This essay aims to have an understanding of the functions of the media. The development of technology leads to a rapid development in the forms of media. While people were merely able to learn about news events through the newspaper, we can now get access to reports through the Internet. While some people worry that media are powerful and biased, and people can believe in anything reported by them, others do not worry about that. From my perspective, I agree that news media are powerful, but they are not biased, and people can hardly believe what they say easily.
Before furtherly going on, it is crucial to define media. Media are tools used to store and deliver information. They are mighty because news media has a vital role in modern society.
First, the media serve as a platform of advocation. As individualism gradually develops over the past few centuries, the ties between each individual is diminishing (Tocqueville, 1835). As a result, people choose to shift their attention to themselves. This trend does bring people more personal freedom. However, it also brings more inconvenience. If someone were looking for help from some other people, it would be time-consuming to argue with them one by one (Tocqueville, 1835).
Then, the media serves to unify people with similar political perspectives. As I mentioned, the development of individualism diminishes ties between individuals. The increased number of people in different countries diminishes the importance of each individual even further. Then, it would be essential to unify individuals to take collective actions to affect the public realm. For instance, if someone wants to raise a strike to ask for more wages, the use of media allows people to learn about this idea without talking in person with the initiator.
The third effect of media is to allow people to engage in local affairs. Federalism profoundly influences the United States. As federalism creates a division of power between the regional government and the central government, people have to care about not only the places they live but also what happened to the state and the country (Tocqueville, 1835). Media concentrating on different affairs creates a channel between individuals and information. They can learn about local and national affairs without walking a long way (Tocqueville, 1835).
Though I do agree that media are influential in our daily lives, they might not be as biased as people think. First, different media have their political perspectives. Since people with similar ideas constitute news agencies, they would inevitably use specific ways to interpret facts (Robinson, 2019). For instance, Fox News is a news agency that holds right-wing value and strongly supports the Republican Party (Media Bias Fact Check, 2020). As a result, it tends to compliment Trump for his policies against coronavirus. New York Times, on the other hand, is a newspaper that holds left-wing value and strongly supports the Democrat. It tends to criticize his policies (Media Bias Fact Check, 2020).
The second thing is that the development of technology makes it easier for people to learn about different perspectives. Apart from reading newspapers, people can listen to the radio or watch TV. The Internet provides even more possibilities. The algorithm of the search engines (e.g. Google) provides users with multiple sources of news. This invention increases the possibility for individuals to keep in touch with multiple individuals. If someone was tired out of Fox News, he or she might choose to read CNN or New York Times. This trivial change might eventually change individuals’ minds and make them more inclusive of different opinions.
The third thing is that after hundreds of years of development, there is a set of codes and rules to regulate the news industry. For journalists, by the time they enter the news industry, they have to obey the Code of Ethics. There are four general rules in it, which are ‘Seek Truth and Report It,’ ‘Minimize Harm,’ ‘Act Independently,’ and ‘Be Accountable and Transparent’ (Society of Professional Journalists, 2014). Those rules are the sum of the experiences of the predecessors. At the same time, they point out the responsibility of journalists.
As the United States uses case law instead of statutory law, it does not have a specific Press Law (HISTORY, 2017). Thus, the only guidance on the media is from the Constitution. The First Amendment of the Constitution regulates that Congress should not make any law to restrict freedom of speech or the press (We the People, 1787). Though the Amendment reduces the intervention from the government to the least extent, there seems not to be a clear border between the freedom of the press and the violation of individuals’ fame.
The unique judiciary system of the United States provides this problem with a possible solution. The United States implements case law when making judgments. Instead of following specific legal provisions, courts usually follow legal precedents to make judgments (Michelle,2016). At the same time, later judgments can challenge precedents (Gibanowski, 2016). Though there is not a clear border between the freedom of speech and violation of individuals’ fame, the legal system allows a conversation between the will of the government and the people.
Of course, I do not deny that today’s news industry has problems. When taking a retrospect at 2016, many audiences, agreed that news agencies reported too much about Donald Trump (Hershey, 2017). The analyses on the percentage of the news coverage and the polling results revealed that the disproportional report on the news coverage imposed a substantial effect on the general public’s view on Donald Trump (Hershey, 2017). It seemed that existing media is gradually becoming a threat to democracy. For me, I do not think that this situation would last for a long time. The Yellow Journalism Period (Britannica,2019) has proved that the free market of media will eventually eliminate those news agencies merely reporting sensational news. At the same time, human beings can learn from past experiences and avoid the same mistakes from happening again.
In all, I agree that media is powerful, as media serves as a platform of advocation, as a way to unify individuals, a way to maintain the democratic regime. I do not agree that media are biased, and people will believe in anything they say because different media have their perspectives, the development of technology makes it possible for individuals to accept different perspectives. The judiciary system has enough regulation in the news industry.
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Robinson, Nathan. 2019. “Media Bias Is OK – If It’s Honest | Nathan Robinson.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/sep/10/media-bias-is-ok-if-its-honest (April 22, 2020).
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