News media in the United States

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American news media, reporting from a political event

Mass media are the means through which information is transmitted to a large audience. This includes newspapers, television, radio, and more recently the Internet. Those who provide news and information, and the outlets for which they work, are known as the news media.

Structure of US news media[edit]

Public sector news media[edit]

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is the primary non-profit television service, with 349 member public broadcasters. News and public affairs programs include PBS NewsHour, Frontline, and Washington Week. In September 2012, PBS rated 88% above CNN in public affairs programming,[1] placing it competitively with cable news outlets[2] but far behind private broadcasters ABC, CBS, and NBC.[3] PBS does not produce 24-hour news, but some member stations carry MHz WorldView, NHK World, or World as a digital subchannel.

National Public Radio (NPR) is the primary non-profit radio service, offered by over 900 stations. Its news programming includes All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

PBS and NPR are funded primarily by member contributions and corporate underwriters, with a relatively small amount of government contributions.[4]

Other national public television program distributors include American Public Television and NETA. Distributors of radio programs include American Public Media, Pacifica Radio, Public Radio International, and Public Radio Exchange.

Public broadcasting in the United States also includes Community radio and College radio stations, which may offer local news programming.

Private-sector news media[edit]

There are thousands of newspapers in the Uision networks NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, 26 local television stations throughout the United States, and cable networks MSNBC, Bravo and Syfy.[5]

21st Century Fox[edit]

The Fox Broadcasting Company, television and cable networks such as Fox, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Channel, Fox Sports, National Geographic Channel, FX, 27 local television stations, film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios and a 39.14% stake on Sky plc.

News Corp[edit]

Holdings include: the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, the magazines Barron's and SmartMoney, book publisher HarperCollins and numerous websites including MarketWatch.com.[5]

Time Warner[edit]

Holdings include: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, America Online, MapQuest, Moviefone, Netscape, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock and New Line Cinema.[5]

Time Inc.[edit]

Holdings include: over 150 magazines such as Time, Cooking Light, Marie Claire and People.

Viacom[edit]

Holdings include: Music Television, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment, Atom Entertainment, publishing company Famous Music and music game developer Harmonix.[5] Viacom 18 is a joint venture with the Indian media company Global Broadcast news.

The Walt Disney Company[edit]

Holdings include: ABC Television Network, cable networks including ESPN, the Disney Channel, SOAPnet, A&E and Lifetime, 227 radio stations, music and book publishing companies, production companies Touchstone, Miramax and Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, and the cellular service Disney Mobile.[5]

Major news sources[edit]

Name Means of distribution Main media type(s) Founded/launched
ABC News Television[citation needed] News 1945
CBS News Television, magazines, and radio News 1927
CNN Television News 1980
Fox News Channel Television News 1996
MSNBC Television News 1996
NBC News Television News 1940
New York Times Newspapers News, sports 1851
Los Angeles Times Newspapers News 1881
USA Today Newspapers News 1982
The Wall Street Journal Newspapers News 1889
Washington Post Newspapers News 1877
Los Angeles Daily News Newspapers News 1911
Bloomberg Online World news 1981
Vice News Online[6] News 2013
HBO Online,[7] televison[8] Other 1972
HuffPost Online News 2005
TMZ Online Celebrity news 2005
CNET Online Tech news 1994
Techmeme Online Tech news 2005
NPR Radio News 1970
The Hollywood Reporter Magazines Hollywood film 1930
Newsweek Magazines News 1933
Time Magazines News 1923
U.S. News & World Report Magazines News 1948
The Guardian Newspaper and online News 1821

Agenda-setting[edit]

An important role which is often ascribed to the media is that of agenda-setter. Georgetown University professor Gary Wasserman describes this as "putting together an agenda of national priorities — what should be taken seriously, what lightly, what not at all". Wasserman calls this "the most important political function the media perform."[9] Agenda-setting theory was proposed by McCombs and Shaw in the 1970s and suggests that the public agenda is dictated by the media agenda.

Agenda-setting in domestic politics[edit]

In a commercialized media context, the media can often not afford to ignore an important issue which another television station, newspaper, or radio station is willing to pick up. The media may be able to create new issues by reporting and should that should be considered seriously. Also, they can obscure issues by reporting through negligence and distraction. If persons are affected by high crime rates, or unemployment, for instance, the media can reduce the time they report on potential solutions, the nature of class-based society or other related issues. They can reduce the direct awareness of these problems on the lives of the public. The media can make the problem in essence "go away" by obfuscating it. The public can go away to another media source, so it is in the media's commercial interest to try to find an agenda which corresponds as closely as possible to peoples’ desires. They may not be entirely successful, but the agenda-setting potential of the media is considerably limited by the competition for viewers' interest, readers and listeners. It is difficult to see, for instance, how an issue which is a major story to one television station could be ignored by other television stations.

Different US media sources tend to identify the same major stories in domestic politics, which strongly implies that the media are prioritizing issues according to an exogenous set of criteria.

Agenda-setting in foreign policy[edit]

One way in which the media could set the agenda is if it is in an area in which very few Americans have direct experience of the issues. This applies to foreign policy. When American military personnel are involved, the media needs to report because the personnel are related to the American public. The media is also likely to have an interest in reporting issues with major direct effects on American workers, such as major trade agreements with Mexico. In other cases, it is difficult to see how the media can be prevented[clarification needed] from setting the foreign policy agenda.

McKay lists as one of the three main distortions of information by the media "Placing high priority on American news to the detriment of foreign news. And when the US is engaged in military action abroad, this 'foreign news' crowds out other foreign news".[10]

Horse race approach to political campaign coverage[edit]

American news media are more obsessed than ever with the horse-race aspects of the presidential campaign, according to a new study. Coverage of the political campaigns have been less reflective on the issues that matter to voters, and instead have primarily focused on campaign tactics and strategy, according to a report conducted jointly by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of the Pew Research Center, and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Harvard University, which examined 1,742 stories that appeared from January through May 2007 in 48 news outlets. Almost two-thirds of all stories in US news media, including print, television, radio and online, focused on the political aspects of the campaign, while only one percent focused on the candidates’ public records. Only 12 percent of stories seemed relevant to voters’ decision-making; the rest were more about tactics and strategy.[11]

The proportion of horse-race stories has gotten worse over time. Horse-race coverage has accounted for 63 percent of reports this year (2007) compared with what the study said was about 55 percent in 2000 and 2004. “If American politics is changing,” the study concluded, “the style and approach of the American press does not appear to be changing with it.”

The study found that the US news media deprive the American public of what Americans say they want: voters are eager to know more about the candidates’ positions on issues and their personal backgrounds, more about lesser-known candidates and more about debates.[11] Commentators have pointed out that when covering election campaigns news media often emphasize trivial facts about the candidates but more rarely provide the candidates' specific public stances on issues that matter to voters.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]