Most journalism is not about facts but about the interpretation of what seem to be facts. Walter Lippmann ( 1922)
As the end of the 20th century nears, it hardly needs repeating that journalism and mass communication play a central role in modern society. Over time, our newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cable, video cassettes, and movies have been demanding more and more of our attention and leisure time. The media markedly affect our politics, our sports, our recreation, our education, and in general and profoundly, our culture, our perception, and our understanding of the world around us.
Although the news media may lack coercive power (a newspaper cannot draft you and send you off to a foreign war or put you in jail), their influence and pervasiveness are beyond doubt. Yet there are wide disagreements and conflicting views about just how, for better or worse, we are influenced by media in general and by journalism in particular.
The media, in their diverse, ubiquitous manifestations, are everywhere. As Pember ( 1992) wrote:
Perhaps no nation in the history of mankind has enjoyed a communication system equal to the one that currently exists in the United States. It must be regarded as one of the technological marvels of the modern world. It is a multi-faceted system of interpersonal and mass communication elements, and some parts of the network touch virtually everyone in the nation. (p. v)
Further, much of the greater world is influenced as well by U.S. mass communications and their cultural by-products and relies heavily on English-language journalism to report global events.
The essential and useful information we require for our personal lives and livelihoods comes from the press. Our economy, our government, and our society would have great difficulty functioning without the continuing