The media has immense power within the American democracy because just about all Americans get their news from the media rather than from other people or other sources. Media coverage shapes how Americans perceive the world and what they consider to be important. Voters and politicians alike must pay attention to the media. In the American political system, the media perform a number of functions important to the democratic process. The media reports the news, serves as an intermediary between the government and the people, helps determine which issues should be discussed, and keeps people actively involved in society and politics.

Reporting the News

Perhaps the most important role of the media in politics is to report the news. As noted above, the vast majority of people must trust the media to provide them with information. Democracy requires that citizens be informed because they must be able to make educated voting choices.

Types of Reporting

For much of American history (until the early twentieth century), most news media were clearly and openly biased. Many newspapers, for example, were simply the voices of the political parties. This type of journalism is called partisan journalism. Other newspapers practiced yellow journalism, reporting shocking and sordid stories in order to attract readers and sell more papers. Objective reporting (also called descriptive reporting) did not appear until the early twentieth century. Newspaper publishers such as Adolph Ochs of the New York Times championed objective journalism and praised reporters for simply reporting the facts. Although most journalists today still practice objective journalism, more and more are beginning to analyze and interpret the material they present, a practice called interpretive reporting.

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