The news media influence
The history of mass media can be traced back in ancient Greece. Politicians, generals, and philosophers would gather together and discuss issues and then would spread the matters that they have talked about to the public through the word of mouth. Today, with the help of technological improvements, mass media can convey messages easier and faster to people all over the world. With all the information passed on through different media, may it be via print or on television and radio the everyday lives of the people are easily influenced.
Mass media, especially news, can easily turn on people’s emotions against or in favor of a certain issue or something that is featured on or by it. The audience tends to believe all that is broadcasted on television or the things written in the newspapers even though such information are erroneous. “Radio and television are dramatic, emotional media, like film and phonogram. A monotonous voice or a talking head reading information that listeners and viewers care little about will not lead to a situation of functioning communication.
Unlike the printed press, viewers and listeners can’t go back to the previous page. Radio and television are immediate, emotional media. The emotional prerequisite for successful communication in the broadcast media means that news, ideally, should be both informative and dramatic if it is to grip.” (Baran, 1990)
An example is what happened 12 years ago in United Kingdom, where two kids, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables murdered a certain James Bulger. The British press had alleged that the kids were inclined to commit murder because of a spiteful video that they had watched even though the kids had not seen that said video. Apparently, the media mislead information that goes to the public which immediately influences the public to react, and in this case the parent of the kids that prosecutes the media that had influence their kids, without realizing that the same media is influencing them to do such act.
“A clash of cultures between two generations of TV journalists splits the Washington TV press corps into competing camps. One camp, idealistic and traditional, mourns the passage of an alleged golden age when TV networks covered the globe and the nation with a mobile corps of fact-oriented news gatherers. They decry the increased influence of the business side of broadcasting in determining the scope of good journalism. Moreover, they are pessimistic over the deterioration of quality reporting and the diminished presence of what they define as hard news on network evening newscasts.” (Kimball, 1994)
Another example is the numerous coverage of the Iraqi war done by the media. The press may greatly influence people, especially the Americans to unleash feeling of patriotism and pride of their army. Such surge of information regarding the Iraqi War may also lead to prejudice against Middle-Eastern-looking people, that a single presence of such person of race or ethnicity would bring fear to people. Since the war is being highly publicized by the media, the people that constitute their audience may develop negative feelings against “the enemy” that may lead to intense racial prejudices and discrimination.
Mass media has significantly evolved since the early times and has taken various forms. Such development includes the birth of the different companies that are very much involved with the conveyance of information such as the current news from different parts of the world. The news media companies are highly efficient resulting them to boom. One example is the Cable News Network, which is commonly known as CNN. It is a major cable television network founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. As of December 2004, it is available in 88.2 million U.S. households and more than 890,000 American hotel rooms. Globally, the network airs through CNN International and has combined branded networks and services that are available to more than 1.5 billion people in over 212 countries and territories. Another competent company in the news media field is the The Fox News Channel. It is an American cable and satellite news channel owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, and is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. As of January 2005, it is available to 85 million households in the U.S. and to further viewers internationally. The network was launched on October 7, 1996 to 17 million cable subscribers. The network slowly rose to prominence in the late 1990s as it started chipping away at the ratings of competitor CNN. In the United States, Fox News Channel is the top rated cable news channel. As stated, these two news companies cross borders and reach millions of households in the United States and all over the world. The channel is available internationally, though its world programming is the same as its American programming, unlike CNN International, which airs regional programming that is largely independent of its U.S. broadcasts. Such supermacy in their field and their ability to span across distances result to their large influence on their audiences. Such phenomenon in news conveyance is very much effectual in shaping or influencing citizens of different nations.
News is very much part of the everyday lives of people all over the world. Many stories, especially the headliners, in every newspaper or news broadcast on television catch the attention of the public and most probably influence how they perceive things. The power possessed by the news media is disquieting since they have the tendency to sensationalize the news or the stories that they convey to people. “The media have always been criticized for being politically biased, but criticism intensified after Vice Pres. Spiro Agnew claimed that the news media were “giving the American people a highly selected and often biased presentation of the news” ( Kenworthy, 1969).
One case that has been witnessed by millions was the trial of Michael Jackson. Such celebrity trial ended in such bad publicity and negative depictions of the person involved that his reputation was damaged sincerely forever. The general public had already formed their opinion even before the trials were held. Even if the celebrity remained out of jail or was proven not guilty his career or popularity could have turned out for the worse due to this. Such prejudice toward the persons involved in exaggerated cases that is caused by the media frenzy is very apparent nowadays.
