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Please be aware that this is a student-generated wiki designed for review for my students' AP exams. Come in, look around, and enjoy yourself...just be aware of the nature of this wiki. Even though most everything is correct, I advise caution before citing this as an authoritative source.

Mass Media

Mass media is the main entry point to the political spectrum for the average citizen in the United States, and includes media such as newspapers, magazines, interviews, political talk radio, and websites/blogs that can reach large, widely dispersed audiences. Key functions of the media are entertainment, news reports, and the creation of political forums.
  • The main role that media nowadays play is to set the public agenda - that is, which issues are relevant to the average citizen's daily life and which are not. The media does this mainly through covering certain stories and interviewing certain people while ignoring others. The freedom to do so creates an inherent bias in many news media - there are few networks, if any, that are truly unbiased. Public officials have a love-hate relationship with the media since they depend on it to advance their careers and policies but are also fearful of the media's power to expose and destroy (Wilson).

Forms of Media
Newspapers: while newspapers are slowly dying out (fewer than 4% of major American cities have more than one newspaper nowadays), they have many benefits such as low cost to get word out, less competition, less government regulation, and more in-depth stories and articles

The Internet: the internet is becoming the most widespread source of information in the world and it allows for information about politics and social issues to be known within hours, minutes, or even seconds, but it is faulty in that it isn't censored for the most part and so any false information could be there without anybody's knowledge.

Television: Television is watched by people worldwide and although it is easily accessible to learn about politics, it has many downfalls including expense to advertisers, enormous amount of competition, difficulty giving all the information that is necessary to viewers, and the fact that people can easily miss important segments if they aren't watching TV.
  • The telegraph played a major role in the media during the 1840's because it allowed real time news to be sent from Washington D.C .to smaller town that before, did not have access to information this readily.
    • Profits will force media to to distort news to satisfy advertisers or build an audience (Wilson).
      • Most of the national media is more liberal than the average American citizen.
      • Reactionary conservative media outlets are emerging through talk radio and television to meet the needs of an underrepresented conservative set of views. Examples of such outlets are FOX News and NewsMax.
      • Conservatives believe that their views are not represented by the newspapers and televisions. This is one reason why conservative programs are prevalent on the radio. Additionally, many liberal supporters are distributed amongst various factions identified on the basis of race, and so these separate groups often have their own radio talk shows, which are not all identified under one common "liberal" banner (Wilson and Dilulio 305).
  • Conservatives think news reporters are more likely to hold liberal views and vote Democrat
    • EX: NBC, ABC
    • Although the national media is still "mostly" liberal, there is more of a balance between conservative and liberal sources than those dictating would acknowledge. This of course included television networks, newspapers, and radio shows or personalities. Furthermore, local news outlet tends to be more representative of their regions. (For instance, channels within the midwest and the south tend to be more conservative than outlets in the west)
    • time and space constraints
    • sources of the information
Blogs: Series, or log, of discussion items on a page of the World Wide Web.
  • Web blogs facilitate rapid communication between the public and government policymakers (Krieger 78).
  • Have become so important that many now consider it the New Media that is challenging the Old Media by providing immediate checks on what the latter says.
  • Public officials have a love-hate relationship with newspapers, television, and other sources of the media.
  • Public officials have become dependent on the media due to the decline in political parties (Wilson).
  • Politics are a form of communication with the people, so it has been subjected to great changes as the modes of communication in the United States have begun to change. There are four main periods in journalistic history in which communication has come to affect politics (Wilson).

