Text Notes – The Media – Week Ten

The Media


1. Describe the evolution of journalism in
American political history and indicate the differences between the
party press and the mass media of today.

2. Demonstrate how the characteristics of the
electronic media have affected the actions of public officials and
candidates for national office.

3. Describe the impact of the pattern of
ownership and control of the media on the dissemination of news and

show how wire services and TV networks have affected national news
coverage. Discuss the impact of the “national press.”

4. Describe the rules that govern the media and
contrast the regulation of electronic and print media. Indicate the
impact of libel laws on freedom of the press and of government rules
on broadcasters.

5. Assess the impact of the media on politics
and indicate why it is so difficult to find evidence that can be used
to make a meaningful and accurate assessment. Explain why the
executive branch probably benefits at the expense of

Text Outline

I. Journalism in American political

A. The party press

1. Parties created, subsidized, and
controlled various newspapers.

2. Possible because circulation small,
subscriptions expensive

3. Newspapers circulated among political
and commercial elites

4. Government subsidized the president’s
party press

B. The popular press

1. Changes in society and
technology made possible self-supporting, mass readership daily

a. High-speed press

b. Telegraph

c. Associated Press, 1848; objective

d. Urbanization concentrated
population to support paper, advertisers

e. Government Printing Office
established 1860-end of subsidies

C. Magazines of opinion

1. Middle class favors new,
progressive periodicals

a. Nation, Atlantic,
in 1850s and 1860s

b. McClure’s, Scribner’s,

2. Individual writers gain national
followings through investigative reporting

3. Number of competing newspapers
declines, as does sensationalism

4. Today, national magazines focusing on
politics account for a small and declining fraction of

5. Internet

D. Electronic journalism

1. Radio arrives in 1920s,
television in 1940s

2. Politicians could address voters
directly but people could easily ignore

3. Fewer politicians could be covered by
these media than by newspapers

a. President routinely

b. Others must use bold

4. Recent rise in talk show as political
forum has increased politicians’ access to electronic

a. Big three networks have made
it harder for candidates by shortening sound-bits to less
than ten seconds

b. Politicians have more sources:

cable, early-morning news, news magazine shows

c. These new sources feature lengthy

5. No research on consequences of two

a. Recent access of politicians
to electronic media for campaigns, elections,

b. Narrowcasting, where segmented
audience targeted by TV and radio stations

6. Politicians continue to seek visuals
even after they are elected

7. New era of electronic journalism


II. The structure of the media

A. Degree of competition

1 . Newspapers

a. Number of newspapers has not

b. Number of cities with multiple
papers has declined

(1) Sixty present of cities
had competing newspapers in 1900

(2) Four percent in 1972

2. Radio and television

a. Intensely competitive,
becoming more so

3. Composed mostly of locally owned and
managed enterprises, unlike Europe

a . Orientation to local

b. Limitations by FCC-widespread
ownership created

c. Telecommunications Act of 1996 may
effect some changes

B. The national media

1. Existence somewhat offsets local

2. Consists of

a. Wire services (AP,

b. National magazines

c. Television network evening news

d. CNN

e. Newspapers with national

3. Significance

a. Washington officials follow
it closely

b. National reporters and editors
distinctive from local press

(1) Better paid

(2) From more prestigious

(3) More liberal outlook

(4) Do investigative or
interpretive stories

4. Roles played

a. Gatekeeper: what subjects
become national political issues, for how long

b. Scorekeeper: track political
reputations and candidacies

(1) Elections covered like
horse races

c. Watchdog: investigate personalities
and expose scandals


III. Rule governing the media

A. Newspapers versus electronic

1. Newspapers almost entirely free
from government regulation

a. Prosecutions only after the
fact-no prior restraint

b. After publication, sue only for
libel, obscenity, incitement to illegal act

c. Each of these conditions defined
narrowly, to enhance freedom of the press

2. Radio and television licensed,

B. Confidentiality of sources

1. Reporters want right to keep
sources confidential

2. Most states and federal government

3. Supreme Court allows government to
compel reporters to divulge information in court if it bears on
a crime

C. Regulation of broadcasting

1 . FCC licensing

a. Seven years for radio license

b. Five years for television license

c. Stations must serve “community

2. Recent movement to

a. License renewal by

b. No hearing unless

c. Relaxation of some rule

3. Other radio and television

a. Equal-time rule

b. Right-of-reply rule

c. Political-editorializing

4. Fairness doctrine was abolished in
1987; still voluntarily followed by many

D. Campaigning

1. Equal-time rule applies

a. Equal access for all

b. Rates no higher than cheapest
commercial rate

c. Debates formerly had to include all

(1) Reagan-Carter debate
sponsored by LWV as news event

(2) Now stations and networks can
sponsor debates limited to major candidates

2. Efficiency in reaching voters

a. Works well only when market
and district overlap

b. More Senate than House candidates
buy television time

IV. The effects of the media on politics

A. Studies on media impact on

1. Generally inconclusive, because
of citizens’ . . .

a. Selective attention

According to Doris Graber,
newspaper readers are highly selective. The average person
reads only about 20 percent of newspaper stories in

b. Mental tune-out

2. Products can be sold more easily than

3. Newspaper endorsements of presidential

a. Local newspapers often for

b. This endorsement cut successful
Democrats’ winning margins by five percentage

B. Major effect: on how politics is
conducted, candidates perceived, policy formulated

1. Conventions scheduled to
accommodate television

2. Candidates win party nomination via
media exposure

a. Estes Kefauver (1952)

3. Issues established by media

a. Environment

b. Consumer issues

4. Issues that are important to citizens
similar to those in media

a. TV influences political

b. But people less likely to take
media cues on matters that affect them personally

