DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL
RELATIONS Posc 150
THE MASS MEDIA AND POLITICS (Part II)
1. Public opinion and enlightened understanding.
2. How the media affect the public’s understanding of current events.
II. APROBLEM–THE PUBLICAND DEMOCRACY:
1. Citizens’civic behavior seems to leave a lot to be desired.
1. T Apathy
2. T Lack of participation, involvement
3. T Cynicism
2. And yet democracy requires enlightened understanding.
3. What is the explanation?
i. Behavior and interests reflect natural state: people are not “political
animals” by nature.
ii. People are content with minimal participation and knowledge.
1) The media, including the news, give people what they want, namely excitement,
drama, and entertainment.
i. People are not especially civic minded–at least not to the degree
suggested by democratic theory–but institutions like the media
(inadvertently?) discourage participation and interest.
ii. We have to see how and why the media present news as they do in
order to understand the public’s response.
1) The “viscous circle” problem.
III. THE MEDIAAS THE GUARDIANS OF DEMOCRACY:
A. èAreassuring belief is that our “free and independent” press guards us against
1.T Numerous images and symbols support this feeling, which is also
reinforced by, say, books and films such as “All the President’s Men,”
starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. B. Yet our faith may be misplaced.
1. It can be argued that the media do not necessarily play the role we think they could and
1. Concentration of ownership.
i. See the required reading.
Posc 150 Class 10 The Mass Media Part II Page 2
ii. This issue is very much in the news. Have you been following theAOL story?
2. Conflict between profit making and public service. IV. ELITE VERSUS MASS MEDIA:
A. èWe need to make an important distinction:
1. Elite press: what politically active and vibrant and influential members of society use.
i.T Examples: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, PBS (e.g., “News Hour,”
“Frontline,” National Public Radio).
V. THE MEDIAAND REALITY CREATION:
A. âAmericans do not experience politics directly.
1.èWhat they “know” comes directly and indirectly from the media.
i. Transmission of information model.
ii. “Opinion leaders”
B. âThe media as a filter.
VI. CHARACTERISTICS OF NEWS PRESENTATION:
A. âGeneral proposition: the media are not politically biased nearly as much as they
are biased against citizenship.
1. This bias creates mass cynicism and apathy, which in turn favors