Journalism in American Political History

Important changes in politics go hand in hand with changes in the organization and technology of the press. Politics, which is essentially the communication between the government and the masses, must respond to changes in how communications are achieved. (Wilson 293)
The Party Press
  • Politicians created, sponsored, and controlled newspapers to further their interests in the early years of the Republic.
    • circulation of newspapers was small (due to poor transportation) and newspapers were expensive (type was set by hand and copies were made slowly). There were also few large advertisers that were able to pay the costs of these papers.
      • newspapers circulated mainly among political and commercial elites who could afford the high subscription prices
      • newspapers, in order to exist, required subsidies which frequently came from the government or from a political party
    • For example, Federalists created the Gazette of the United States, led by Alexander Hamilton, and Republicans the National Gazette, led by Thomas Jefferson .
    • Samuel Harrison Smith and his National Intelligencer, became publisher when Jefferson became president and was subsidized with a contract allowing him to print government documents (Wilson).
    • Andrew Jackson helped create the Washington Globe when he became president (Wilson).
    • During this era there were over fifty journalists payed by the government (Wilson).
    • The papers that existed were very partisan and it was difficult to find a paper that would give both sides of an issue (Wilson).
    • Naturally these newspapers were relentlessly partisan in their views, so that the people are able to view different sides of a particular issue, but very rarely were able to read and view and issue from both sides (Wilson).
The Popular Press
  • the rise of a self-supporting mass-readership daily newspaper was due to changes in society and technology
    • high-speed rotary press meant publishers could print copies quickly and cheaply
    • The invention of the telegraph in the 1840s allowed for the fast dissemination of news, across states almost instantaneously.
    • creation of the Associated Press in 1848 spread information to newspaper editors on a systematic basis
    • since the AP had to report stories that were brief and to the point to different newspapers of different political standings, the stories also had to be unbiased(Wilson)
    • As the nation became more urbanized, newspapers no longer needed as much political patronage because they were supported by large numbers of people buying the paper.
  • Self-supporting, mass-readership daily newspaper and are typically and unofficially partisan, often engaging in yellow journalism or sensationalism to increase subscriptions (Wilson). Sensationalism is the manner of over-hyping events to gain attention. This sensationalism developed with wants of political reform and the progressive movement (Wilson). However, sensationalism tends to be problematic on the accounts that their authors tend to exaggerate far away from the truth to get more attention.
    • "Muckrakers"- term used to describe journalists who seek to cover issues like scandals that may or may not actually exist, rather than the hard facts of news
    • strong willed publishers often became more powerful political forces
    • The image of muckrakers continues to be a role that many journalists fill today, especially involving the numerous scandals exposed with their efforts. This is important because many things important to the public or character of representatives of political figures would not be brought to light if not for the prying of muckrakers.
    • With the advent of newer technology, muckrakers have more weapons at their disposal than they ever did before, and are able to cast their exposed bites and clips farther as well, such as spreading Mitt Romney's "47%" remark across the nation before the fall election.
    • "Yellow journalism" (type of journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news and instead uses eye-catching headlines to sell more newspapers) was used to attract readers. Two names that are most closely associated with this is Pulitzer and Hearst.
      • One renounced example of this type of journalism is the story of the destruction of the war ship Maine, which suggested that it was destroyed by the Spanish, was used as propaganda for the Spanish-American war.
    • demonstrated how interesting/profitable criticisms of public policy and the revealing of public scandal could be
Electronic Journalism
  • The arrival of radio in the 1920s and the television in the late 1940s brought politicians to directly address to the voters easily, and at the same time, can let people easily ignore these politicians (Waples)
    • Political figures are always in need of colorful ideas that allow them to have as much news coverage as possible and/or gather the funds to purchase radio and television time.
    • If politicians were skilled enough, their theories could reach voters on a national scale without the need for political parties, interest groups or friendly editors (Wilson).
    • With the rise of television, the appearance of a politician started to take relevance as the public was more likely to vote for the the more visually appealing candidate.
      • Ex: In the first televised debates between Nixon and Kennedy, Nixon looked pale and tired, while Kennedy appeared to be calm, youthful, and confident throughout all the debates. After the first debate most people that saw the debate were convinced that Kennedy had won, whereas those listening on the radio thought Nixon had won.
    • According to Wilson, over the last few decades, the network's (ABC, CBS , NBC - "big three") evening newscasts have changed to be more difficult in allowing candidates to use broadcasts to send their message.
    • The rise of the talk show as a political forum has increased politicians' access to the electronic media, as has the televised "town meeting."
    • To obtain the advantages of electronic media coverage, public officials must find the money to purchase radio and television time or they must find the money to buy radio and television time (Wilson 296).
      • Average sound bite (video or radio clip of someone speaking) of a presidential contender speaking dropped from ~42 seconds in 1968 to 7.8 seconds in 2000 (Wilson 297).
      • Shorter sound bites can lead to candidates' words being taken out of context and used against them.
The Internet
  • Created a new era in media and politics because political news can be found through summaries of stories from newspapers and magazines to political rumors and hot gossip (Wilson)
  • Beginning to play a big role in politics and completed a transformation in American journalism
  • Two areas revolutionized by the internet include methods of campaign finance and facilitation between voters and political activists.
  • Today, just about every candidate running for an important office has a website (Wilson 297).
    • Blogs are places in which people who have common interests can share their views and hope to have an impact on those who they are sharing with.
