Explain why the media is so influential in influencing public opinion. Discuss the positive and negative effects of this bias.

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The media sometimes influences public opinion by reporting public opinion. One of my mom's favorite stories involves the first election she planned to vote. She had never been politically active, and my father had finally talked her into it. On the way to the polling place, the results were announced....

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The media sometimes influences public opinion by reporting public opinion. One of my mom's favorite stories involves the first election she planned to vote. She had never been politically active, and my father had finally talked her into it. On the way to the polling place, the results were announced. At least that's the way she tells it. They lived in California, so what she heard was actually the eastern poll projections. Still, she never voted again.
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The media is the basis upon which we hear news regarding most everything that is going on in the world. There are many ways that the news is presented to the public such as television, internet, etc. We are really only hearing the point of view that the media presents to us. Unfortunately, sometimes it is biased.

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Media is the everyday persons only source of information from around the country or the world. If you live in a rural area you are dependent upon television, newspapers, radio or internet to keep up with all that goes on in the country. You have to be careful what outlets you listen to because they all seem to put their own spin on the story. The best way to avoid these biases is to get information from multiple sources and try to find the truth for yourself through those multiple sources.

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The ubiquity of television and telephones, and soon the internet, have contributed to the power of the media to influence consumers. Virtually every citizen in every developed country has access to a television and a cell phone. Pervasive access to television has led to the rise of 24-hour programming. When I was a child in the early 1960s in the United States, we had three network channels and PBS. Cable was not yet available in the rural are where I lived. My own children, who were born in the late 1980s, have had cable and satellite television access since birth. They have never known what it is like without cell phones. They interact with peers via cell phones, internet, and social media like Facebook. The media pervades every aspect of their lives.

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The most negative aspect of the media is that it controls what the public perceives and hears about.  European and Asian exchange students in my area, for instance, often ask why Americans receive little or no real world news.  There is a major network that has an evening program that is supposed to deal with world news, but little other than the mid-East is discussed. The magazine that is named for world news also gives only a select report on select parts of the world. 

Major newspapers in the United States are owned by certain people who control the slant of the news, again.  One need only look at the treatment of presidents such as Richard Nixon whose conduct was throughout his life constantly under the miscroscope and compare it to the investigations on other congressmen and presidents who have had less than ethical careers themselves. One such example is the senator from and Eastern state who undoubtedly committed murder as a young man, yet he was lauded throughout the media after his death.

The presidential elections are perfect examples of the bias of the media.  In fact, Time magazine's editors even admitted to having influence the past election because of their front covers that presented one particular candidate a multitude of times. In another example of news bias, when citizens went to Washington to protest the proposed health care bill, it was reported to the public that a few thousand attended when later it was revealed that actually millions of citizens had gone.

Photographs are good at creating bias, also.  Depending upon the angle of the camera, a small group can seem like more people, or many people's picture can be cropped to appear smaller.  So often, programs that are decidedly conservative invite prominent guests whose views are conservative, as do liberal programs. Frequently, people of one side or another watch programs that reinforce their beliefs so that they feel justified in what they believe.  Regular television shows even affect people's ideas about human relationships, race relationships, and morality.  "Sex and the City" and like shows condone behavior heretofore scorned in the America of earlier days.

There are groups that work behind the scenes to expose these biases of the media.  Judicial Watch is one such group that prints information withheld by mainstream media. Currently, they are working on an issue that may go before the Supreme Court before it is over.

To read a University of Pennsyvania report on "The Effect of the News Media Environment on Citizen Knowledge of State Politics" see the site listed below.

 

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The media is so influential for various reasons. First, there is the sheer amount of media presence that one needs to consider. For example advertising is everywhere - TV, Radio, Internet, Billboards, etc. Second, there is great amount of research that goes into media presentation. They know the people's tastes, desires, and fears and they manipulate it. Now for the question about whether it is positive or negative. I would say that it is mostly negative, because in the end it is all about money and not about the welfare of people. So, if it is about money, then they will tweak the truth and have an angle for the sake profit.

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The media has so much influence over our opinions because we know essentially nothing other than what we hear from them.  For example, I have never seen President Obama nor do I know anyone who has.  So my only knowledge of his existence, let alone what his policies are, comes from the media.  Because I only know what they tell me, of course they affect my opinion.

The only possible positive effect of bias in the media is that it makes it easier for people to know which news outlets they want to listen to.  Assuming you know what your biases are, you can look for outlets that tell you what you want to hear. This may make people more likely to listen to news (if they are listening to people who agree with them).  This is a stretch, but you asked for positive effects...

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There are classes, seminars, workshops, and books devoted to this subject.  Be prepared to engage in a process of reflection about this topic.  The media is so influential in shaping public opinion in a variety of ways.  One way is because individuals feel that they receive more information from media outlets than on their own and in this process, there is a level of trust that the public places in the media.  It is this element of trust that allows influence to become evident. We see this we hear, "I trust CNN because..." or "I trust MSNBC because..." At these moments, individuals place their trust in an organization, and this allows shaping and molding of opinion to happen.  Another reason why the media is so influential is because the public feels that the media is "the fourth branch "of government which helps to keep institutions honest and more accountable.  If there is a distrust of business institutions or authority figures, the media is seen as a public watchdog, whose primary function is to shed light on that which transpires in darkness.  On a more sinister level, one can argue that individuals' trust in the media might be due to ignorance, and the belief that the media can be "enlightening" because they are "representing the truth."  Within each of these contain positive and negative elements.  However, one overwhelming negative element could be that the images, iconography, and bias of media organizations might be able to enter the viewer or reader without a sense of filter.  If the public is so trusting of the media, then it might not be able to discern the political agendas, predispositions, and points of view that temper everything, including media coverage.

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