During the course, we have explored different concepts, theories, and theorists that have deepened our understanding of the concealed aspects of power and its relationship with the news media. Reflecting on history reveals that the media has played a critical role in progressive governance by transforming how ideas and information are spread in society. This has not just influenced public perception but also enhanced the caliber of discussions.
The link between a free press and a liberal democracy was crucial in restraining absolutist governments. The media have gradually taken on responsibilities to inform society about vital information and current events, leading to an educated populace. This essay will examine important concepts and theories regarding the vast realm and influence of the media. With advancements in technology and the convergence of news, it is evident that the media possess the ability to mold a society and influence individuals’ perspectives on specific issues and the world as a whole.
According to my research, I conclude that the mass media has two primary functions. The first function is to fulfill the responsibility of keeping society informed, while the second function is to generate hype based on the ideals of Mill and the Northcliffe Pulitzer press model. Nowadays, it is believed that the media operates as a “mixed system” with various roles. This includes the responsibility to provide news and information to create informed citizens, as well as acting as watchdogs through journalistic reporting.
The mass media have a known ability to influence and manipulate public opinion, as we have witnessed over time. In my essay, I will explore this phenomenon further. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the notion of the Hidden Face of Power when examining this matter. As stated by Louw, in a liberal democracy, there exists a multifaceted system that includes the use of hype to control and manipulate the masses’ thoughts and shape public opinion for the benefit of policy elites. This concept aligns with agenda setting, which suggests that the news media guides the public in determining the prevailing issues of the day, thus influencing their perception of what matters most, as described by McQuail.
The term “agenda setting” was coined by Shaw and McCombs to describe the impact of factors during election campaigns. This concept has intrigued mass media researchers, as it provides a new avenue for investigating the influence of different media on citizens’ behaviors, opinions, perspectives, and overall lives. Dearing and Rogers, two prominent researchers who have extensively studied agenda setting, argue that it is connected to various other effects, such as the bandwagon effect, the spiral of silence, the diffusion of news, and media gatekeeping. To understand agenda setting fully, Dearing and Rogers propose distinguishing between three distinct agendas: those of the media, the public, and policymakers. It is important to acknowledge that the integrity of the media can vary and that the interests and values of the public may not always align with those of the media
The hypothesis addresses various aspects and categories of influence. It considers the interests and main concerns of political parties (or other interest groups) in relation to those of the media. Additionally, it acknowledges the significance of audience concerns and news morals in shaping public opinion. By examining these three agendas, it becomes evident that the media plays a vital role in their amalgamation. Scholars Trenaman and McQuail conducted research which emphasizes the importance of considering the evidence that suggests people actively engage with the information they are given, but they rarely critically analyze it at any level.
Trenaman and McQuail contend that the media’s emphasis on particular ‘issues’ impacts how politicians and the public perceive those very issues. Politicians and interest groups must have a forum in which they can express their ideas, participate in conversations, and aid the public in understanding the causes they support. The mass media plays an essential role in facilitating this process by offering avenues for transformation and influence.
According to Lang and Lang (1983), the media offers political actors an external perspective on how they are perceived. The term “CNN effect” refers to the media’s ability, as pointed out by Gilboa, to influence foreign policy. Gilboa states that global communication can displace policymakers, restrict real-time actions, promote intervention, and serve as a diplomatic tool. It is evident that global communication plays a significant role in foreign interventions and is harder to control than domestic media. All of these factors suggest that the media can be seen as a hidden source of power. Therefore, it is important to examine Manuel Castells’ concept of power and counterpower. In this mutually beneficial relationship, coercion is crucial for exercising power, but persuasion has even more influence over shaping people’s behavior in the long run.
According to Castells, the ability to shape one’s mind is influenced by the process of socialized communication. Communication, as defined by Castells, is the sharing of meaning through the transfer of information. Socialized communication, defined by Castells, refers to communication that exists in the public realm and has the potential to reach society as a whole. Academic research suggests that the battle over the human mind largely takes place in the communication process. The mass media system is recognized as the main conduit between political systems and citizens, and this relationship has changed over time as the technological and organizational transformation of communication has altered how media politics operates. Crucial to this transformation is the emergence of what I refer to as mass self-communication, which involves horizontal, digital communication.
According to Manuel Castells, the mass media system plays a crucial role in facilitating communication between the political system and citizens. This system comprises various components, including print press that provides authentic information, television that reaches a broad audience, and radio which enables personalized interaction. As citizens, it is important for us to acknowledge how this system influences our voting decisions and comprehend the objectives and plans of each candidate for society. Politicians heavily rely on the mass media to effectively convey their campaign messages.