    • No one can ban, control or regulate the internet (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • Because the internet is virtually unregulated and not monitored, much of what is put on the internet is not always true. The public has increasingly turned to the internet as a source of political information without verifying the "facts." This has caused some serious problems and intensified the dissent among the public.
    • No one can prevent facts, opinions etc from being in the internet. (Wilson and Dilulio)
  • Essentially unregulated ventures, along with the mass media.
  • It is accountable for their content chiefly to themselves and those who use it.
  • Questions arise about the fairness of the media if it was to be regulated.
    • Asymmetric information caused by unregulated media sources often derail the political process. Equally dangerous are highly regulated outlets, which do not feature the independent spirit necessary for muckraking and diversifying information.
  • Bias largely present, but some sources (eg: Politico) are relatively informative, and other sites take similar approaches but accommodate room for opinions in areas like forums, comments or discussion.
Magazines of Opinion
  • Yellow journalism
    • Yellow journalism is when news reports are not necessarily true yet many people are persuaded to read the article through their sensational titles. Some titles would be "Read how a single mom earns $100,000 dollars a year by staying home!" or "Doctors hate them, read this secret zero-costing technique to lose 30 pounds in a month!"
    • Targeted the middle class of the 1850's who were interested in political reform.
    • Originated with journalists Hearst and Pulitzer
    • Example: Nation, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's which were founded in the 1850s and 1860s. McClure's, Scribner's , and Cosmopolitan came later.
      • They enabled the development of a national constituency for certain issues -- trustbusting, civil service reform system.
      • Lincoln Steffens and other so called muckrakers were contributors to magazines. They set the precedent for what became known as "investigative reporting."
  • Gave individual writers the opportunity to gain a nationwide following.
  • In time, more successful papers bought up or eliminated their competition thus causing the great circulation wars between big city daily newspapers to wane. This reduced the need for the more extreme forms of sensationalism which matched the increasing education and sophistication of America's readers.
  • Magazines today are quite different compared to those that used to deal with political issues. Now they are filled with popular entertainment and pastime activities.
  • This increased the power of editors and reporters and allowed individual ones to gain national following
  • The readers of magazines of opinion were often more sophisticated and more educated
How News is Reported
  • Routine stories:
    • media stories about events that are regularly covered by reporters (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • cover major political events
    • Relatively simple matters.
  • Feature stories:
    • media stories about events that, though public, are not regularly covered by reporters (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • not routinely covered by the press
    • The reporter has to find the story and persuade the editor to publish it
  • Insider stories: Media stories about events that are not usually made public.
    • These stories are done with a source who cooperates only under the cooperation of anonymity
  • Routine stories tend to be unbiased when reported, but if bias is present, such as in the title, it is usually reflective of what the editor believes in. However, feature and insider stories may be biased when reported by journalists since these stories are not covered that often (Wilson).
  • Does what the media write or say influence how their readers and views think?
    • People pay attention to only those news stories which they already agree with; this is called selective attention.
    • After the 1964 presidential election, a study demonstrated that after a newspaper endorsed Lyndon Johnson, it added five percentage points to the vote he received
    • How votes felt about the candidates were learned from public opinion polls.
    • Studies conducted discover two things:
      • Newspapers that endorsed incumbents on their editorial pages gave more positive news coverage to them than did newspapers that did not endorse them.
      • Voters had more positive feelings about endorsed incumbents than they did about non-endorsed one.
    • Media influence does have its limits: If people already have knowledge on a subject or can easily learn about it by themselves, they are not influenced. On the other hand, if people have little to no knowledge on a subject or if it is difficult to learn about the subject without assistance, people will likely listen to the media for knowledge, whether it may be biased or not (Wilson).
  • Loaded language: words that are used to persuade and influence people, usually by appealing to emotion; without having made a serious argument.
    • These words often imply a value judgement used to persuade a reader without making an argument.
    • Example: Asking a person, "Do you support the killing of babies?" instead of asking them their views on abortion.
Degree of Competition
  • As technology progressed, competition occurred between the old broadcast ways with the new broadcast ways. (Radio vs Television)
    • Unlike in most European countries news is developed with a vast audience in mind which can be more competitive
  • Newspapers have had a large decline in the amount of people who receive it primarily due to the fact that the average person can find news alternatively through television or through the internet which could be even more accessible through a smart phone or I-Pad
  • Newspapers are now a dying breed being decimated by the newer internet blogs and new sites.(Wilson)
  • Many highly populated cities have JOA (joint operating agreements). Therefore, there may be more than one newspaper available in these cities, but they may be under the possession of a single business (Wilson and Dilulio 298). Many JOAs formed after the passage of the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, which was aimed to halt this rapid decline of newspapers.
  • When one newspaper producer purchases another newspaper, the business component of the two newspapers combines, but the editorial component of the newly purchased newspaper may remain separate (Wilson and Dilulio 298).
  • One part of this decline in newspapers has to do with the arrival and domination of radio and, especially, television in the media market. The new generation is also less inclined to follow political news (Wilson 298).
  • Unlike newspapers, the radio and television have much more competition since there are thousands of stations competing to produce news programs that people will watch and listen to over other stations.

