I have to agree that the media, in the broadest terms (news, television shows, movies, music), is highly influential. Regardless of the intent (stated or inferred), media "helps" people to make decisions about things as trivial as laundry detergent to things as important as elections.
Is this a rhetorical question? The media--be it news, sit-coms, movies, internet, etc.--can put a "spin" of almost anything. In films as far back as the 1950s there were subtle and some not-so-subtle persuasive techniques used to influence the thinking of the populace in the U.S. and other countries.
As an example of how the media treats different political parties, watch CNN News and then watch Fox News. There is a selectivity to what they present, and a certain slant How this news is presented by these liberal and conservative stations. And, as Post #4 mentions, what subject matter is even presented varies. If a president commits a faux pas, for example, it depends upon which party he is in with respect to how the press treats his error. For instance, one Repulbican vice-president was lampooned for a long time about his misspelling of potatoes while a Democratic president who thought there are 57 states in the U.S. had his mistake fade quickly from the public's notice.
The news media makes decisions every day about which events of the day are most newsworthy and therefore will make it into the 23 minute broadcast of the evening news. With that alone they are certainly influencing what Americans know and will be talking about the next day. While there are many 24 hours news stations on television, even they are continually deciding what to cover and how to cover it. As stated above, add a liberal or conservative slant to information and you most certainly can say that the media affects the people.
Much depends on how we define the term "media." If by "media" you mean the news media -- that is, sources of information that are supposed to provide factual information -- then they can be blamed if and when they present information they know to be false or untrue. If by "media" you mean sources of opinion, they should not be blamed if they simply try to influence opinion, although they should be blamed if they try to influence opinion by relying on information they know to be false or untrue.
In some cases, yes. Some media outlets are admittedly trying to influence people. These outlets are known to be liberal or conservative and are trying to put across that particular point of view. Outside of these outlets, though, I do not think that the media is actually trying to influence people's points of view. Instead, they are doing the things that will attract the most viewers or readers.