Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Media, Media, Media

The media has long been the main dispenser of news and information and the sole channel that connects the government to its citizens through constant relay of uninterrupted coverage that can either be presented as classified, unclassified, one-sided, or unbiased. According to D’Agostino (2011), the introduction of new media has been the cause of the marginalization of conventional varieties of media including print and television. Youth proclivity toward modern communication and the proliferation of the internet resulted in diminished demand for television and print media (D’Agostino, 2011). Baum and Kernell (1999) contend that growing demand for cable television and citizen dissatisfaction with the political system has resulted in presidents and presidential contenders losing a sizable number of viewers. In the past, heads of states relied heavily on prime-time television to convey their messages to their audiences though that has changed during the last 30 years.

The fall of prime-time television viewership started with the presidency of Ronald Reagan (Baum & Kernell, 1999). A 1969 prime-time television press conference conducted by Richard Nixon showed 59% of Americans owning television watching the event while in 1995, when Bill Clinton responded to a reporter regarding the relevancy of his leadership at a time when Republicans crafted what they termed as “Contract with America”, Nielsen Media Research found only 5.9% of the population tuning to the event (Baum & Kernell, 1999). While Fox News may be hostile to Obama’s policies, MSNBC is always on guard defending the president. 

Surprisingly, network television dissatisfaction with presidents have become so dire that the 42-second sound bites enjoyed by presidents in 1968 fell to a mere 7-second sound bite in 1996 (Baum & Kernell, 1999). In general, to the ordinary citizen, the media has come to be viewed as a destructive force that causes social dissection and political division. Network television and cable news networks are similar somehow in that both have become avenues for dispensing biased information that does not augur well with the general population. The advancement of information technology has enabled the public to view the media differently. In modern times, social media has taken over the role of network television and cable news to connect society to issues of national importance and also enhance social networking. Network TV and Cable have the tendency to increase coverage especially during presidential elections when competition for electoral superiority drag political party stalwarts to opposing directions. Despite the similarities and dissimilarities of the media in ideological concepts, opposing networks can be good sources for educating the mass and creating political awareness (Mutz, 2001).


Baum, M.A. & Kernell, M. (1999). Has cable ended the golden age of presidential television? American Political Science Review, Vol. 93, No. 1

D’Agostino, M. (2011). Reviving democracy through new and traditional media. Public Administration Review, 71 (2), 306-307.

Mutz, C.D. (2001). Facilitating communication across lines of political difference: The role of mass media. American Political Science Association, 95 (1) 97-114

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