The National Press There are three major roles that the national media depicts:
Gatekeeper - The media influences the subjects, deciding which will become major news or which will hardly make an impact in politics. This means media essentially decides what subjects become national political issues and for how long. ( Basically: what's news, and how long will it last )
  • Non major political issues became major once the national press gave these matters substantial attention.
  • Example: Over the time period of the 1960s to the 1990s crime has been steadily going up. Most Americans did not realize this, or acknowledge it simply because the Media only chose to bring attention to these facts over brief and incomplete time periods. This resulted in crime not being a hot issue but, rather, the color, or status of celebrities' hair.
    • Throughout most of the years, crime went up. In short, reality did not change during this time; only the focus of media and political attention shifted.
  • EX. Attitudes toward the Vietnam War changed greatly when the media changed its attitude toward the war, causing people to call for the end of the Vietnam War and view it very negatively. As a result, elite opinion about the war in Vietnam began to change.
  • Automobile safety, water pollution, and the quality of prescription drugs were not major political issues until the press began focusing on them (Wilson).
Scorekeeper - This position keeps track of possible presidential candidates, reports who is ahead or lagging in politics.( Basically: Who is winning and who is losing )
  • "Dewey defeats Truman" is a classic example of how the media keeps track of political candidates and their positions in races. It is also an example of the failures found within the system as well. Truman actually defeated Dewey.
  • Scorekeeping can make (or break) a presidential candidate's reputation. When Jimmy Carter, who was previously unknown, was running for the Democratic nomination for president, he was the subject of more stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Columbus Dispatch than any other potential candidate for the democratic nomination.
  • Scorekeepers often help candidates in their chances for subsequent primaries in the future
Watchdog - This role comes into play after the scorekeeper labels who is the person to watch for the presidential race while keeping tabs on them (Basic purpose is to investigate characteristics and expose scandals). The media have instinctive desires to investigate personalities and expose scandals. They tend to be tough on front runners, such as presidential candidates, while being supportive of underdogs. They "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." A newspaper can cover more stories in greater depth than a TV station face from other broadcasters.
  • Gary Hart was the victim of watchdogs when the Miami Herald dug information on his marital affair
  • The Watergate Scandal was one such event that, with the media investigating, resulted in the resignation of a president, Richard Nixon.
  • The media will find out everything and anything about a candidates personal life, and on occasion use unverified information to attack a candidate
National Press includes the following:
    • AP, UPI (Wire services)
    • Time, Newsweek, US News, World Report (National magazines)
    • Fox News Network (Cable news Network)
    • Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (National readership newspapers)
    • NPR (National radio)
  • Because of the growth of the media, the national media as consequently grown as well to include things such as:
    • National magazines that include such publications as Time and Newsweek .
    • National media also includes popular newspaper publications, such as the Washington Post .
    • News broadcasts through Fox news, and other cable news sources as well as evening news broadcasts

