The news media are primary devices by means of which the public remains informed and aware about simultaneous events that happen in America and around the world. The news media perform several functions. It informs people about current events, influences the way they treat some specific events or issues and entertains. As a result, news media divide society based on conflicting opinions about political, economic, and social issues. Moreover, the kind of news that the media releases for public consumption influences the Americans’ points of view. The news coverage about Osama bin Laden, the Al Qaeda, and terrorism, for instance, led to the development of various opinions about the American government, specifically the Bush administration and the former president’s stance considering the heinous events that occurred in September 11, 2001.
The news media branched out from the terrorist attacks in New York to cover other political and social issues underlying America’s relationship with Middle Eastern nations. For instance, some news covered America’s domestic and foreign policies in relation to the Bush government’s response to the terrorist attacks. Other news chose to cover the faults and shortcomings of the Bush administration that triggered the attacks, while the remaining news covered the alleged conspiracies involving former president Bush’s relationship and dealings with Osama bin Laden (Blue, 2008). Many versions of the story were released after 9/11 and some continue to research the issues to prove previous theories and speculations or come up with new ones. Regardless of the kind and content of news about the event and issues related to it, the different versions of the story released through the news media influenced opinions of the Americans. Some remain supportive of the government, while others believe there is a conspiracy that caused the Al Qaeda to attack the US. The situation regarding 9/11 proves that the news media, besides informing the public, give an opportunity to comprehend all sides of the events that have happened in society. Information set in an appropriate way by mass media makes people judge and express their opinions.
The news media help the Americans form political and social views
In terms of social development, the news helps them become more aware of the world outside the US. According to Perlmutter and Hamilton (2007), some of the Americans are racist and believe themselves to be better than other people. In addition, some Americans are also disrespectful to other people because they are unaware of the situations of less fortunate people living outside the US. In this case, the role of information and the news media is to inform and increase awareness. While the Americans learn many things, like the current condition of the economy, popular issues, crimes, and other types of news, international current events help them become more aware of relevant issues outside their social sphere. As a result, they become more sensitive about the needs and situations of others. A recent example of the influence of the news media on social views is the highly publicized KONY 2012 campaign, which helped raise awareness about injustice in Africa. Although the campaign was criticized for misleading the public (Bracken, 2012), many people have learned about criminal activities and child abuse in war-torn countries like Uganda. The campaign may have its faults, but due to the coverage of the media, the Americans became more socially aware. In terms of political views, the news media are responsible in shaping and changing the political climate. For instance, the Americans would more likely vote for national leaders “based on images and sound-bites over policies and issues” (Frechette, 2002, p. 48).
Going back to the KONY 2012 issue, the spread of the news was brought about by means of the electronic devices. The KONY phenomenon as well as other issues that spread through the Internet shows how the digital age transformed news reporting and journalism. Moreover, the Internet has changed the way news is received and digested by the public. Using the Internet people have an opportunity to find the necessary information faster. The availability of various sharing tools allows people to share and read news as they are released and they can choose what kinds of news to set on spotlight. News has become online trends based on the viewership of information. While information and news media influence the views and opinions of the public, the entry of electronic media makes the mechanism complex. Millions of people could influence online the kinds of news that would be available to anyone. The way people consume and share news determines the kinds of information that they would choose to digest. In addition, electronic media broadens the scope of journalism. Journalism nowadays is not limited to a few people who earned a degree and accumulated experiences to be called legitimate journalists. As long as people could access to the information online, they are capable of sharing it, they could be journalists, as well.
Since the news media are driving forces that shape the views and opinions of people not only about politics but also about various economic and social issues, the entities behind the industry should be responsible, especially when it comes to ensuring the quality of information released to the public. Entities in news media should practice social responsibility (Ihlen, Bartlett, & May, 2011). However, not all news entities practice social responsibility. Some news sources in the US are being criticized, for instance, for only showing one side of specific issues. In politics, some news entities only cover the Republican side, while others cover the plight of the Democrats, etc. While news entities exercise social responsibility, such that they refrain from injecting personal opinion or inaccuracy on news and information they release, they could be prone to biases. This is mostly true considering privately funded news sources. The news media practice social responsibility to some extent, but conflict of interest still exists, taking into consideration the fact that the news is not merely news, it is also a business.