Media plays a crucial role in the dissemination of information from the power-elites to the masses in the United States. Americans today consume news information largely through the use of television, and to a lesser extent newspapers and radio. Those who control the information presented in these mediums enjoy a wealth of influence in relation to the political and social values of ordinary Americans. Elites within the industry accomplish their mission of political and social influence by utilizing the six political functions of mass media; news making, interpretation, socialization, persuasion, agenda setting and framing.
“News making is deciding what and who are newsworthy and allocating precious television time and newspaper space accordingly.” (Dye & Zeigler, p. 125) Executives, editors, anchors and the like make crucial decisions in regards to which stories make the headlines or are featured during news casts. Given that the average American does little to no research of their own, the decisions made by these media elites are instrumental in the formulation of public opinion.
News making is clearly demonstrated when one watches the recent Republican presidential debates. During the CBS News/National Journal Debate which took place in November of last year, presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul was given only 90 seconds to speak during a hour and a half debate. A study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that “at the midway point, Romney had spoke for 7 minutes and 25 seconds – more than Gingrich, Paul, Huntsman, and Santorum recorded for the entire debate.” (Ostermeier) Clearly the media-elite favorite, Mitt Romney has vastly outpaced the rest of the Republican field in terms of on air time during the debates.
The way in which the masses perceive an event, person or place is carefully crafted by the media-elite. The decision-makers in the media use interpretation to “provide the masses with explanations and meanings for events and personalities.” (Dye & Zeigler, p. 127) Interpretation allows the media to focus on the portion of a story that they find most important, often leaving out other details they find unnecessary or damaging to their message.
While watching CNN, a network most Americans would agree is leans left, one would expect to see President Obama shown in a favorable light. A headline on CNN may read; “Obama Administration Takes Steps Forward on Iraq War.” This headline would be used to make it seem as though President Obama and his administration are making progress in Iraq. At the same time right leaning Fox News might run the headline; “Obama Failing In Iraq.” A headline such as this is chosen to make Obama look as though he doesn't have the leadership ability to serve as the Commander in Chief. The decision makers in media know who their audience is and will interpret news stories to fit their viewers political affiliations.
Elites express their “preferred political norms and values”...