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Discussion Questions - Political Cartoons

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One topic that will be covered in class next week is the media's use of political cartoons to frame politics and policy issues. Upload or link to one of your favorite political cartoons and tell us what makes it good (or bad). How effective do you think it is in getting a message across?

Open Discussion Forum - Media, Framing, and Strategy

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Comment below on anything regarding the topics of media / framing / strategy or specific things you found interesting about the readings or video this week.

The Media

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The Politics of News

For most people, politics is largely a second-hand experience, something they observe through the media rather than directly. However, the media are not the main source of citizens' political opinions. Party loyalties, group attachments, and social networks are more important sources.

Instead, people's political perceptions derive largely from the media. People's mental pictures of events and policy problems, and even their images of political institutions and leaders, stem primarily from what they see and hear though the news media.

The news media operate as gatekeepers. Out of the countless possibilities each day, they determine which events will be covered and which will not. These selections, in turn, will influence what citizens are thinking and talking about. Journalists' selections are channeled by three functions that the media perform: signaling, watchdog, and common-carrier.

 

Signaling

The media seek to alert the public to important developments as soon as possible after they happen - for example, a bill that has just been passed by Congress, or a change in the nation's unemployment level.

In their capacity as signalers, the media have the power to focus the public's attention. By giving space and time to events, problems, issues, and leaders, the media place them on the public agenda.

The press is a powerful agenda setter in part because nearly all major news organizations focus on the same stories and interpret them in pretty much the same way. Given the freedom and great number of news organizations, it might be expected that Americans would be exposed to widely different versions of national news, but the opposite is true. Each day, media outlets from coast to coast tend to present the same national news, thus conveying the sense that the news, somehow, is reality.

 

Watchdog

The American press takes responsibility for exposing incompetent, hypocritical, and corrupt officials by exposing those who violate accepted legal, ethical, or performance standards. This function is fostered by the principle of "no prior restraint" (government cannot stop a news story unless it can convince a court that it would gravely harm the nation) and a high degree of freedom from libel judgments (it is nearly impossible for an official to win a libel suit even in situations where his or her reputation has been harmed by false allegations).

Journalists have not always vigorously fulfilled this function. One such period was after the terrorist attaches of September 2001. Press criticism of political leaders and institutions fell sharply, as journalists sought to contribute to a newfound sense of national unity and purpose.

 

Common-Carrier

In this function, the press serves as a conduit through which political leaders of both parties can communicate with the public. Although officials often succeed in getting favorable coverage, two things blunt their efforts to manage the news.

  • First, journalists' norm of partisan neutrality. Although reporters depend heavily on official sources, they often present the positions of leaders of both parties.
  • Second, although news typically originates in the words and actions of political leaders, they do not monopolize the news, particularly on television.

 

Framing

Zoe Oxley on Media Framing (21:08)

 

Sources

  • Kraft, Michael E. and Scott R. Furlong, 2010. Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.
  • Patterson, Thomas E. 2009. The American Democracy. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.