sources within the media and politics, “while coercion is an essential form of exercising power, persuasion is an even more decisive practice to influence people’s behavior.

    The ability to shape ones mind is due to the influence of the process involved with socialized communication, Castells defines communication as “ the process of sharing meaning on the basis of information transfer. ” while socialized communication defined by Castells is “ the one that exists in the public realm, which has the potential of reaching society at large. ” It can be fair to say that based on academic research ‘ the battle over the human mind is largely played out in the communication process. The mass media system is recognized as the primary vehicle between the political systems and citizens which over time has changed the elements of medial politics, “ technological and organizational transformation of communication has decisively changed the way media politics operates. Paramount in this transformation is the rise of what I conceptualize as mass self-communication, that is socialized communication enacted via horizontal, digital communication.

    ”-Manuel Castells The mass media system is thought to be the central channel and at the core for communication between the political system and citizens. The media constitute an articulated system characterized by a division of labour in which usually the print press produces original information, television distributes to a mass audience, and radio customizes the interaction. ”- Castells. We as citizens need to think about what influences us before we vote and are we need to be completely aware of each candidate’s ambitions and goals for the society. The only way a politician can express themselves to a society is through the utilization of the mass media to drive their campaign.

    Research proves they heavily rely on this tool for communication. The media can also be used to sway public opinion and allows politicians the opportunity to create an image of themselves thus being portrayed as they wish the public to to perceive them. “The decision on how to vote largely depends on the trust they deposit in any given candidate, therefore, character as portrayed in the media, becomes essential, because values- what matters most for the majority of the people- are embodied in the persons of the candidates.

    Politicians are the faces of politics. ”- Castells The idea of media politics and personality politics leading to scandal politics has been studied by researchers and examined by professionals, the ability to control the opinions of citizens due to the power of the mass media is probably the most important tool in a campaign yet it can cause damaging results for a political candidate as researched by Amelia Arsenault at the Annenberg School of Communications in L. A.

    Who controls the news is an important area of research. According to Johnstone “The news is shaped first and foremost by values, judgements and news gathering routines and conventions of front-line journalists as they transform information selected from the external world into stories. ” This has been derived based on in depth research and theories giving us a greater insight into the world of a journalists, and how they organize and convert stories into the breaking news.

    Observation proves that gatekeeping in news rooms is present and used to organize the information in the best way, although the tier structure was evident demonstrating that there is a need for editors to scan the information “to fit organizational standards and interests” as stated by Johnstone in his review. An alternative view on who has complete control is the findings from Herbert Gans, he explored the roles of a journalist and how they decide what is important and what is insignificant for the public based on their reflections on each topic.

    Research was done by observation from an outsider watching closely from the inside, Gans argues that there are multiple factors and sources which shapes the news but based on his research the role of journalists are necessary for ‘summarizing, refining and altering what becomes available to them from sources. ” Contrasting to Gans is the research done by Tucheman who distinguishes newsworkers as having more responsibilities, therefore having a direct effect in influencing the news stating that ‘Newsworkers, are a group with more power than most to create, impose and reproduce social meanings to construct social reality.

    From exploring the observations that were undertaken by Tucheman, Gans and Halberstam one important point to note is the fact that editors have the ability and to ‘sanitize’ the news, printing political and economic events while having the power to ‘boost’ any politician which has the favor of the press. The advent and favour of the new communication realm, the Internet presents us with a powerful new medium, made up of “computer networks, whose language is digital and whose senders are globally distributed and globally interactive. – Castells The birth of mass self-communication essentially provides a new medium for social movements and allows a free space for citizens to express opinions and confront problems they may have within their own society. A research study done regarding insurgent politics during the presidential campaign of Barack Obama was conducted by Castells. Political observers and media analysts mirrors his views on the utilization of the the Internet which assisted in winning Obama his presidency title.

    Castells defines insurgent politics as “ politics that rises from outside the system to include in the process citizens that were previously marginalized by making them believe and hope in the possibility of change. ” I feel this research is central to this essay as the mass media were crucial for Obama to communicate and present himself to America. The hidden face of power in this case is at the core of this campaign and drove Obama to succeed, the Internet was a new tool that essentially allowed a vast space to communicate.

    Based on seven key elements explored by Castells, he concludes proving how much power the media have over a society stating that “the Internet was a tool, but it was also an organizational form, and it was a tool fully adapted to the practices of the new America that mobilized around the Obama candidacy breaking with the recent past of political apathy for youth and minorities. I have drawn upon elements which Castells uses to base his research on, showing how powerful the media is as a vehicle and how it can be said its the hidden face of power. The first element was the fact that Barack Obama had ‘leading figures’ with a skilled knowledge of the Internet within his campaign, for example the co- founder of Facebook Chris Hughes.

    The second was that Obama’s rival in the presidential race was McCain whose average voter would have been between the ages of 50-66, Obama on the other hand had the votes and support from a younger demographic that understood and was accustomed to the significance of the internet in every day life. The third essential point is that from the beginning of his campaign Obama had a huge multimedia presence which allowed him to become visual and personable to the younger citizens and to the changing culture with his online existence.

    This kind of campaign gave the opportunity to have interactivity within the public sphere and heightened the level of debate among supporters and politicians, “the campaign built instant information networks, with intense interactivity, organized streaming of events in real time, and encouraged active participation of Obama’s supporters in the blogosphere, so that the media reports were constantly debated and commented by citizens of all political opinions. ” – Castells.

    By researching the topic through various academic and historical examples, I feel I have unpacked the relevant ideas allowing me to conclude the mass media is a powerful force and that the media is The Hidden Face of Power having the ability to influence a society. Without a media system there would be no vehicle for communication, there would be no medium for a democracy to express, solve, hold or legislate authority forming better citizenry. The media are at the core of a democracy and we as citizens need the media to give us a better understanding and insight into the world that we live in.


    Castells Manuel, Communication Power; Mass communication, mass self communication and power relationships in the network society Johnstone W. C John, Review: Who Controls the News? , The American Journal Of Psychology; Halberstam David,The Powers that be; Gans Herbert, Deciding What’s News; Tucheman Gaye, Making News; A Study in the Construction of Reality. Klinenberg Eric, Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2005;597. Louw. E, Western Political Developments: An evolving Symbiosis of Media and Politics.

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