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What Exactly is the Role of the Media in United States Elections

Updated on March 25, 2016

Elections and the Media

News Reporter
News Reporter | Source
Man reading Newspaper
Man reading Newspaper | Source

In the U.S., usually, as Presidential Elections get heated up, we can expect to see the candidates hurling barrages of allegation and accusations at each other, and even at the reigning President. Matter of fact, this is something we should all expect, during any election year.

This is not strange; in fact, human beings have always fought through their differences with each other. However, as civilizations advanced, verbal controversy gradually replaced much of physical combat, and what we have now, are public forums and debates.

In a democratic society, where we are allowed to select or reject those who govern us, the candidate forums or debates have become an important ingredient in the selection process. These events, are held at almost every level of government: City Council, States Assemblies, Senators and so on.

These debates which are aired live by the television stations, are usually viewed by millions of people across the nation, during election year. Thus, it's fair to say, television offers at least one good thing to registered voters during the election year. It televises the Presidential debates, which are a critical means for educating the public about the candidates.

However, ever so often, the people viewing these contests have relied solely on the media to make a decision as to who did the better job in these debates. The fact is however, because we are the one who are going to cast the votes, then we should be equipped to make judgment about the political candidates.

Television commentators, expert reporters, celebrity judges, spin doctors, candidates and others knock around the networks and television stations, telling us how to think about the politics we view on the news and electoral events. No matter how many experts, we must remember, each of us vote counts the same as theirs. Of course, we should all listen, but at the same time, we must also carefully evaluate all what we have heard. Remember, we are responsible for our own actions or decisions.

If we are going to allow the media to dictate to us as to who we should select to govern us, essentially, what we are doing is ignoring the things that should matter most to us as citizens and allowing ourselves to fall victims to what is known as "Fallacies" --- in particular, the fallacy of "Appealing to Popular People." In other words, what we are saying, is that because our popular or favorite movie stars and other celebrities say so, then whatever they say or believe must be true, and therefore, we ought to believe also.

We often tend to forget that the media has its own bias(media bias), and as far as celebrities and the others are concerned, they too have their own bias towards each candidate. We also don't know much about the credibility of each of these individuals.

The psychology behind this"Appeal to Popular People" fallacy, is that almost all propagandist and demagogue use this strategy directly and indirectly to get listeners to accept a conclusion. The direct approach that frequently occurs is when reporters for example, excite the emotions and enthusiasm of the usually large number of people watching these debates just to win acceptance of their conclusion(sometimes it could be a townhouse or a bar fill with people). It's like stirring up a mob! Many political analysis believe Adolf Hitler was known to be master of this technique.


It has been said that "Politics and the Media have long walked hand in hand." The media are believed to have always played a powerful role in politics. The media tend to hype these individual events(debates) way out of proportion and even overstress polls.

However, conscious Americans tend to take all in --- the talks, the allegations, accusations, and media's conclusions, then take their own time to make a decision. It's time for everyone of us to do the same. For these 2012 elections and other future ones, we should learn to put our own personal biases or emotions aside and select the best candidate, the one we think is genuinely addressing the most important issues that are critical to the nation on a whole.

The media can give importance to things that in reality is insignificant. Sometimes the stories that become big stories, became so out of convenience, rather than out of impact. In other words, sometimes they simply don't have enough to talk about. As a result, they may hype up stories that creates a cycle of focus that tends to drive off important stories.

Media also have the tendency to cover conflicts, so they have to create conflicts. A story without conflict wont draw the attention of viewers and readers; consequently, the media have to seek conflicts where they can. As a result, drawing viewers attention takes precedence over informing them. The moment one candidate say something about another, a reporter makes sure it gets cover -- this is what makes news(what is important to people). Finally, the media may have power, but not as much as you the individual!

By: W. McFarlane 2012


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