5. Newspaper readers see bigger contrasts
between candidate than do TV viewers

6. TV news affects popularity of
presidents; commentaries have short-run impact

V. Government and the news

A . Prominence of the president

1. Theodore Roosevelt: systematic
cultivation of the press

2. Franklin Roosevelt: press secretary
cultivated, managed, informed the press

3. Press secretary today: large staff,
many functions focused on White House press corps

B. Coverage of Congress

1. Never equal to that of
president; members resentful

2. House quite restrictive

a. No cameras on floor until

b. Gavel-to-gavel coverage of
proceedings since 1979 (C-SPAN)

3. Senate more open

a. Hearings since Kefauver
(1950); TV coverage of sessions initiated 1986

b. Incubator for presidential
contenders through committee hearings


VI. Interpreting political news

A. Are news stories slanted?

1. Most people believe media,
especially television where they get most news

a. But percentage increasing
among those who think media biased

b. Press itself thinks it is

2. Liberal bias of journalists,
especially national media

Austin Ranney’s analysis of the media
concludes that cynicism pervades reporting, not liberalism. The
loss of public confidence in the government may be the

3. Various factors influence how stories
are written

a. Deadlines

b. Audience attraction

c. Fairness, truth imposed by
professional norms

d. Need sources with different


4. Types of stories

a. Routine stories: public
events, regularly covered

(1) Reported similarly by all
media; opinions of journalists have least effect

(2) Can be missreported: Tet

b. Feature stories: public but not
routinely covered so requires reporter initiative

(1) Selection involves
perception of what is important

(2) Liberal and conservative papers
do different stories

(3) Increasing in number; reflect
views of press more than experts or public

c. Insider stories: investigative
reporting or leaks

5. Studies on effects of journalistic

a. Nuclear power: antinuclear

b. School busing: probusing

c. Media spin almost

6. Insider stories raise questions of
informant’s motives in providing confidential

a. From official background
briefings of the past…

b. . . . To critical inside stories of
post-Watergate era

B. Why are there so many news

1. Constitution: separation of

a. Power is decentralized

b. Branches of government

c. Not illegal to print most

2. Adversarial press since Vietnam,
Watergate, Iran-contra

a. Press and politicians
distrust each other

b. Media are eager to embarrass

c. Competition for awards, etc., among

3. Cynicism created era of attack

a. Most people do not like this
kind of news

b. Cynicism of government mirrors
public’s increasing cynicism of media

c. People believe media slant
coverage, have too much influence, abuse their
constitutional protections

4. Public confidence in big business
down, and now media are big business

5. Drive for market share forces media to
use theme of corruption

D. Government constraints on

1.Reporters must strike a balance
between expression of views and retaining sources

2. An abundance of congressional staffers
makes it easier to gain information.

3. Governmental tools to fight back

a . Numerous press officers in
legislative and executive branches

b. Press releases–canned news

c. Leaks and background stories to

d. Bypass national press to local

e . Presidential rewards and
punishments for reporters based on their stories


adversarial press The
suspicious nature of the national press toward public

attack journalism The current
era of media coverage that seizes upon any bit of information or
rumor that might call into question the qualifications or character
of a public official.

background story (news) A
tactic by government officials to win journalistic friends. The
official purportedly explains current policy on condition that the
source of the information not be identified by name.

confidentiality Reporters’
keeping sources of their stories secret. Most states and the federal
government allow courts to decide whether the need of a journalist to
protect sources outweighs the interests of the government in
gathering evidence in a crin-tinal investigation.

equal-time rule An FCC
regulation requiring that if a station sells time to one candidate
seeking an office, it must sell time to the opposing candidate as

fairness doctrine An FCC rule,
abolished in 1987, that required broadcasters to give time to
opposing views if they broadcast one side of a controversial

feature stories A type of news
story that involves a public event not routinely covered by reporters
and that requires a reporter to take initiative to select the story
and persuade an editor to run it.

Federal Communications Commission
An agency of the federal government with authority to
develop regulations for the broadcast media.

gatekeeper The role played by
the media in influencing what subjects become national political
issues and for how long.

insider stories A type of news
story that involves information not usually made public which
requires investigative work on the part of a reporter or a leak by
some public official.

loaded language The use of
words to persuade people of something without actually making a clear
argument for it.

market (television) An area
easily reached by a station’s television signal.

mental tune-out The attitude
of a person who ignores or is irritated by messages from radio or
television which do not agree with his or her existing

muckracker A journalist who
investigates the activities of public officials and organizations,
especially business firms, seeking to expose and publicize misconduct
or corruption.

party press Newspapers
created, sponsored, and controlled by political parties to further
their interests. This form of press existed in the early years of the
American republic. Circulation was chiefly among political and
commercial elites.

political editorializing rule
A regulation of the FCC providing a candidate with the right
to respond if a broadcaster endorses the opposing candidate.

popular press Self-supporting
daily newspapers aimed at a mass readership.

prior restraint Government
censorship by forbidding publication of the information.

right-of-reply rule A
regulation by the FCC permitting a person the right to respond if
attacked on a broadcast other than in a regular news

routine stories A type of news
story that involves a public event regularly covered by reporters.
These stories are related in almost exactly the same way by all the
media. The political opinions of journalists have the least effect on
these stories.

scorekeeper The role played by
the national media in keeping track of and helping make political

selective attention Perceiving
only what one wants to perceive from television or radio

sound bite A video clip used
on nightly newscasts. The average length of such clips has decreased,
making it harder for candidates to get their message

trial balloon A tactic by an
anonymous source to float a policy to ascertain public reaction
before the policy is actually proposed.

watchdog The role played by
the national media in investigating political personalities and
exposing scandals.

yellow journalism The use of
sensationalism to attract a large readership for a

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