Huntsman 1 Wendy Huntsman Carl Mickelsen Core 114 December 4, 2009 Socialized Media in America The First Amendment

ensures that the United States has the freedom of press . This gives citizens the right to distribute information without interference from the government. Despite this, it is often argued that the commercial press of the United States presents news that are similar to the news that a state-controlled media would produce. There are many reasons why this could be true. There are many ideals that are associated with the First Amendment. When one thinks of free press they might imagine a nation where the news aim to inform citizens about their government and examine whether or not it is operating in the common interests of the people. In a perfect world a free press could act as an additional check on the three branches of government. Sadly, this is not the case with the news of the United State‟s commercial media. Instead, the purpose of news in the United States is to produce a profit. The results of this are undesirable The main source of income of news companies comes from advertisers (Mickelsen). In order to sell advertising space, news companies must have an audience for their shows. As a result, the news becomes a form of entertainment in order to build and hold large audiences. This shapes how the news are constructed; for

Huntsman 2 instance, it determines what stories are presented. Rather than being chosen based on relevancy or meaning, stories are selected for their entertainment value. The stories are simplified, short, and often irrelevant. What is covered on television is usually determined by the availability of good footage (Mickelsen). The news are not meant to inspire thought. Time that should be spent covering politics and government is now spent on the coverage of violence or celebrities because these subjects will keep viewers more entertained. Another result of the purpose of news is that news companies strive to keep expenditure to a minimum. There are several ways that a news firm might do this First of all, news stories might follow formulas in order to increase the productivity of journalists. This is objectionable because real life does not follow a formula which means the stories citizens are being exposed to are not reflections of reality. This causes a problem because viewers think they are being informed when in actuality they are being led away from the truth. Furthermore, news companies often rely on information from sources outside their organization which are obtainable at little or no cost Video News Releases (VNRs) are a prime example of this. VNRs are prepackaged news stories that are provided to news firms by Public Relation firms (“Media Education Foundation”). We will discuss PR firms next. The mission of the PR industry is to influence news information and public policy. The PR industry is owned by the advertising industry, but news companies are often

Huntsman 3 clients of the PR firms. VNRs benefit both news companies and the PR firms. While news companies are able to produce cheap news stories using VNRs, the PR firms also benefit because they use to the VNRs to produce stories that are “…subtly slant ed to sell a clients' products and ideas while appearing to be „real‟ TV news” (Stauber and Rampton). The result of this is that viewers that think they are being presented with factual information are actually being exposed to propaganda without even knowing it. The PR firms use several techniques to make the information they are presenting seem factual. One of these techniques is third party advocacy. Third party advocacy occurs when someone who does not seem to be connected to the industry is used as an advocate for an issue (Stauber and Rampton). This technique is usually successful because people usually trust people they consider to be experts over people who are associated with the company that is advertising to them. Another method that PR firms use to manipulate is to set up a front group to advocate for their cause . These front groups are organizations that are meant to give the impression of being independent from the industry that they are controlled by. The PR firms supply us with propaganda in its finest- information that is meant to persuade while keeping its viewers in the dark . There are sources of broadcasting that provide more factual and nonbiased information. Unfortunately, these sources are not part of the mainstream media. The news companies that people are most familiar with are corporately owned. This means that voices that are heard are not those of average American citizens. This does not

Huntsman 4 reflect well on the US democracy and creates inherit problems. The fact that the corporations are profit seeking is one of the biggest problems, as we discussed earlier. Yet another problem with this is the ownership filter. The owners of the corporately owned media are usually rich and biased. Their interests have an impact on how the news are shaped. Also, the journalists that write the news stories often are reporting on their potential employers, thus have a biased influence on the way the story is expressed. This is a problem, but it only has an impact on the stories if the higher-ups allow it. So what exactly does this all have to do with the media in the United States being similar to that of a nation with state-controlled press? We have discussed that the most of the mainstream media is owned by corporations. Corporations are one of the big three institutions of the power elite, the other two being the military and the government. The power elite are all interlocked with each other, meaning they are all interdependent. The decisions made by the government affect the economy, which in turn affects the large corporations and the decisions of the corporation. C. Wright Mills put it well when he said “If there is government intervention in the corporate economy, so is there corporate intervention in the governmental process” (Mills). Since the US corporate media and government both rely on each other, we can assume that most of what is reported does not go against what the government wants . If corporations are behind the media, so is the government.

Huntsman 5 The United States commercial media is similar to what one would expect from a state-controlled media. Viewers are exposed to propaganda and simplified stories that lack context and rarely tell the whole truth. Furthermore, freedom of speech is weakened by commercial media because those who are not part of the power elite are often unable to make their voices heard. Many people think that because Americans are safe from propaganda because the media is free, which is a dangerous assumption. In order to have a truthful idea of what is going on in this country and the world people need to rely on sources other than commercial media and carefully evaluate the accuracy of the information they are exposed to using media literacy.

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