The Love-Hate Relationship between the Media and Government Officials - The media can "campaign and rally" for a candidate by advancing the candidates career and causes. - One way the media gives a hand to the three branches is by leaking stories. However the media also criticize, and have the power to expose and destroy candidates.

  • This occurs as means of the three branches of government trying to get more power than the other (Wilson, 309).
- The media allows candidates to try Trial Balloons, where candidates purposely leak Anonymous sources to test public on controversial issues. -During recent years people would say the media is just covering news that's fit to sell or sensationalism news especially the Monica Sex Scandal. However, since the 1980's sex and politics have been covered a great deal. Before 1980 these things were not as reported on in the media.

Adversarial Press: The tendency of the national media to be suspicious of officials and eager to reveal unflattering stories about them, often to acquire for the author honor, prestige and (in most cases) a lot of money (Wilson).
  • Though attacking public figures was once taboo, it is now a norm of journalism. Seemingly trivial stories about President Ford tripping down stairs or President Bush mispronouncing the word "strategy" are now highly publicized.
  • Even though most of the national press was supportive of Bill Clinton prior to and for months after his inauguration as president, as soon as some scandals about President Clinton, such as Whitewater (an Arkansas real estate deal in which the Clintons were once involved) and Bill Clinton's alleged adultery, were revealed, the press swiftly attacked, reiterating the lesson that even if the media is in a love affair with a politician, if there are scandals to be exposed and rebuked, the media will be there to do its job.
  • Contrary to public belief, there are practically no government secrets
    • These are usually leaked away by the media to the public to gain their attention before word even spreads through government.
    • Unlike in other countries, the US does not have an Official Secrets Act which would make it against the law to receive and print government secrets (Wilson, 309). It is perfectly legal to receive and print government secrets. There aren't as many leaks in other democratic countries as power is centralized (Wilson, 309).

The Government and the Media
  • Everyone associated with the government tries to sway public opinion primarily through the media

The President -Theodore Roosevelt was the first to try and attract support through pandering to the media, Franklin Roosevelt added to that by making the press secretary an important connection to the press. Because of FDR, modern press secretaries of the the president take on important tasks such as controlling the flow of news from the executive branch and preparing the president for important meetings with the press (Benson & Waples pg 148)
  • The White House press corps are waiting daily for a story or photo op or some other newsworthy event. The President is the most closely watched government official in the world, everything he does is noted.
  • No other nation in the world has brought the press close to the head of the government. The result is that the actions of our government are personalized to a degree not found in most other democracies.
  • There has been a shift in the attitude of the press. During FDR’s presidency, he was in a wheelchair because he suffered from polio. The press would not photograph him in his wheelchair so many Americans were unaware of his illness. The level of respect and reverence for privacy does not exist today and FDR would be crucified by the paparazzi.
  • The media has been used increasingly in presidential campaigns, most evidenced by Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial during the 2008 presidential election.
  • Today's politicians use the media as a tool and stage events that will give them valuable press coverage or provide substantial amounts of press release in their favor. (Levy and Meltzer)

