Media in the Political System Overview
Media in the political system are forms of communication facilitating the production, propagation, and exchange of political views with the help of networks providing opportunities for engagement and cooperation. The system has numerous purposes in a democratic society, including informing the public by providing them with the information necessary for understanding policy. The media is supposed to check the actions of the government and gather issues to be discussed by the citizens. They also help people to work with societal problems, trying to attract attention to arising questions. A modern media environment is developing at a breathtaking pace. Its power is often unanticipated, as it has serious consequences for politics and governance. The communication sources of today have drastically changed the way politicians communicate, the manner of elections conduction, and the people engagement. The influence of media on politics is huge, however, depending on the circumstances, the impact can be both positive and negative.
The media in the United States commenced to change rapidly since the end of the XX century when entertainment platforms, such as television, radio, and newspapers began to participate in political life. Bill Clinton was the first president to come to a talk show to entertain and attract the attention of public by playing the saxophone. The next phase in the development of modern media occurred with the application of emerging digital technologies, which provided opportunities for new ways of content delivery. Political media platforms added interactive features, such as discussion boards and blogs, to their sites. It made the public more involved in politics and it drastically changed the role of journalists. The last phase in the evolution of media is connected the with digital campaign used by Barack Obama during the election of 2008. The future president’s team used every media source to create a unique political movement. They collected information about people’s political preferences by using social media in order to create messages, aimed at attracting different social groups. It was the last phase, which made media influence politics the way people see it today.
The rise of media significance has complicated the political system as legacy media, such as newspaper, radio, and television, compete with new sources of information, which appeared due to a technological advance. New resources, such as websites, blogs, and social media, can quickly deliver information directly to the audience. However, it demonstrated an increased level of instability and suddenness, which may have negative influence on the political communication processes. This impact of social media can include even intentional disinformation, thus, making these sources unreliable. The audience has to try hard in order to distinguish facts from fiction. It happens because the content in most social media can be posted with no verification or editorial check procedure. Moreover, individuals without special education in journalism can attract many users. To give one example, one can recall the election campaign of 2016, during which media accounts were overloaded with misinformation and numerous rumors and lies. All these facts distract the attention from important issues related to policy, and governance.
New media have seriously changed the traditional roles of the press in society. On one hand, they have increased the target audience of political information, as now it can reach even the citizens who are not interested in these issues. Moreover, they allow creation digital public spaces where people can openly share their views and opinions. Some experts suggest that new media sources are eliminating the distance between journalists and the public by giving voice to all the people, even those who had a feeling of being left out. As the public has always had difficulties with distinguishing relevant news about policy issues from unimportant information, the work of journalists became more insightful than in the past, due to the availability of government archives.
The media plays an important part in politics, as voters need information to make their decisions, and journalists must give them all the necessary data. In fact, their influence for the elections is much bigger than that of political debates, as supposedly, they impact the decision of no more than 10% of voters. However, even though the debate does not change minds, their media coverage does it. There are proofs that the outcome of elections can be seriously influenced by the press. First of all, journalists choose which candidates to cover and what amount of information on them to provide. These decisions can have a huge impact on voter perceptions. For instance, Trump in the elections of 2016 had the biggest media coverage, and it played an important part in his victory.
Another reason to assume media impact is that social networks provide direct access to candidates. In the past, politicians used their official representatives or made appearances on television. Now, they use platforms like Twitter or Facebook to communicate with potential voters and claim their positions. Moreover, by using these sources of communication, candidates have total control over the images they create for themselves, thus, manipulating the audience. For example, former Democratic presidential adversary Pete Buttigieg showed his followers in Twitter shelter dogs, which he cares for, what attracted attention of a certain audience.
One more factor of such a huge influence of media is a wide usage of pictures. Different channels use various methods to catch the people’s interest on the election with the help of images. For example, when Hilary Clinton was nominated as the first female candidate in history, newspapers reacted differently. Some of them attached a photograph where the woman was in her favorable light, others put an image of her husband, while certain sources used Donald Trump’s picture. All the published images are saved forever in the Internet, thus, allowing people to prove the occurrences of certain happenings.
Apart from a traditional media sources, there is also a notion of alternative or independent media. They claim to enjoy the freedom of press and be free from government control. These sources are usually non-commercial, and aimed at helping people whose interests are excluded from the mainstream campaigns, such as ethnic minorities, or LGBT communities. These movements provoke many political disputes, as they are independent and not-controlled by the authorities, thus, it is impossible to verify the information they provide, and it is almost impossible to estimate possible consequences of their interference.
In conclusion, media plays an important role in the politics, and can seriously influence the outcome of elections. The sources existing today give a huge potential for providing political information to a wider audience. Modern media allow creating online spaces where people can openly share their opinions and even communicate with candidates. However, there are certain negative points caused by a big percentage of fake information, as many sources are not controlled by the government, and provided data is often not properly verified. It adds complexity to politics and confuses people who always have difficulties with identifying false content. Nevertheless, the work of journalists is essential, especially now, when there is an access to a huge amount of data, even from government archives.