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Comm 440, Spring 2013

As we have noted before, there are more than effects that concern political communication scholars.
They are also concerned with means of communication that most help maintain democratic system
practices and values, and also with the ethics of various forms of political interaction.
We tend to think of news media as conduits for political news that originates with leaders, candidates,
parties, and other political sources. This makes us tend to forget that the news media adding content to
the political content they convey. News making involves framing and interpretation of news involves
even more framing. As news media cover political activity, they become part of the activity.
Journalism has a historic role of informing people about politics as well as protecting people from
possible abuses by government and leaders. There is also a role for the expression of varying political
points of view. This role necessitates that journalism be independent from political influence or control.
A free press and news media that can fulfill their public missions are considered essential democratic
systems. McNair notes some important cultural differences in how societies organize their news media
as evidence with radio and TV. In the U.S., for example, broadcasting is developed commercial and
funded mainly by advertising (and consumer fees). In the former Soviet Union, and in the fascist states
of World War II (like Nazi Germany), broadcasting was the instrument of an authoritarian government
for total control of messages. In England, as in other European nations, broadcasting was conceived as a
means of serving public goods, with combinations of commercial and non-commercial funding.
New media sources such as Internet-based political sites raise differing views about how much diversity
is good in political communication. Should terrorists organizations, for example, be given a public sphere
to air their grievances? As McNair notes, traditional gatekeeping can censor important views, but it can
also act a means of assuring quality control.
McNair makes interesting observations about the concept of objectivity and impartiality. Are these
different? Some news media stress objectivity in news presentation while also allowing a diversity of
political views when views are allowed to air.
One reason for the strong agenda setting effects of news media for citizens is that the latter depend on
the former for information about politics. As McNair notes, there are many directions or forces
impinging on the agenda setting of the news. Politicians, advertisers, and even the media themselves
exert agenda setting pressures. With new media, citizens themselves also set agenda to some degree.
New media attention to certain issues can affect public attention and public opinion and also
government responses to the issues. Agenda are set for all political actors and they are set in more than
one way.







In a system of mutual agenda setting that McNair describes, political actors form their own agendas,
affect those of other actors, and are affected by other political actors.
Short-term media effects involve attitudinal or behavioral changes. Long-term political media effects
entail learning, processes of legitimation and consent building, and what Gramsci calls hegemony.
Gramscis argument says that when journalists help to build the hegemony that helps mainly the
wealthy and power in a society, they are no longer critical or committed to impartiality. Another say of
saying this is that when new media help a dominating political ideology that favors the most powerful of
a society and the leaders who work the interests of the same class of people, they are most likely
helping to teach that dominating ideology. Some scholars believe that this argument is too simplistic.
This is because elites (member of the most powerful class) are not fully unified in their political views.
While Daniel Boorstin began writing about pseudo-events in political communication back in 1962, such
contrived political events had gone as long as politics has lasted. With more rapid and continuous news
cycles, however, journalistic demand for such artificial content may be increasing.
It is possible that news audiences today are more concerned with truthfulness of content that with
either objectivity or impartiality?