The Role of the Media as the Fourth Estate

The media plays such a major role in watching over society that it is referred at the fourth estate. The media is the primary source of information for Americans (The media in united states para. 5)The media is guarded by the constitution in the first amendment which states the congress is not allowed to make any laws that will infringe on the freedom of the press. As a watchdog, the media informs the people on what the government intends to do and what it is doing. Scholars have questioned if this is really true. This paper covers incidences of media bias, effects of media bias, and causes of media bias.

To understand media bias it is important to understand how the media environment is. The media as it is known today started in 1690 with the publishing of newspapers in 1690. This was followed by commercial radio in the 20th century. Television came after World War II. Americans can now rely on these many forms of media. The media has now grown with an audience outside the US being able to access these media because of satellite and online newspapers and magazines which can be accessed anywhere in the world. Media bias is difficult for US citizens to detect compared to those outside the US. This is because the media is because of omissions, inaccuracy, distortion, and bias in the mainstream media (Shah para. 3).

Media bias is usually done by selection or stories that cover the side the media, government, or the viewer see favorable. Other methods include the use of extensive coverage on an issue at the expense of other stories, giving partial facts, and pretending that the course of action of events is for the good of the nation. The media plays a major role in politics and government; it acts like between the government and the governed. In reality, we never meet politicians face to face but the media tells us about them then we begin to form opinions, likes and dislikes about them. The media helps Americans form opinions about government decisions and political parties.

Politicians rely on the media to reach potential voters. The politicians usually plan how they will maximum media use by planning with their consultants on how to impact viewers, listeners or readers. However, there are some cases that media influence does not affect viewers, for example, commercials aired right before election time. This is because most viewers have already formed an opinion.

There are forms of media bias identified in the US media are liberal, conservative, mainstream and corporate bias. Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist has observed that most reporters are democrats. This means that news slightly slants towards the democrats. The only exceptions found in his research were The Washington Times and Fox News’s “Special Report with Brit Hume”. The US media is pro-government biased (Gongol para. 3). This means they tend to like the government but it is important to note that they do not like politicians. The media [puts more focus on presidents compared to county clerks. Media also prefers political campaigns to the government press. (Frankie pp. 109-121).

The US media has been commonly accused of liberal bias with observers in and outside the US. The newsroom is filled with liberal journalists who promote their views on gay rights and abortion (Rothman, Litchter and Litcher p.8). They also say that the journalists’ views on controversial issues were their personal attitudes. Those who oppose this view are seen as outcasts or a person who is denying people choices; they also try to glorify the gay community. Another form of media bias is corporate bias whereby the media selects what is to be aired according to its own preference. An example is the refusal of southern media refusal to air programs with racially mixed casts in the1960’s.

Deborah Howell of Washington’s post admitted that there was media bias in covering the politics during Obama and McCain campaigns. The media tilted towards Obama. Howell claimed that the media failed to dwell on issues which were a larger purpose. Instead, they chose to prove that they are not racist by electing what she calls an ‘inexperienced person’ to the world’s highest office. McCain’s attacks on Obama were taken as racism and when Sarah Palin became McCain’s running mate, the media chose to mock her wardrobe and looks.

The government also influences the media using lies and propaganda. Scott Mclean (Bush’s press secretary) exposed this through a book he has published. He says his job involved passing lies to the public through the media because of instructs from his superiors. He would do this regularly and routinely though unknowingly.

The media has been biased in covering the war on terror because of the pressure to be patriotic. This has stopped journalists from asking important questions that should be of concern. For instance, why would the US invade Iraq then fail to get weapons of mass destruction? The Bush administration became more and more secretive as the war continued. More government documents were being classified. This caused the unaccountability of the government towards its citizens (Shah para. 5). There was a lot of fear being instilled in the population including the media, hence the media could not carry its work objectively. Another method used by the US media is demonizing the enemy. Before the start of the invasion of Iraq, the media gave the impression that Saddam Hussein was such a threat to the security of American citizens. They also claimed that there was a lack of democracy and hence the need for urgent interventions.

The fact that a media house is a business proves that it is biased. A business has to make a profit. The media relies on advertisers to run. Hence advertisers influence how news is covered. It is very unlikely for media to cover large businesses unfavorably because this means a loss of revenue. Media bias should be of great concern to society because the media is so powerful it can promote peace or fuel a war. The media is greatly blamed to have fueled or caused the Spanish-American war. During this time of Yellow journalism, which is a dark period for the US media, William Hearst made false stories that fueled anger culminating in a war.

The traditional media (radio, television and newspaper) has complained about the new media use that is on the rise which will affect journalism. People are now reading news on blogs. This is killing skilled and in-depth reporting. There is also a loss of trust in the public in the media.

In conclusion, the negative effects of media bias have been brought out by this essay. The US media should make an effort of conveying media messages from a neutral point so as to give reports as accurately as possible. Media houses should also balance the number of reporters who are democrats with those who are republicans so as to minimize political bias.

Works cited

Gongol, Brian. “Causes of media Bias.” 2005. Web.

Lichter, S., Rothman, P. & Lichter, L. (1991). The Media Elite. New York: Hastings House.

Media in United States. “United States media.” 2010. Web.

Shah, Anup. “Media in United states.” 2009. Web.

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