Media Power and the Perception of
For the populace at large, once out of school, the only source of day-to- day knowledge about politics, politicians, and political mischief is the news media.
American journalism's address to government and politics has gone through some remarkably different stages. Its roots were ardently and often rabidly partisan. Its vocabulary has ranged from gutter to pulpit. At various times it has been the perpetrator, and not just the reporter, of smears and slanders. Its attitudes toward presidents and other leaders, ebbing and floing with partisan tides, have varied from contemptuous hostility to worshipful attention to the adversarial relationship with politicians and with government itself that any modern observer will recognize.
For all the polemics of the early days, gradually a concern for accuracy arose among nineteenth-century reporters, stimulated in part by the demands of reporting the Civil War. Later in the century a new concern emerged: objectivity--reporting without letting the reporter's biases interfere.
The Associated Press (AP), the first American press association, or wire service, contributed to the adoption of objectivity as a standard. It was founded as a cooperative of several newspapers in 1848 to enable member papers to get dependable reports from other cities without having to station reporters there. As its number of subscribers grew, so did the range of their editorial and political views. AP had to supply accurate and acceptable copy to editors and publishers whose political outlooks were virtually at war with one another, so polemics and partisan bias had to be avoided.
Individual papers continued to use their own correspondents where they