According to research, the media plays a vital role in communication and can be utilized to manipulate public opinion and shape politicians’ public perception. Consequently, it is imperative for candidates to receive positive portrayal in the media, as this impacts people’s trust and voting decisions. This is due to the fact that individuals typically associate their core beliefs with the candidates.
Politicians are the faces of politics, according to Castells. Researchers and professionals have studied the concept of media politics and personality politics leading to scandal politics. The power of the mass media to control citizens’ opinions is considered a crucial tool in a campaign. However, this power can also have damaging consequences for a political candidate, as shown by Amelia Arsenault’s research at the Annenberg School of Communications in L.A.
The control of the news is a crucial topic for researchers. Johnstone suggests that the news is primarily influenced by the values, judgments, routines, and conventions of journalists who turn selected information into stories. Through extensive research and theories, we gain a deeper understanding of how journalists arrange and transform stories into breaking news.
According to observation, gatekeeping in news rooms is employed to arrange information effectively. However, the presence of a tier structure indicates that editors must review the information to align with organizational standards and interests, as stated by Johnstone. Another perspective on the issue of control comes from Herbert Gans’ findings, which investigate the roles of journalists in determining the significance of topics for the public based on their individual reflections.
Gans argues that research was conducted through observation from an outsider, closely watching from the inside. According to his research, there are multiple factors and sources that shape the news, but journalists play a necessary role in summarizing, refining, and altering the information they receive from these sources. In contrast to Gans’ perspective, Tucheman’s research suggests that newsworkers have more responsibilities and therefore have a direct influence on the news. Tucheman states that newsworkers possess a significant amount of power to create, impose, and reproduce social meanings, ultimately constructing social reality.
One important observation from Tucheman, Gans, and Halberstam is the ability of editors to manipulate news by printing political and economic events and boosting favored politicians. The Internet, a new communication realm, offers a powerful medium composed of computer networks with digital language and global interaction. This birth of mass self-communication provides a space for social movements and allows citizens to express opinions and address societal problems. Castells conducted a research study on insurgent politics during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, supporting the views of political observers and media analysts who believe that the Internet played a crucial role in Obama’s victory.
Castells defines insurgent politics as politics that arises outside of the established system and engages marginalized citizens by fostering a belief and hope for change. In the context of this essay, this concept is highly significant because the mass media played an essential role in Obama’s communication and presentation to the American people. The power dynamics at play in this campaign were central to Obama’s success, and the advent of the internet introduced a new method of widespread communication.
According to Castells, the media possess significant influence over society, as demonstrated by seven key elements. He asserts that the Internet serves as both a tool and an organizational form that perfectly aligns with the practices of the new America. This adaptability was instrumental in mobilizing support for Obama’s candidacy, effectively breaking the pattern of political apathy among youth and minorities. I have relied on these elements explored by Castells to demonstrate the immense power of the media as a vehicle, often serving as the concealed face of power. Notably, one element was the presence of individuals with extensive knowledge of the Internet, such as Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook, among Obama’s prominent figures.
The second point is that Obama’s opponent in the presidential race was McCain, whose average voter would have been between the ages of 50-66. In contrast, Obama had the support of a younger demographic that understood and embraced the importance of the internet in their daily lives. The third key point is that Obama started his campaign with a strong multimedia presence, which enabled him to connect visually and personally with younger citizens and adapt to the evolving culture through his online presence.
According to Castells, this type of campaign allowed for interaction in the public sphere and increased the quality of discussions among supporters and politicians. The campaign created instant information networks, promoted real-time streaming of events, and encouraged active participation from Obama’s supporters in the blogosphere. This resulted in constant debates and comments on media reports by citizens of varying political beliefs.
After conducting research on academic and historical examples, I have found that the mass media holds significant power as the concealed face of authority. It possesses a great capacity to greatly impact society. Without a media system in place, there would be no communication channels or platform for democracy to express, address, maintain, or establish control. Consequently, this would lead to a dearth of informed and involved citizens. The media plays an indispensable role in our democracy by offering us a profound comprehension and perspective of the world we live in.
The section containing references to sources used in the text is called bibliography.
The text presents several sources related to the topic of communication power. These sources include books such as “Communication Power” by Manuel Castells, “Who Controls the News?” by W.C. Johnstone, “The Powers that be” by David Halberstam, “Deciding What’s News” by Herbert Gans, and “Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality” by Gaye Tucheman. Additionally, the text mentions an article called “Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age” by Eric Klinenberg and a book titled “Western Political Developments: An evolving Symbiosis of Media and Politics” by E. Louw.