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National Press Corps Director: Sam Zeidman - Institute for Domestic ...

National Press Corps Director: Sam Zeidman - Institute for Domestic ...

R u t g e r s Mo d e l C

R u t g e r s Mo d e l C o n g r e s s 13 the media was the “key factor in international relations.” 36 For instance, the media had an uncanny ability to define situations and give legitimacy to an event or person to the general audience in such a fashion that if anything contrary to what was said by someone, it would not have been accepted by society. This process became known as the agendasetting function. 37 Another function that the mass media had control over was the fact that it could serve as a catalyst to accelerate or impede a nation’s foreign policy process and affairs. This is partly due to the fact that as time passed, society and the global environment become more and more complicated, with an increasing number of people wanting to know more about international politics, in turn making it easier for the media to influence the general audience through the increasing number of ‘opinion leaders’ and gatekeepers. 38 Three Perspectives on Media Influence While many believe that the media always plays an integral role in public affairs, there are some that believe otherwise. Through all of the debate about the media and its influence in the foreign policy decision-making process, the result was the categorization of the different perspectives of media influence. The first category dealt with the fact that the media played a highly active role in influencing foreign policy decisions. In this category, the theory is that the media is viewed as having ‘the privilege of trying to find out all it can about what is going on” in the government, which, in reality, portrays the media as an all-powerful, authoritative body. 39 The second category dealt with the fact that the media took on the exact opposite of the first category, which was a passive voice in the arena of international relations and foreign policy and acted as, “no more than a pawn in the political game played by the powerful political authority in Washington” 40 Supporters of this viewpoint believed that the media, at least structurally served as no more than an instrument in the actual implementation of foreign policies. This theory 36 Malek, Abbas, “News Media and Foreign Relations,” Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1997, 5. 37 Ibid 39 38 “The Role of Mass Media in the U.S. Foreign Policy Making Process” 39 Malek, Abbas, “News Media and Foreign Relations,” Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1997, 5. 40 Ibid

R u t g e r s Mo d e l C o n g r e s s 14 has been taken further to suggest that the media is only used as a propaganda tool by the government. 41 The third and final category is the fact that the media is actually a neutral body. However, while this is the ‘middle ground’ for scholars, very few people take this stance because for the most part, people either blame the media or the government for the type of influence and say that the public has control over. 42 Media and International Conflicts While mass media has played an important role in the field of foreign policy, it has played a similarly vital role during times of war and international crisis. The dependency on the media to provide information about the events in the international community has increased, especially for people who live in the United States. 43 However, even though the general public has become more dependent on the media to report every important piece of information, the relationship between the media and international conflicts has yet to be fully understood by a majority of the people. 44 For instance, there are two essential areas in which the media has played an important role in times of war and conflict. The first example of this is the relationship between the news media and the military. Prior to any sort of news coverage during wartime, reports of victory or defeat were written by participating soldiers as eyewitness accounts, allowing them to emphasize victories, and minimize defeats.” 45 However, the beginnings of military censorship started to show when Howard Russell from The Times was sent to cover the Crimean War (1853-6). For the next century and a half, relations between the military and the media increased dramatically with each conflict that took place, including the development of military accountability and increased democratization. 46 An example of this relationship is clearly shown in the Vietnam War, which was dubbed the 41 Ibid. 6 42 Ibid 43 Cottle, Simon, “News, Public Relations, and Power,” Sage Publisher’s Ltd, 2003, 63 44 Ibid 45 Ibid 65 46 Ibid

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