If we grant that journalism has an influence on people's opinions, as suggested above, we might ask a new question here: How can news sources work to mitigate politicized influence and instead influence people to think more, think better, and otherwise build up intellectual tools in their audience? If influence is inevitable, how can we shape that influence toward a constructive end?
The media is everywhere and is very powerful. From the magazines, newspapers, commercials, billboards, Internet etc, the media is constantly sending us subliminal messages regarding many things in society. What products to buy, where to shop, where to vacation, and even perceptions about crime and sfatey are influenced by the media.
Recently major newspapers in America asked if they were biased. Even though 81 percent of the journalists across the country who were interviewed for a recent survey voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in every election since 1964, the Washington Post and other prominent cities' newspapers contended that they were not biased. In 2008, over 30 issues of Time magazine had covers with candidate O'Bama on the front. After the election, the executives from Time even admitted to swaying the electorate. There is no question that the printed page influences opinions throughout the country.
Photo journalism can greatly magnify a small incident and sensationalize it by taking it out of perspective. For instance, if only 100 people assemble, but the camera shoots from certain angles and from close up, a picture will provide the perspective of thousands of people. Another aspect of changing reality is the omission of information. For instance, when the current president of the U.S. said that his country has 57 states, this information was not repeated but once or twice. Had another president who was unpopular with the predominately Democratic media said this, the chances are that this gaff would have been repeated on networks all over the country.
As a further example, consider the case of President Nixon and Watergate. The break-in of Watergate was first printed on a back page of the Washington Post. Some follow-up on the story was made; however, it, too, sat on back pages. When Walter Cronkite, CBS anchorman at the time, examined this story, he felt that more investigation was warranted. As a renowned journalist, Cronkite brought this story to the public eye, and the rest, as they say "is history."
Does the media influence people's opinions? Surely, this is a rhetorical question. All one need do is watch the different news stations, then, read news on the Internet. Discernment of how one story can have several interpretations will soon come.
The media can influence us because they shape our reality. We do not typically know anything about the government or about most social problems until they are reported by the media. Then, what we know about them is essentially what the media tells us. In this sense, the media can shape our reality.