I would agree with post 5 that the media often present an oversimplified version of events or they introduce a sort of journalistic bias that changes the way we see the events. When we gather information through the media, we are often only presented with one view of events. This can shape the way we think about said events. We might be missing the bigger picture. The media can also shape what events we think are important. Even the national news channels don't often present major events occurring around the world. We sometimes miss key events or miss key points because the media presentation of those events is lopsided.
For me, and I'm talking only about the news media here, the problem is that the media tend to present a very flattened, often simplistic version of very complex issues. Whether we are talking about Supreme Court decisions or issues of global diplomacy, we are usually treated to a thirty second synopsis of the issue followed by a much longer debate between two people spouting talking points. In newspapers, we often get truncated wire stories that are bereft of any serious analysis beyond a few blurbs. So this makes us susceptible to claims by politicians, who invariably assure us that our problems are simple, and have simple solutions.
The example of crime in the second post is a good one for this discussion. Our view of how safe or how dangerous our neighborhoods are will be shaped by media, from news to film.
The same holds true for other examples of "life as presented through media", where people at large will reflexively compare their own lives to the lives they see depicted in the media.
If you watch documentaries on poverty in America, you may begin to think that 1) you and your family are actually doing very well compared to those who are living in poverty and 2) America is a rather poor country. Alternatively, if you watch documentaries on the wealthy you might come to the opposite conclusions about yourself and America.
This is simply to say that the media provides us not only with information but with reference point which we use to define our social position.
Well, one observation that I have made is that my students (I teach middle school) live and breathe their TV shows they watch; and many of them use those same shows to help define their own social interactions. If they don't know how to respond to their boyfriend breaking up with them, they might not feel comfortable having a difficult conversation with their parents about the situation, but they could definitely watch their favorite show and see whatthatcharacter did in the same situation. Media has become the social instructor of our youth.
The media can shape our conception of reality because they provide us with most of our understanding of what reality is like.
One classic example of this has to do with the impact of media on our ideas about crime. Most of our information about crime in the United States comes from the media. We base our ideas about how much crime there is largely on how many reports of crime we see on TV and in newspapers. Because the media like crime stories (because the stories are dramatic and easy to understand), we get skewed ideas about how much crime there is. Therefore, we have instances where crime is going down while social concern about crime goes up.