News media also play a large role in influencing politics and the people’s perception of it in different parts of the world. Top newsmakers include those who are involved with politics and whenever one case or story is presented to the public, the news media has the tendency to overstate information or details of the said case or person concerned. “The crucial point here is that news media reports do not ‘objectively’ reflect humanitarian crises. Rather, they report crises in particular and often very different ways. The emotive and graphic coverage of the Kurds in 1991 clearly pressured politicians to ‘do something’.” (Robinson, 2002)
One example would be during the elections, where promotions of candidates are profusing. The election of many politicians since the 1960s, most notably John F. Kennedy in the US have been influenced enormously by media exposure, such as television. Kennedy’s victory in the presidential race of 1960 against Richard Nixon has been described as the result of his more handsome and good looking appearance on television, especially when compared with Nixon. Also, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger whose fame as actors, helped them to gain more media attention and eventually the victory in their elections as president and governor. This trend is very much evident in other countries as well.
The news media are also the causes of some controversies that affect many people. They have the propensity to bring chaos due to their exposes or documentaries of issues that are very much relevant this time. Take for example the controversy that involved one of the news companies in the United States, which is the American Broadcasting Company. The news network showed a controversial miniseries entitled “The Path to 9/11” in the US on September 10, 2006 and September 11, 2006. The far-reaching pre-broadcast controversy over the documentary has included disputes over the accuracy of its dramatization of key events, as well as calls by historians and from former Clinton and Bush administration officials for ABC to re-edit part of the film or not broadcast it at all. According to the official statement released by ABC, the film is a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including The 9/11 Commission Report, other published materials, and from personal interviews. The main source of the controversy stems from alleged inaccuracies in the portion of the film concerned with the Clinton administration in the 1990s. Critics say that certain scenes tend to suggest that blame for the events that took place on September 11, 2001 lies with Clinton and his cabinet. One example cited is a scene in which then National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, does not approve of the order to take out a surrounded Osama Bin Laden and tells the squad in Afghanistan that they will have to do the job without official authorization and then hangs up the phone. According to Sandy Berger and others—including conservative author and Clinton critic Richard Miniter—this absolutely never happened.
Controversies are very much connected with big news networks that they even create disputes with those people who are involved. Such disputes are witnessed by the audience who are likely to be greatly influenced. The occurences of these controversies that involved the news media often provoke their audiences, either to offer support for them or adhere to the elements that are against them.
The news media that convey information through various ways are often confronted by extreme effects or reactions by its audience. People sometimes respond badly to the things that the news media bring to them specially towards the issues that the news company is inclined to be biased with or against.. Such phenomeneon is called the hostile media effect, or sometimes called the hostile media phenomenon, that refers to the theory that ideological partisans often think that media coverage is biased against their particular opinions on an issue. In a study conducted by Robert Vallone, Lee Ross and Mark Lepper, pro-Palestinian students and pro-Israeli students at Stanford University were shown the same news filmstrips pertaining to the then-recent Sabra and Shatila massacre of Palestinian refugees by Christian Lebanese militia fighters in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. On a number of objective measures, both sides found that these identical news clips were slanted in favor of the other side. Pro-Israeli students reported seeing more anti-Israel references and fewer favorable references to Israel in the news report and pro-Palestinian students reported seeing more anti-Palestinian references, and so on. Both sides said a neutral observer would have a more negative view of their side from viewing the clips, and that the media would have excused the other side where it blamed their side.
It is important to note that the two sides were not asked questions about subjective generalizations about the media coverage as a whole, such as what might be expressed as “I thought that the news has been generally biased against this side of the issue” (www.wikipedia.com) Instead, when viewing identical news clips, subjects differed along partisan lines on simple, objective criteria such as the number of references to a given subject. The research suggests the hostile media effect is not just a difference of opinion but a difference of perception. This effect is very interesting because it appears to be a reversal of the otherwise pervasive effects of confirmation bias: in this area, people seem to pay more attention to information that contradicts rather than supports their pre-existing views.
The news media play a very vital role nowadays in the lives of people all over the world. The information conveyed to them by these media forces will very much likely to influence their perceptions about certain things and their actions. Such authority in the field will most likely cause the audience to believe everything they see and hear via these said media. However, the news media sometimes present information that is very subjective, and are influenced by their own beliefs or thoughts about certain issues instead of being objective in providing relevant details. The people involved with news dissemination often commit the mistake of erroneously presenting things that are subjective in manner instead of focusing on the facts and being objective towards a certain issues. Such error will ultimately influence their audience that will lead to various reactions and actions that will be taken in response to whatever is tackled or presented.
Another thing that the news media is erroneously doing is the presentation of the news that are relevant only to a minority rather than bestowing information that are important to the majority of the community that they belong in. Some news companies are even inclined to be biased to those people who are very influential in their community and not utilize the media in a proper manner that would results or provoke the audience into boycotting them or even result to violent actions towards them.