Bully pulpit: according to Wilson, taking advantage of the prestige and visibility of the presidency to try to guide or mobilize the American public.

Trial balloon: information leaked to the media to test public reaction to a possible policy

Loaded language: words that imply a value judgement, used to persuade a reader without having made a serious argument. Recognizing these types of loaded language can give important clues to the views of the author.
  • Ex: "Senator Smith" versus "Right/left-wing senators such as Smith"

  • The House of Representatives used to be very restrictive of the media, not allowing full coverage of their floor until 1979. But with 435 members, individuals rarely get much attention
  • From 1952 to 1970 the House would not even allow electronic coverage of its committee hearings, except for a few occasions. Significant live coverage of committee hearings began in 1974 with discussion of the possible impeachment of Nixon.
  • The Senate has a history of being more open, for instance, Senate hearings have been broadcast on TV since 1950. The Senate's sessions were not aired on C-SPAN until 1986.
  • The senate has used television much more fully, heightening the already substantial advantage that senators have over representatives in getting the public eye.
  • For those who want to observe the actions of congress, or just want to take a nap and there is no baseball game or golf match going on, you could tune into C-SPAN
  • Since 1979 C-SPAN has provided gavel to gavel coverage of speeches on the house (Wilson and Dilulio 308). However, almost nobody watches C-SPAN.

Rules Governing the Media
  • The least competitive media outlets (big city newspapers) have almost no government regulation, while the most competitive ones (tv, radio) are highly regulated, requiring a license to operate and adhering to other regulations.
  • The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) controls much of the rules for radio and television stations. For example, stations often have to provide a certain amount of hours to public service or community welfare broadcasts, and this is often done at times that there are not many viewers or listeners usually tuned-in. Most importantly, the FCC requires television stations to renew their licenses
  • The government at the state and federal level can not place prior restraints (censorship) on the press except under narrowly defined circumstances. (Wilson 300)
  • upon publication, a newspaper may be sued for libel, obscenity, and the incitement of an illegal act.
    • There are laws protecting the privacy of citizens as well, but these protections do not affect newspapers very much.
    • Researchers want the right to keep their sources confidential.
    • these are not usually very serious restrictions, since the courts have defined libelous, obscene, and incitement so narrowly it is difficult for press to be found guilty
    • Generally newspapers can print your name and picture for a story, and when a paper attacks an individual the newspaper is not obligated to give one space for a reply.
  • Supreme Court has allowed the government to get information from reporters in court if the information has relevance to the crime.
  • F.C.C regulates radio and television
The Existence of News Leaks and the Rise of Attack Journalism
  • The reason(s) we have so many news leaks are found in the Constitution. The separate institutions must share power, and each branch competes for power. Therefore, in order to remain "on top," each branch must leak negative news regarding the other branches, thus diminishing public trust in those other branches so that the branch leaking the news appears more trustworthy. Because of this, even if journalists adored politicians, there would still be plenty of news leaks.
  • One good strategy for a branch to compete for power is to promote its own pet projects, and then to make the other branch(s) look bad via the media.
  • In the United States we do not have any Official Secrets Act like England does, it is not illegal for the press to print and report on government secrets.
  • America's government is the leakiest in the world.
  • Members of Congress and White House staff leak stories favorable to their interests.
  • Members of all branches also leak stories to influence the public and those leaking will compete with each other.
  • Due to this and other factors our press today is an adversarial press, this is defined by Wilson as "the tendency of the national media to be suspicious of officials and eager to reveal unflattering stories about them." So the media is just waiting for their chance to scope up an accusation against an official and exploit it in the media.
  • Although common, the public generally does not like this type of "attack" journalism. Coincidentally the public's opinion of big business has mirrored the wavering opinion with the U.S. Government; the media are increasingly becoming big business. The easiest way to reach a mass market with their business is to create a product that viewers actually care about. They need a theme, and as Wilson puts it, a common theme is, "politics is a corrupt, self serving enterprise."
  • An additional side effect of attack journalism has been the increased frequency and use of negative campaign ads. With this new breed of journalism it has become socially acceptable to degrade one's opponents. Wilson, though, warns that these ads come at a price; although they turn more voters to one opinion or the other, they also succeed at turning voters away from the election.
  • Many people do not like "attack journalism." Interestingly, as the media has grown more and more cynical towards the government, the public has grown more and more cynical towards the media. Just before the 2000 presidential election, a national survey revealed that a vast majority of respondents believe that the media's "political views influence coverage" often or sometimes (Wilson 301). Almost half thought that the majority of journalists were skewing their reports to encourage Al Gore's election.

