Over the years, the media has increased its influence on the governance structure in various countries, and it is difficult to overestimate its importance. Typically, the press, which has to be completely fair and objective, is used to pass critical information relating to the country’s main agendas to its citizens (Entman, 1989). The total honesty of the media, however, is not achieved yet, and there are several forms of biases arising from time to time within specific media channels (Marcinkowski & Starke, 2018). Unfortunately, since the connection between the government, the citizens, and the press is extremely strong, its biases and dishonesty usually have rather negative consequences that will also be mentioned in this study (Tella & Franceschelli, 2009). Eliminating prejudgment may help maintain people’s trust in and support of their government, as well as make the leaders of the country more thoughtful of the citizens (Marcinkowski & Starke, 2018). Furthermore, the purpose of this paper is to explore the ways the media connects and influences government and people and why it is of vital importance for this sphere to be objective, fair, and free of biases.
Overview of the Purpose of the Media
As mentioned above, the press appears to have a more significant role than merely informing people. According to Tella and Franceschelli (2009), having mass media is critical in ensuring accountability within the government, thus reducing mass scandals in politics. For instance, in many democracies, the press is tasked with passing objective information without any biases (Marcinkowski & Starke, 2018). Moreover, citizens need to have clear ideas regarding the leaders of their country, the real state of affairs, and the possible future of their homeland (Strömberg, 2015). Since there are few ways for all people to get this information, it is the purpose of the media to be a specific connection that transmits the necessary and relevant details. Marcinkowski and Starke (2018) notice that such awareness may influence citizens’ opinions about who they should vote for and trust. Therefore, it is possible to say that the media should help people be aware of the situation in the country and make the right choices based not on delusion but on the truth.
The Media Changes Some Details
Why Various Channels and Newspapers Have Different Views and Positions
When obtaining and transmitting critical information, the press should ensure that they use the right methods and remain objective, notwithstanding the essence of the situation or topic they describe. However, this is not mainly the case due to the fact that an extended number of media channels are used to transmit multiple information types (Strömberg, 2015). For instance, it is notable that several channels may talk about the same situation but in different words and from various points of view (Strömberg, 2015). It means that competing newspapers or news programs have adopted their own positions and tendencies when communicating the information to the general public (Marcinkowski & Starke, 2018). According to Besley and Prat (2006), mass channels can also put their political convictions (even if they are false) above the truth and present information in such a way that it basically corresponds to these views. What is more, certain political figures or parties may bribe TV channels to hide the truth and spread misconceptions (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). As a result, such a difference has led to various limitations during reporting, critical misinformation, and distortion.
What is more, the press influence arises mainly due to ideologies, while some may happen to get financial incentives. For instance, some mass media may twist their content in favor of the government in order to gain financial incentives through advertisements (Tella & Franceschelli, 2009). In many countries, the government is the biggest advertiser, and this poses a severe issue to significant media houses since they have to disseminate information required by the ruling class.
De-Emphasizing the Information
The media also helps in de-emphasizing the information passed to the public. For instance, the government may want to use newspapers and TV channels to downplay some stories and facts that they may consider damaging to the national reputation (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). This is achieved by ensuring that the press omits critical data, thus altering the reality. This method is mainly used when leaders need to disrupt or corrupt existing evidence relating to their actions (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). Therefore, mass media ends up misleading the public about the reality of things within the country. Nevertheless, the government is welcome to use this strategy in situations where it helps in promoting privacy on critical information (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). For instance, the leaders may not want to disclose various security details to the public. In such a case, the method would help increase the country’s security and unity among its citizens.
Why the Media Should Maintain Freedom from Government
Undoubtedly, it is hard to believe the media if one is not sure about its impartiality, relevance, honesty, and objectiveness. Indeed, the press should always be viewed as independent making it difficult for the government to curtail its freedom in giving critical information to the public (Marcinkowski & Starke, 2018). In this regard, the media should be able to freely outsource news from credible outlets and ensure that the citizens know how people in the governance structure are conducting their duties. That is why there is a need to ensure that the leaders of the country do not maintain cozy relationships with the press (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). Otherwise, as mentioned above, this sphere can be used to influence the nature of news content being passed to the public.
Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, the media may be captured by the ruling class that starts using newspapers and channels to get favorable political outcomes. Media capture is dangerous and does not help safeguard the country’s democracy, so it is essential to ensure that the freedoms of this sphere are provided and respected (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). According to Besley & Prat (2006), such measures that lead to the independence of channels and newspapers help ensure that the media plays an oversight role by checking on and controlling what is being done in the governance structure. For this to be achieved, certain steps should be made.
Achieving and Maintaining the Independence of the Media
Typically, newspapers’ and TV channels’ freedoms are established by having a vast number of media organizations. In such cases, each media organization has its own way of finding, working with, and transmitting information relating to the government’s projects. Mass media stations may conduct independent research and bring contradictory data (Entman, 1989). According to Gehlbach & Sonin (2011), these measures force the government to disclose factual information about what is happening within the country. Therefore, this makes it rather challenging for the ruling class to control the content within certain newspapers. Strömberg (2015) states that the public ends up being informed about various situations and their true circumstances, consequences, and participants. For instance, the mass media can expose scandals within the government by creating multiple publications, which makes it almost impossible for the leaders to conceal the truth (Tella & Franceschelli, 2009). This move is critical towards ensuring that people hold the state accountable for the actions undertaken.