Every person has the desire to know the truth. In our search for the truth, we always look at different paradigms of knowledge and use different means or tools in communication. News reporting has been one of our means to know the truth. Everyday, we always listen to our radios and watch television for news. Everyday is a search for truth for each one of us. We never cease to search and we never stop. This search is a life long endeavor.
Watching news everyday always make us question: Are we really arriving to the truth? “The standard of truthfulness inspires such universal devotion among journalists that it overrides all but the most extreme dedication to particular groups and causes. Few if any journalists say they will invent or distort materials to help people with whom they are sympathetic.” (Gardner, 2001)
Looking at our search for truth using the news, we always can say that we can arrive to a certain truth but not the absolute truth. The truth we can achieve regarding a particular matter is just a parcel of the absolute truth. Even if the news states factual matters, still, it does not suffice the demand of the absolute truth. Men as we are, receivers and givers of information are limited and do not have the power to know everything.
The barrier in knowing the truth does not only evolve in our limitations as human beings in the realm of assimilating the truth but also it evolve on the factors influencing the news reporting world. These are the demand to cater the public’s appetite and the enticing offers of money.
To cater the demands of the public, news reporting most of the time is sensationalized by networks. This is evident in making little stories big. They make stories big in order to make people watch or read their news. People want action packed news and people love news which is full of tragedies. This is the reason why most of the time, news reporting becomes sensationalized. Small issues become big issues in the event of reporting. They just want to cater the excitement among people. They want that people will patronize their news reporting that is why they report not what the truth is but what the people like. This act is an act of doing away with the truth.
News reporting is always been influenced by money. Most networks today are highly politicized. It is always been a desire of man to gain money. Politicians in knowing this desire is jumping into it for the sake of their own good publicity for political advancement. This situation is ubiquitous in the media world today. Many networks are endorsing politicians blatantly or subliminally. Networks become tempted with money and instead of giving the truth to the public as their main goal, money enters into the picture. Many networks have been influenced by the money of rich people. This causes degradation on the truth in news reporting. Driven by money, news becomes an endorsement of people and not an endorsement of truth. The truth ceases and lies become the core of news reporting. This is a very sad reality and a reality that we did not dreamt of. Money prevails and the truth dies.
“In America and the UK, there is a need to balance objectivity with adversarialness in the news interview context. And most of the practices we have examined connected with turn-taking, neutralism, question design, the management of answers, and debate interviews represent systematic solutions to the practical management of this balance. Thus a mix of legal regulation, economic pressures, and the mutual needs (and sanctions) of journalists and public figures have combined to create a remarkably similar “fingerprint” of basic communication practices in the broadcast interview in both countries.” (Clayman, 2002)
The truth in news reporting nowadays is hard to find. People are at times being deceived by news. News reporting becomes a toll not to find the truth but to cater few people’s advancements in certain motives in life. It is our duty as human beings to combat false news reporting and to stop networks as being used by influential people. The battle is far from over. Let us help one another. Let us build our future generations free from the deceitful news reporting. The time to act is now. If we don’t act now, tomorrow will be too late. This is a battle that all of us are involved. Let us help one another to save our future generations. Every human being is by nature a searcher of the truth. The people of tomorrow deserve to achieve the truth. This is the ultimate goal of being human.
As to how real the data of news is presented, audiences would be the best group to find out. Given all the elements that affect news media as stated in the examples and situations given, the audience is yet the most equipped judge of what part of the news they see as truth and what part of it serves the interest of just a few. The news would always be part of the lives of people but it is the morality of people who make up the news, who appreciate the news and support the news that spells truth or lie. Though this situation remains dangerous, when a lie continually broadcasted as truth eventually becomes truth, then it would be the very same people who will shoulder the very consequences of the lies that has been said in the reports.
As the saying goes, one can fool some people, sometimes but to fool everyone, all of the time is yet to be seen in history.
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Robinson, Piers. 2002. The CNN Effect: The Myth of News, Foreign Policy, and Intervention. Routledge
Clayman, Steven and John Heritage. 2002. The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air Cambridge University Press
Kimball, Pen. 1994. Downsizing the News: Network Cutbacks in the Nation’s Capital
American Philosophical Society; Woodrow Wilson Center Press
Baran, Stanley. 1990. Roger Wallis. The Known World of Broadcast News: International News and the Electronic Media. Routledge
Gardner, Howard. 2001. Good Work. Basic Books New York.
Kenworthy E. W. ( 1969). “Agnew Says TV Networks Are Distorting News”. New York Times. November 14, 1, 24.
Kisseloff, Jeff. The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1920-1961.
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10 Dec. 2006 <http://wikipedia.com>
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