Familiarize the student with the nature, history, development of the media and its influence in the marketplace of ideas.
Lesson Module 7, Lowi, Chapter 7 and Canon, Chapter 7 Assignment
America’s media is the most unfettered in the world. It is free to print and report almost anything under the overarching concept of the public’s right to know. Reports on political and public figures in our media would be banned in the press in many nations.
The media in the U.S. is divided between the print and broadcast (electronic) media. The print media is the elder of the two, consisting of books, pamphlets, periodicals, and the like. The broadcast media the most recent, consisting of radio, television, and the Internet. These are creations of the 20th century. Corporations such as ABC, CBS, and NBC provide much of the news Americans consume.
Stuart Ewen and Bill Moyers, refer to news reporting as being driven by market forces. In his book he also states that the public as being barraged by images presented in the media which appeal to feelings rather than reason. These images, to maintain their impact on the consumer, must be of ever increasing intensity. Ewen and Moyers charge that the public mind is not being given a clear picture of reality to act in their role as citizen in a democracy.
The legal limits which the media operate in the America are minimal. Censorship is not permitted unless under national emergency or issues of national security. The no prior restraint doctrine was established in the Supreme Court case Near vs. Minnesota, 1931. Libel as a legal concept has two tests, malice and reckless disregard for truth. These were establish in the landmark Supreme Court case New York Times vs. Sullivan, 1964.
Media coverage has three basic filters, the journalists themselves, the sources of news, and finally, the consumer. Journalists, their editors, publishers and producers have control of the content of news. The sources of information, be they politicians, interest groups or corporations, limit journalistic content. Finally, what the public wants to see or hear is the final test. If the public doesn’t want to read or hear it, editors and producers will respond. Their advertisers will pull their ads if the public ignores the stories in print or electronic form.
The media is that vital element in a democracy. It provides the citizen information. The information in turn, gives the citizens the power to make informed choices about issues and leadership.