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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 5 newspapers for cheap prices, and the countless independent websites, gave way to the Fragmented Media Era (1990 - present). 11 This phase of the process led to the creation of a support system in which any school of thought can easily be accessed by the reader. Not only can news be targeted to specific ideologies, but consumers of news can read the news sources that they feel most comfortable reviewing. For the first time, individuals could read any news source worldwide, instead of being limited to their local or state newspaper. The Fragmented Media Era has also led to the obsession of focusing on individual events that occur in everyday life to a seemingly unhealthy level. Instead of reading about a story and understanding it in the context of the rest of the events of the day or year, people have begun to seemingly obsess over the impact of a singular event, like a high-profile kidnapping, murder, or court case. It is estimated that before this phase is over, the downfall of the media fair and meaningful provider of objective information is inevitable. 12 Although there is a growing distrust among the mass audience and declining public opinion with respect to the type of coverage news companies such as CNN and BBC provide. There can be no doubt that the reporting of important events on both the domestic and international levels has a real influence over government policies. For the most part, while the media has evolved through the ages, it has never fully left the ideals that brought it about in the first place. During the period of 1790 until 1840, the media was used as a tool of the political parties to build and set their agendas to the public. This concept is no different in today’s society. On both the domestic and international levels, the media has been used to push political agendas through the process by which the media establishes priorities in order to shape the public’s opinion. 13 In other words, the McCombs and Shaw Theory, a popular idea used by experts in the field, suggests that the media tells its readers and viewers not “what to think” but instead, “what to think about” by telling the general public what issues are important instead of letting the audience 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid. 13 “Media Influence”, , Date Accessed: 7 December 2004

R u t g e r s Mo d e l C o n g r e s s 6 determine what should and should not be discussed. 14 Some clear examples of this case include the Watergate Scandal, Vietnam War, Korean War, Cold War and the Election coverage of 2000. Perhaps of equal importance is the time in history when the media determines that an issue has reached the point that it needs to be covered. Many argue that the genocides in Rwanda, the Balkans, the Darfur Region of the Sudan could have been thwarted had only people been paying attention earlier. While the media cannot be blamed for the loss of like, it is not unreasonable to suggest that they could have drastically limited the effect of these crises. All of these cases are examples of the idea of agenda building, which is the long-term process in which the media builds interest in particular stories or issues. 15 Theories and Models of Mass Media Political Communication There is little room for argument in the debate over extent of influence the media has on today’s society. In accordance with this concept, there are several theories and models that show how the media has such a great influence on American society. These models include the “Magic Bullet” or Hypodermic Needle Model, Two-Step Flow Model, the Multi-Step Flow (Diffusion) Model and the theories of political communication and media dependence in today’s world. Hypodermic Needle (the “Magic Bullet”) Model The Hypodermic Needle model is one of the basic models that deals with the media and its influence on society. The premise of the strategy is based on the assumption that the media influences a very large group of people though ‘injecting’ or ‘shooting’ them with images and messages in order to obtain a certain desired response. 16 In this model, the message is a bullet, which is fired from the ‘media needle’ into the 14 “Mass Media Contexts”, , Date Accessed 12 December 2004 15 com270/270lectures/effects.ppt 16 “Hypodermic Needle Model”, , Date Accessed: 10 December 2004

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