The media is involved in all stages of policy-making, including in identifying what type of policies are needed. In many cases, the print media and social journalism draw attention on the problems that society has as they bring into discussion issues that interest the American public. Although print media is not the sole identifier of policy issues, it has the power to make the subject reach a great deal of the population, but most importantly, it has the power to reach to the decision-making responsible.
It is a known fact that politicians and politics can not be made without print media because only print media has the power to make the connection between a politician and his policies and the general public. In all times, print media was the main connector between politics and the people. This is why print media has a crucial importance in the political life of a state.
Print media, because of its daily or periodic reporting, has the ability to bring to the public attention all types of political issues, even exposing some problems and be the first to draw attention on a specific topic. This kind of power of influencing policy making and even dictating what subject must be discussed in political circles makes print media the most powerful organism in a state. Print media draws attention on a subject that attracts public interest and because of the public interest generated by a media story, politicians are forced to consider the subject and even create their policies around the interest shown by the media public. Considering that we are all media consumers, political issues reach every one of us and so we are aware of what is going on at the highest political level.
Print media does not only draw attention on subjects, it also analyzes the policies proposed on different issues, often providing a pertinent critique. However, the print media works both ways, as politicians, aware of the power of the media, use it to promote their plans and generate a public debate. Besides presenting policies to the public, print media journalism also plays an important role in exposing all implication in a matter.
Print media plays an integral role in shaping the ways in which policies are made. A very important part in shaping policies is played by investigative journalism. Although investigative journalism is not entirely characteristic to print media, it is far more often encountered in this side of the media sector. Investigative journalism and exposes tend to have a great impact on the public, revealing the connections that otherwise are invisible to the public. This type of journalism, used particularly by print media, has the power to destroy even the most powerful public figures or to draw general attention on a subject that has been ignored by policy-makers.
Print media works as a link between policy-makers and citizens, between those that want to influence policy-makers and those that create them. Media coverage of a policy provides an important feedback from the public, feedback that politicians use in order to identify the best solutions needed. On the other side, those interested in promoting a policy can use the media in order to draw attention on the issue and therefore make it impossible to be ignored by politicians. Most definitely, print media works both ways in the relation between politicians and the American public.
One of the fundamental roles of print media is to hold politicians responsible for their decisions, to monitor their decisions and to draw public attention on the issues of general importance. Due to this role played by the media, especially in a free country such as U.S., print media is one of the greatest powers.
However, let us not be naive and imagine that the media acts solely in the interest of citizens. Print media, as all media, is subject to corporate influence. As a well-known fact, corporations are the ones that dictate policy making in America and they also control a great deal of the media. Print media often plays the role of a powerful political actor, acting according to the corporate interest that dictates in specific cases.
The power of the media can also be seen in the issues it raises. Interest or non-interest in a specific matter makes the difference between an important subject and a less important one. Print media has the power to create and destroy political actors and to raise or ignore issues. This is a very important argument when stating that print media has a great influence on the political scene in U.S..
When analyzing how the print media influences policy-making and politics, a very important factor that must be taken into consideration is how the media selects legitimate political actors. Newspapers do have a bias and this can be noticed by the political actors it legitimates. No matter how important the role of the media is in the policy making process, it is clear that it follows a certain interest. There is no doubt that print media influences policy-making, but it is important to analyze how it influences politics and on which side of an issue is the media situated and why. Because of various biases the media has in the political sphere, its coverage of events and issues can merely be seen as subjective. It is virtually impossible in contemporary American politics to argue that a part of the media is entirely objective and unbiased when dealing with a political issue.
Ignoring the fact that most newspapers do have a bias for a political party or for certain political actors and corporations, the print media does play an important part in revealing to the interested public evidence of how political actors are and stand for. This can be seen especially in electoral campaigns, when the general interest is greater regarding politics.
The media is also an instrument of communication used by politicians as they seek support for their cause. This can be noticed in all aspects of political life, starting from electoral campaigns and ending with the policy-making process. Media coverage of an issue ensures that the ideas of politicians reach the greatest number of audience possible. It is only logical that media coverage is the way to get your voice heard. Politicians always take into consideration what the media has to say and it is natural that they use the media in order to make themselves heard. This is how the media also links the politician to its public.
The success of a policy can be determined by how it is received and covered in the media. It is most likely that if a policy receives negative coverage, it will not be passed by the legislative. Although the negative coverage is only initiated by the media and no consultation of citizens officially occurs, media coverage is seen as representing public opinion. This is one other proof of the power that media has over policy-making.
Another aspect that reveals the significance of print media in policy-making is analyzing how policies are implemented. The fact that print media acts as a watchdog ensures a greater citizens' control over the policies that they are directly interested in. The watchdog role performed by the media once policies are issued confers a greater power to the press, that of control. However, at this stage of policy-making, the media does not have full power, as it can merely draw public attention on the way policies are implemented. Depending on the issue, the public opinion can be so strong that it can cause policy changes resulting from simple journalistic investigations on how policies are implemented.
The media, printed media included, plays a very important role in American society. Its main role is that of informing the public, and for this alone it has the power to reach as many as possible. Print media, unlike other types of media, is consumed by those interested in the issues revealed by a specific publication. Those that follow political print media are clearly individuals that are interested in the issues raised and so political information and investigations reach an interested public.
However, the media is not entirely fair or just and it sometimes fails to cover both sides of a story, thus taking advantage of its power. Even considering these disadvantages, one can conclude that the media has a great influence in politics and policy-making.
Barker, Michael, Manufacturing policies: the media's role in the policy making process, 2005, available at http://live-wirez.gu.edu.au/jea.papers/Barker.doc;
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The Media Influence on American Society in Politics, October 29, 2006, available at http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474976826497.
Campaign for Fiscal Equity, available at http://www.cfequity.org/;
Huerta, Luis a., "Next Steps for Results: Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State of New York," in Journal of Education Finance, Spring 2006,-page 381;