Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Power of the Media

Has Obama become cocky in winning re-election? Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast seems to think so in his column entitled “Barack Obama’s Cockiness Problem in His Contest With Mitt Romney.”  Tomasky feels that it is ridiculous that Obama’s advisers are talking about how Arizona is in play, when recent polls give Romney up to an 11 point lead in the state. Tomasky is frightened by this kind of attitude because, as he points out, there are seven other states that are going to be difficult to defend victory in, let alone focus on flipping a historically Republican state to support a Democrat. Beyond Obama’s apparent cockiness, I’d also like to focus on a comment that Tomasky makes about the press’s coverage of the election. He writes, “The press won’t want a runaway race all summer, so it will manufacture a close contest even if Romney doesn’t have the wherewithal to provide one.”

I wonder if this statement bears any truth, and what the possible implications would be if it is indeed accurate. Does the media in America really hold this much power? I believe this is another grave consequence of the mass commercialization of the media industry.  We have seen throughout the semester the effects of having viewership and commercial drive media coverage. It leads the various media powerhouses to produce bias or slanted political news shows in order to increase their ratings and appease their audience. Yet, if this phenomenon has now spreads to general election coverage then this is a serious problem that must be addressed. We talk regularly about creating a more informed and educated electorate as a solution to the political gridlock in Washington. However if the medium to deliver political information is inherently tainted, how can we expect anything more from the average voter?


  1. Jared - Your post raises a number of really interesting issues. The one that jumped out most to me is the commercialization of the media. It's interesting: there are only really two options in terms of who can provide us with media. Either (1) it can be state sponsored (public) or it can be (2) commercialized (private). What's interesting is that there are inherent flaws with both. Obviously we don't want the government regulating the news (that leads to a host of problems). But it might also be true that we don't want the private market providing our news for many of the reasons you articulated above.

    What's the solution? I'm not sure. But it does lead me to conclude that in answer to your question about the media's power, that Yes, the American media is that powerful. The media very well might manufacture a competitive race if one doesn't exist on its own.

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  3. Jared, thanks for writing on this very important topic. The issue of media in politics is a very important one. The era of the 24 hour news cycle has changed everything, and we have been forced into an information overload. So how do we deal with this problem? Unfortunately, I don’t think we can. The problem is the media is the beacon of the first amendment. Regulating the media will be impossible, so the only thing that can be done is changing the people who are absorbing these different media outlets. Fundamentally, the problem here is education and the ability for individuals to perceive what is accurate information and what is opinion. However, this is a very difficult task. I do believe that there should more done to make it clear that media outlets have a social responsibility to report accurately, but again, there is no body in place that can really force accurate reporting. Further, any corrections that could be made would be indicated after the damage was done.