Government Influence on the Media

  • Newspapers are almost completely free of government regulation and interference.
    • The government (as well as other entities), however, can sue for libel after publication.
  • Reporters are usually very steadfast in maintaining the identity of their sources secret, and are sometimes willing to go to trial rather then reveal their sources.
  • The federal government in most cases, where the question arises, considers it legal to compel a reporter to give up his/her sources. For example, a the journalist, Myron Farber, was considered to be in contempt of court for not producing the notes that potentially contained evidence as to whether the physician in question had killed five of his patients. Farber did not give up the notes, because he considered it more important to maintain the confidentiality of the sources from whom he gathered the information for his article, and he was sent to jail (Wilson and Dilulio 301).
  • There are some states that have passed laws to prevent reporters from being coerced to give up information that may compromise the confidentiality of their source. Most states and the federal government, however, believe that reporters are required to give up such information, regardless of whether the confidentiality of their sources may be compromised (Wilson and Diliulio 301).
  • Radio and Television are heavily regulated by the government (FCC) unlike newspapers.
  • The government regulated the campaign ads on television from 1993 to January 2010, with the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.

Regulating Broadcasting

  • Radio or television can only broadcast if they have a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
    • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was established by the Communications Act of 1934 as the successor of the Federal Radio Commission. It is used to regulate all non-Federal Government use of the radio, international communications, and interstate telecommunications.
    • restrictions include language, content and requirements to air campaign ads
  • The license for radio is renewable every seven years, while a television one is has to be renewed every five years. - broadcasters used to have to provide detailed information on their plan to expand "public service" programs or alter the way various ethnic groups are portrayed. (Wilson) - The FCC requires the program that is applying for a new license to also provide a description of their content and how it plans to help the community. Though the media is protected by the First Amendment their content can be regulated. - There are groups who oppose some programs and they can have influence on whether the FCC lets these programs renewed their license. - Structural regulations can control the way broadcast companies are owned and organized; the Telecommunications Act of 1996 created more competition for broadcasters.
    • It allowed one company to own as many as eight stations in large markets (five in smaller ones) and as many as it wished nationally. (Wilson)
  • Radio is the most deregulated media source; the Telecommunications Act allowed more companies to own the bigger radio stations. There are less restrictions as to what one can say on the radio; this is illustrated by the numerous talk shows that cover issues and voice opinions. -Radio or television have more restrictions than newspapers -Once something is published in a newspaper or magazine, it can be sued for slander/libel if the material fits the description.
    • However, there still exists an equal time rule where stations that sell advertising to one political candidate must sell equal time to that person's opponent (Wilson).

