The media is driven by commercial bias, which is associated with advertisers who want to increase their profits. Aside from earning money, publications would be able to retrieve a diverse set of readers.
Since journalism is a ‘dying’ industry, marketing and advertising are critical to media’s survival. Thus, readers would rather read celebrity or political scandals as well as crime stories. The overdramatizing of news content has retained an audience, coining the term “infotainment”.
The ownership structure of the media has transitioned from dependence on the government to corporate ownership. Breaking news produces journalists who compete to release the first report on a pressing topic. The problem with this process is that journalists can leave out critical information to the public.
Due to corporate interest, the American population would be confused, often leading to misunderstanding. Public radio and television are good alternatives to corporately-controlled media. There is no doubt that Americans have a tendency to think that government-owned media favors the goals of the government rather than the people — an undemocratic approach.
Publicly-owned media, however, might even be worse. Thus, Alternative Press might be more effective than previous options. Unfortunately, after being lucrative due to advertising, corporate media started to swallow it — returning back to the previous status.
As social media becomes more prominent in the dispersion of news, bite-sized information can be broadcasted at a low cost. People can also use different platforms online, such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. If the corporatization of media is diminished, the free press wouldn’t be inhibited as often. Ideals by the corporations wouldn’t persuade news outlets to write articles for their own interests.
The media is an agent of political socialization, transforming views of massive audiences. Breaking news is usually televised, and reporters cover events based on importance.
There are three approaches that the media utilizes to manipulate the perceptions of people on different topics. “Priming” is a method used to alter how issues are perceived. For instance, if a crime is accentuated on the news, often due to public outcry, politicians would be heavily assessed on how they would deal with the problem. “Framing” is a method in which media focuses on specific parts of a news story. “Selective perception” attempts to filter incoming data through personal morals and interests.
As journalists play with different personalities, they take the role of gatekeepers who typically focus on an image and disregard other information. Sometimes, their readers are not fond of their work. To increase views, horse-race journalism is enacted, which shows the competition between individuals in politics.
Through televised debates and pictures in print media, the audience can only understand the superficial aspects of politicians. Yet, it could be an advantage for those running in office since they can use televised events to hone their reputation. A great example would be the 1960 presidential debate of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. On TV, JFK looked more youthful and charismatic compared to his competitor. Thus, people at home could tell that he was more suitable to become their president.
Sound bites are short snippets of what politicians say in recorded interviews and can be used to tarnish their reputation in the future. Scandal watching is also very common in the political realm. The term “feeding frenzy” has been coined to define a press coverage of a shameful subject. Usually, this increases cynicism and causes a negative reaction for affected politicians.
The tremendous effects of feeding frenzy include people’s distrust of the government and citizens’ displeasure of the electoral process. To reduce the negative perceptions of politicians, their staff attempt to regulate the news. They twist politicians’ statements to create a positive image for the audience. The staff is also able to decide which information will be published for the day, reducing the exposure of politicians.
At the end of the day, leaders need to abide by the democratic principle that the United States proclaims. If citizens are not impressed by their authority’s actions, impeachment can be a popular resort.
Featured Illustration via Wised Up