Describe the legal and social constraints "patriotism of the audience" puts on journalists?

4 Answers | Add Yours

ktmagalia's profile pic

ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

With any  communication, writers must first take into consideration both the purpose of the communication and their audience.  And audience will drive the delivery of the subject matter and the tone of the delivery.  I can't see how a journalist would be constrained "legally" due to the patriotism of the audience, but I can see how a journalist could be influenced socially by a particular audience.

For example, just this weekend, a veteran sang the fourth verse of the Star Spangled to an unexpecting audience: young and old. Not many know that the Star Spangled Banner has a fourth verse (celebrating God's influence in the creation of our country and independence), but apparently the singing veteran discovered it in his family's old Bible. Not many in the crowd recognized the song, at first. The older veterans sprang to their feet almost immediately as they recognized our national anthem.  Now, a journalist covering this occasion, would have to carefully craft questions to this highly patriotic group (comprised of many U.S. veterans) of Christians, and his or her reporting would emphasize different elements of the event depending on intended audience.  Fox News most likely highlighted the Christian values and patriotism displayed by the singer, whereas MSNBC most likely placed emphasis on the fact that the fourth stanza of the Star Spangled Banner was virtually unknown to most Americans in attendance.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

At least in the United States, patriotism of the audience does not put any legal constraints on journalists, but may certainly put social (and, more to the point, economic) constraints on them.

In the United States, there is no legal action that can be taken against journalists for failing to be patriotic enough.  Journalists may express opinions that many people consider to be treasonous or at the very least anti-American.

The problem for journalists comes from the fact that their outlets (especially now) are struggling for customers.  This means that they cannot afford to disseminate content that will anger patriotic audiences.  This puts pressure on journalists to report stories and express opinions that will be popular so that their outlets will not lose market share.

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I think that being able to consult a text or in class resource such as instructor's notes or ideas might be a very good first step in constructing this paragraph.  Few, if any, would be able to do it for you in a worthwhile manner without this guiding structure.  I preface any comments with this.  I think it can be argued from a social point of view that the function of the journalist might be to transcend this constraint of the patriotism of the audience.  As the journalist assesses whether or not a story is newsworthy and whether or not there is a public interest involve, I see these assessments exist on a level outside of the sphere of the "patriotism of the audience."  When news organizations and journalists succumb to this aspect, I don't see it as a constraint as much as a failure.  For example, in the days after the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration was advocating in a very intense manner for the passage of the Patriot Act and the expanded scope for law enforcement officers.  Caught between the grieving of the nation for its loss suffered in these brutal attacks and the challenges to privacy issues and Constitutionality, the media was placed in a position where "the patriotism of the audience" was in full view.  Organizations and journalists that did not report about the Constitutionality of such measures as well as the threats to individual privacy failed, in my mind, to provide the whole story to the public.  Organizations and journalists that failed to discuss at a critical moment how our nation's ideals do not have to be handicapped by our fear and melancholy dropped the ball at this moment, in my thinking.  I don't see this failure as a constraint that the audience places on journalists or news organizations that causes them to not do their job, but rather a condition that must be transcended.

Top Answer

lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

If a journalist is reporting about or reporting something to a very patriotic group, he must take into consideration his own integrity and the integrity of the media company (newspaper or TV) he represents. For example, if he is a reporter from a local news channel sent to report on a military funeral, he knows up front that the people are probably going to be pretty patriotic, so he would not want to make any negative comments about the war, even if he personally is opposed to the war. This puts a constrain on him because he may feel like saying, "Don't you think your son died in vain over in Iraq?" and that would anger the audience and show lack of sensitivity on his part. Plus, it would lead this audience to believe that the news agency he represented was biased. So he restrains himself from acting on his own opinions.

I can give you an example. I am in a group for military mothers. My son is in the Navy. Most of the mothers in our group have sons and daughters that are deployed all over the world and in danger. Recently, we were asked by the local news if they could send someone to report on our packing boxes for troops activity. Most of the women in the group did NOT want the news reporter to be present because, in their view, the media is biased against the military and against the war. I am the media liaison, so I had to discuss this with the reporter at length before we agreed to let him film us. In the end, he presented his report in a very fair and unbiased way, but in talking to him personally, he shared his true feelings, which he kept in check both while he was interviewing us and in the final report that aired. Our group put the constraints on him and he agreed to them.

We’ve answered 317,814 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question