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There are at least two major points of view on this issue.
One point of view holds that the media are indeed an effective check on government action. Mass media outlets continually challenge the government on various issues. They "break" things like major government scandals. They put pressure on the government to justify itself when it does things that may be controversial (for example, there have been recent articles questioning the legality of targeted killings of suspected terrorists through the use of "drones").
Another point of view holds that the media is too closely tied to the government to truly act as an effective check. This school of thought would point to such things as the fact that media is dependent on government sources for much of its news. They point out that the media will not truly challenge what government is doing because they fear losing their access to insider sources.
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