Crucial Influence of the Media on Elections
As mentioned above, the press, among other things, plays a crucial role in modern democracies. It is general that the ruling class uses TV channels and newspapers to achieve specific political outcomes and objectives (Esipisu & Khaguli, 2009). For instance, on some occasions, mass media provides voters with information relating to policymaking. According to Ansolabehere et al. (1991), such knowledge is vital since it influences citizens towards making individual decisions during the election period. However, if the news and editorial contents are skewed in favor of particular candidates, thus affecting and sometimes changing the voters’ opinions, it is another bias. On the one hand, if the media is only observing the participants of the elections without demonstrating and spreading any prejudgment, it may positively influence the process (Esipisu & Khaguli, 2009). On the other hand, if a newspaper is bribed by specific candidates and unobtrusively makes people vote for them, it is a reason for doubting the trustworthiness of the media. This bias is a serious concern to many citizens, including political and social commentators who represent the different sides of the political spectrum.
The Importance of Conducting Investigative Reporting on the Government
It is hard to disagree that mass media faces various difficulties when conducting investigative reporting on the government. However, according to Tella and Franceschelli (2009), mass media’s investigative reporting in some instances is integral to promoting accountability within the government. As a result, press reporting is attributed to a lower number of corruption cases in the country, which enhances people’s support of and trust in their leaders (Tella & Franceschelli, 2009). It is also vital to notice that the government places massive significance on viewership, especially when in need of citizen mobilization. Therefore, the ruling class increases advertisement on the state-owned media stations to attract more viewership, and it is another proof of the press connecting the ruling class and the citizens. Based on research, having a high viewership is critical for reducing government corruption (Tella & Franceschelli, 2009). This move also ensures that the government gets a favorable political outcome, especially during the election period.
Applying the Information Processing Theory
Though the media is a strong link between people and government, citizens should not merely accept everything transmitted from the newspapers. According to McLeod (2008), the information processing theory studies the ways a person’s brain filters perceived information based on its trustworthiness and relevance. People’s cognitive processes, including perception, logical reasoning, sense of judgment, and thinking, decide what data is worth saving from sensory memory to short-term and then long-term one (McLeod, 2008). Many people tend to be selective in the information they receive from various media outlets and choose whether to believe and save particular ideas in their memory (Entman, 1989). However, there are persons who have weak cognitive processes and may be extremely influenced by the government through the media.
Applying Agenda-Setting Theory
To continue connecting people and government, the press also applies agenda-setting theory. According to researchers, this theory “refers to how the media’s news coverage determines which issues become the focus of public attention” (“The agenda-setting theory in mass communication,” 2018, para. 4). This approach’s basic assumption is that, instead of simply reflecting stories to the audience, the press shapes and filters what people see (“The agenda-setting theory in mass communication,” 2018). Another idea of this theory is that “the more attention the media gives to an issue, the more likely the public will consider that issue to be important” (“The agenda-setting theory in mass communication,” 2018, para. 9). Governments may sometimes make the media divert people’s attention from a serious problem by creating a less important agenda (Gehlbach & Sonin, 2011). Therefore, agenda-setting theory explains another reason why it is not always reasonable to trust everything published in newspapers or said on TV.
Critical Evaluation and Further Studies
There are several elements that require a critical evaluation and further studies. To begin with, the investigation process of watchdog journalism should be explored and promoted (Berry, 2009). Further research shall ensure that it is always possible for the media to check whether the government performs the roles and responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner. The press shall also play the role of conducting an audit of the government performance, ensuring the body is capturing the set objectives set for the general public within its given jurisdiction.
Moreover, the goal of a watchdog is to take a keen interest in the efficiencies and barriers the government is facing, as well as provide alternatives and solutions to meet goals that mainly benefit the citizens. The transparency in government operations and procedures should be directed toward having a non-influential system (Berry, 2009). This system should allow a government institution or a setup system to provide factual and quality information regarding the leaders’ performance and operations, respectively, and there is much space for further improvements (Berry, 2009). The protocol and research in achieving the set objective shall lead to the credibility of the government toward its people and the surrounding communities (Berry, 2009). In addition, such valuable data shall lead to the attraction of foreign investors, as well as treaties that link the country to other states in the form of trade or philanthropic ventures benefiting the country as a whole.
To draw a conclusion, one can admit that the media is an indispensable part of modern life though there are some disadvantages in its relationships with the government and people. The fact that precisely the mass media connects the leaders of the country with its citizens is undeniable. Every report and every comment read in newspapers or heard on TV may significantly affect people’s behavior and attitude towards the ruling class. However, it is essential for the press to stay honest and unbiased so that it can maintain its great power of allowing the leaders and the public have an effect on each other. Otherwise, the mass media may lose people’s trust and attention, and the connection between government and citizens may also be broken, which will lead to various severe circumstances.
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