Media Influences on Public Policy There is a strong tradition of independent newspapers, magazines, televisions, internet, radio and other forms of media publicizing varying opinions, both critical and supportive of government policy. Blogs and social networking sites also play an important role. For example the Obama campaign relied heavily on Facebook. The media serves a few important functions in influencing public policy. First, the media provides a forum for publishers and broadcasters (and their readers and listeners) to present editorial opinions that may influence others.
Many large newspapers, for example, endorse particular candidates for office or publish guest articles favoring one policy over another. By bringing the acts of public officials to light, educating the public about the issues, and deliberately favoring certain candidates and policies, the media can influence policy directly or, by shaping public opinion, indirectly. Second, the media reports facts and conducts independent analysis concerning public policy issues, thereby educating the public. Finally, policy makers are under constant scrutiny by the extensive media industry.
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Public officials realize that almost anything they say or do, even in private, may appear in the media, and so are reluctant to make decisions or perform acts that they would not want publicized. The media plays an important role in setting the public agenda by focusing public attention on selected issues, offering a forum in which opposing viewpoints are communicated, and holding government officials accountable to the public. Government officials use the media to communicate with the public.
The media also plays a great role in elections by identifying candidates, emphasizing selected issues, broadcasting different points of view, and writing editorials and creating political cartoons. In the vein of political theorists V. O. Keys, I believe that the validity of public opinion is only as good as what the media leads them to believe. Let’s take universal health care for instance, while the media writes article after article about the suffering of uninsured people, they never write an article asking taxpayers whether or not they are willing to forego an increase in payroll taxes to afford more care.
Thus, people mistakenly believe that somehow the federal government can afford universal health care without a payroll tax increase. I think the media has become so overly sensitive that we are either to intimidated or feel too guilty to talk about the needs of both low income and ordinary middle class people. I never see articles about low income seniors whose meals on wheels program is underfunded, or the low income single woman whose husband skips out on her without paying child support, and she’s earning only slightly above minimum wage, and still doesn’t qualify for government benefits.
The media needs to learn how to explain public policy to everyone at all income levels, in a contextual manner, so that citizens can get a clear idea of not just the policy, but the cause and effect of the policy’s spending over the long term. Works Cited 1. Essentials of American Government Roots and Reform, 2009 edition, Karen O Connor, Larry J. Sabato, Alixandra B. Yanus. 2. http://www. sagepub. com/upm-data/5238_Croteau_Chapter_3. pdf 3. http://www. progressiveliving. org/mass_media_and_politics. htm 4. http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/443975/the_influence_of_the_media_in_politics. html