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PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University.

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Presentation on theme: "PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University."— Presentation transcript:

1 PO 111: INTRODUCTION TO AMERICAN POLITICS Summer I (2014) Claire Leavitt Boston University

2 TABLE OF CONTENTS Development of the Media: 19 th Century –What did a “free press” mean? –Pluralism and partisanship in American newspapers Development of the Media: 20 th Century –Newspapers  Radio  TV  Internet –The FCC and regulation of communications The Modern Media –Effects of media choice and diversity –Priming and framing –Problems with media tactics/culture (Patterson and Crouse)

3 THE MEDIA: 19 th CENTURY History of the media is a history of rapid adaptation to change Pamphlets most influential medium during colonial era (Common Sense) Rise of newspapers heralded with Federalist Papers Early mediums helped democratize politics, making politics accessible to the masses

4 THE EARLY PARTISAN PRESS Free Press: Freedom from government censorship, not from government influence Early newspapers were unapologetically partisan; relied on their party’s staying in power for profits/livelihoods Journalists were political figures and often party hacks

5 THE MOVE TOWARD AN INDEPENDENT PRESS Newspapers distanced themselves from political parties for economic reasons –Expanded readerships –Increased profits –Increased stability Advanced technology allowed newspapers to flourish without political support Media competition increased

6 MEDIA EXCEPTIONALISM Why was the American media able to resist government censorship? (Tocqueville) –Americans took a free press for granted (thanks to First Amendment protection) –Moves toward independence initiated by newspapers themselves –Media driven by market forces –US media was pluralistic (and thus stable)

7 RAPID CHANGES IN THE MEDIA The era of newspapers gave way to the dominance of radio Radio competition induced Congress to start regulating the media –Creation of the FCC in 1933 TV supplanted radio as dominant news source –Power of the “big three” networks –FCC’s “equal time” doctrine

8 THE INTERNET AGE The Internet has further democratized news Media choice has proliferated More choice in media = less informed populace overall Media presents more diverse ideological views than alternative sources of political information (i.e., neighbors, community members)

9 THE POWER OF THE MODERN MEDIA Media cannot change audience’s minds directly, but can shape their opinions indirectly –Priming: How important is a certain issue? –Framing: How should we think about a certain issue? Political campaigns can also prime voters and frame issues to shape opinions

10 PATTERSON’S CASE Primary-election reforms decreased the power of political parties No institution available to play the role the parties used to play (choosing nominees) The media steps in as the only source that helps people make sense of various candidates

11 PATTERSON’S CASE Media incentives ≠ voter incentives Voters care about solving problems; media cares about increasing its audience –Sensationalism –Focus on “gaffes” –Focus on horse-race quality of political campaigns

12 MEDIA CYNICISM What did Watergate do? –Demonstrated the importance of an independent media that would check government excess –Made media suspicion of political figures the norm Is media cynicism a good or bad thing for democracy?

13 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS What is the modern news media’s biggest problem? –Is it too hard on politicians? –Is it too easy on politicians? –Does it focus on the wrong things? What has to change?

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