The Rights of the Media

  • New York Times v Sullivan (1964): According to Wilson and Dilulio, this case dealt with public officials and suing for libel. "Actual malice" must be proven for a public official to win a libel suit. Officials can win a libel case if they shown evidence that there was a "reckless disregard of the truth" or if the statement was "made knowing it to be false." (pg. 302)
  • Near v Minnesota (1931): According to Wilson and Dilulio, this case dealt with the states imposing prior restraint on newspapers. (Prior restraint being a form of censorship). The Supreme Court found that it was unconstitutional for states to "impose prior restraint on newspapers." Also stated that "freedom of the press applies to state governments." (pg.302)
  • Branzburg v. Hayes (1972): The Supreme Court ruled that the government can compel reporters to divulge information in criminal court if compelled under subpoena.
  • Miller v. California (1973): The Supreme Court ruled that the Miller test, or the Three-Prong test, must now apply community standards to media to test for obscenity, and that will decide what constitutes obscenity and what can be shown to the general public.
  • Miami Herald v. Tornillo ( 1974): According to Willion, newspaper cannot be requried to give someone the right to reply to one of it's stories.
  • Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1968): In this case the Red Lion Broadcasting Co. went to the Supreme Court arguing that the FCC's fairness doctrine was in violation of the first amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine was Constitutional, this was a particularly important case as it proved that certain guidelines could be placed on speech
  • FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1989): This Supreme Court case questioned whether the government was helpless in preventing obscene language to be aired to the public. In a 5 to 4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the government did have the power to restrict certain things that are aired.
  • Turner Broadcasting v. FCC (1995): In this case, Turner Broadcasting fought that a requirement the FCC had set that some channels must be local channels on every broadcasting network was unconstitutional. In another close 5 to 4 voting result, the Supreme Court ruled that the requirement did not violate the first amendment because the required channels were neutral ones.


  • Equal Time Rule: Equal access for all candidates; rates no higher than least expensive commercial rate (Wilson).
    • The ETR is a provision of the 1934 Communication Act
      Created because the FCC was worried about the power of television and radio to affect elections
    • Specific to radio and television
    • Debates formerly had to include all candidates.
    • Even though laws guarantee that candidates can buy time at favorable rates on TV, not all candidates do this, because Tv is not always an effective way to reach voters.
    • Most of the time, more Senate than House candidates buy TV time.
    • Congress has created 4 exemptions to the Equal Time Rule.
  • Efficiency in reaching voters
    • A market is an area easily reached by a TV signal. There are about 200 such markets in the country.
    • Works well when market and district overlap, but fails when the market is not aligned.
  • Televised Debates:
    • Originally all candidates could participate in the debates on the television, but later these privileges were limited to only major candidates.
    • A much higher percentage of Senate than of house candidates use television ads.(Wilson and Dilulio 301).
    • In the debates between Kennedy and Nixon, the voting showed that appearances would tend to have an effect on the voters choice.

Government Constraints on Journalism

  • On the record: can quote source officially.
  • Off the record : cannot quote the source officially.
  • Background: officials statement is used on a condition that name is not given. According to Wilson they also tend to be called " a high ranking official" or knowledable member of congress".
  • Deep background: what the official says can be used, but not attributed toward anyone
  • Public officials try to get around the national press by addressing the local media directly through interviews or radio talk shows, since the local media is less likely to have an adversarial attitude towards the government (Wilson 313).
  • Sometimes, in order to keep the press in check, the president will reward reporters who treat him well, and punish those who treat him badly. "The press and the president need but do not trust one another" (Wilson 313).
    • This is the ultimate weapon in the government’s effort to shape the press to its liking
      • Kennedy favored friendly reporters with inside stories.
      • Johnson decided not run again in 1968 in part because of the press hostility to him.
      • Nixon made the mistake of attacking the press in public, which allowed it to defend itself with appeals to the First Amendment.
      • Clinton went on talk shows, notably MTV to gain publicity for his re-election, and revealed personal information in order to gain political support by appealing to the common man through the television