The News Media and Public Policy Agendas
As societies become more and more complex, the distance between citizens and government grows. This phenomenon poses difficult problems in political systems with representative forms of government. In a system in which policymakers are increasingly distant from citizens, how can public policy be responsive to the public will? And how can the public hold policymakers accountable for their actions?
This chapter focuses on such issues by examining the extent to which news media serve as a link between citizens and policymakers.1 The implications of such a role for the news media are tremendously important, in terms of theory as well as in terms of the day-to-day workings of government. For what is the nature of "democracy" in a political system without a direct link between citizens and government -- a system in which public policy may be more responsive to the agendas of the news media than to the priorities of the people, in which the responsibility to hold policymakers accountable rests more with the media than with the people?
The chapter begins with an overview of the relationship between citizens and government in the United States, using the familiar agenda____________________