Term Paper: Media and Politics

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Media and Politics

The relationship between the media and politics is one that goes back to the early days of print. Today, the relationship has evolved to one that causes the public to sometimes question who is in charge; the media or the government. At other times, as was the case with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the term "embedded reporter" was invented; the media and the political entity seem completely synchronized in goal and ideas that it is difficult to separate where one or the other begins on an issue, and the other ends. At other times we see a vying for power, as was the case in 1998 when the Minnesota state election results brought news to Minnesotans of their new governor, Jesse "the body" Ventura, a former wrestling television star, talk show radio host, and, then, Minnesota's new governor (Schultz, David and Lang, Peter, 2000, p. xi). Then, in 2000, close Ventura friend and costar in the action film Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected as governor of California (Ramarkrishnan, S. Karthick, 2005, p. 148). Celebrity politics, media coverage, and politics have taken on a new delivery to the public, and it is one that is consistent with pop culture. We see a media and political relationship today that is one of common interests, diverging interests, or separate interests; and the nature of the interest dictates how the media and the political entity or individual work together. The question is whether or not this new media-political relationship is informing the public with facts and information that can be deemed reliable.

We Make You, We'll Break You Media

When Jesse Ventura announced his candidacy for governor of Minnesota, Ventura, in his rough and tough talk vocabulary and way, attempted to convey a sense of seriousness about his goals for the state There is little question but that without the massive media attention Ventura received in his campaign bid for Minnesota's governor's office, he would probably have failed in his effort to be elected to that office as a third party - meaning he was running as a candidate who was not affiliated with either the Democratic party, or the Republican party. "Out of 535 Congressional and U.S. Senate seats, only two are held by an independent representative (one each from Vermont and Virginia), none by third parties (Hill, Steve, 2002, p. 57)." This means that the media, perceiving Ventura, by virtue of his celebrity, as a news item, followed and contributed to the candidate's political success with a greater media attention than they might have spent on an independent or third party candidate without the celebrity that Ventura had. In this case, the media was largely responsible for "making" the candidate's campaign successful.

Unfortunately, once Ventura arrived at his new office, he was met with hostility from his legislative body that he needed to support him if he was to make any progress as Minnesota's governor. The media switched lanes on Ventura, and, once he was elected to office, took much more seriously Ventura's lack of experience in politics, reporting on it as one reason Ventura was unable to reconcile his goals with the his contentious relationship with Minnesota's legislative body. Anyone who has ever heard Jesse Ventura comment publicly on his time in office as Minnesota's governor, cannot help but feel sad, because Ventura was clearly a celebrity turned politico who wanted to go down, not as a comic, but as someone who helped to usher in political change and improvements for his state.

We cannot afford to ignore the overwhelming evidence that the media - old and new combined - is dramatically changing the democratic process," was the reflection of Bill Clinton on the relationship between media and politics (Bell, Steve, 2001, p. 10). No one, perhaps more so than former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, understands better the changing media-political relationship, as Mr. Clinton's reflection demonstrates for us. The Clinton Presidency was rife with controversy kept alive by the news media, focusing on the president's salacious sexual escapades, it brought to a seeming halt all other issues of the day on the political front as the public and the House and Senate, were forced to turn away from more important business of the day to deal with the fallout of the president's sexual escapades. This is not to argue that bad presidential behavior is not newsworthy, because it is.

It is, however, to argue that the business of the day on the national and international fronts went ignored and unattended while the nation was absorbed with the salacious details of Clinton's improper use of White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. This is evidenced by the fact that just eight months after George W. Bush assumed the office of the President of the United States, the September 11, 2001, occurred, catching the United States off guard from an intelligence perspective, and indicating a long standing neglect of America's international relationships. The focus on Clinton's sexual escapades over the very important world affairs that were going on in the Middle East were downplayed by the media, or did not receive the same media attention that they receive today - when, indeed, the circumstances were, during the Clinton administration, no less threatening and dire.

This all goes to support what seems a contemporary media "stance." That is, "we make you, we'll break you," media approach to everything and everyone. The media will build up a candidate or celebrity to a frenzied height of public worship, then, without warning, and seemingly overnight, turn on the person and begin an onslaught of intrusive and irrelevant media reporting that brings the candidate or political person down. Politicians, who are expectedly wary of the media in these contemporary times, have proven themselves time and again to be ill equipped to deal with the media's lack of loyalty and the never ending question for personal and private salaciousness to feed a public appetite that the media must take responsibility for creating.

There was no end to the media worship of President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld when the U.S. invaded Iraq. There was, of course, a vested media interest in the events of the invasion, in that for the first time ever, media correspondents were permitted to ride along, in the armored vehicles, with the U.S. soldiers. It was a brilliant move on the part of the Bush administration, who needed the media support for its efforts in Iraq in order to silence the cries of detractors who were making loud noises about remember Viet Nam. Because the Bush camp had identified a media need, and very accurately so, the media supported Bush in his efforts in Iraq - initially. Later, that same fervor would turn on Bush in a negative way, and in a way that we see the administration and America now embroiled in. However, in the beginning, it was a very accommodating relationship between the media and the Bush administration.

News and Politics - Truth in Reporting

If ever there was a more complex relationship to unravel it is news and politics; truth in reporting and read between the lines of rhetoric politics. We have, since post World War II America, heard politicians campaign on the agendas of education, social security, and taxes; now, we hear an expanded version of the earlier campaign agenda with the added issues of abortion, healthcare, and gay rights. The latter issues have come to surface largely as a result of media attention, driving the political candidates to wade risky waters and take on unpopular issues that could determine victory or defeat - and neither is predictable. The relationship between the media and politics as it exists today, is one of reporting not necessarily the truth, but what one hears; and for politicians, employing the craft and art of rhetoric in such a way so that when the media reports what they have heard, there is interpretive room to charge a misinterpretation of the facts about what was said; or, if the public response is favorable, to go with that reported flow.

The problem is that the media has moved so far away from reporting the facts, endeavoring to interpret and analyze the facts - as evidenced by the countless media shows that perform just that function; that politicians are reluctant to state clearly their intentions, knowing that the media will dissect and analyze their words until the words themselves cease to hold the dictionary meaning of the words. John Ullman sums it up this way:

If you are a typical journalist, like those with whom I come in contact on a daily basis... you never have had an economics course that explains how a local business can affect the outcome of a bidding procedure, influence the growth patterns of a city, or even cheat its stockholders or consumers (Koch, Tom, 1990, p. 37)."

Ullman elaborates further the shortcomings of the academic nature of today's journalist, but the point… [END OF PREVIEW]

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