The Press and Foreign Policy
The assertion that the press, particularly the news media, is an important part of the context and process of modern foreign policy decision making is far from controversial. Television brought Vietnam into the living room and the Gulf War was conducted live on TV with round-the-clock coverage. Images such as the body of the U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu are intuitively linked with the policy changes that followed, and it is known that leaders try to use the media to attain ends both domestically and internationally.
What is less apparent is exactly how the press, the news media, and politics are interrelated. For example, it is clear that the U.S. government responds to the content of the news media. New York Times coverage is one of the most robust predictors of the levels of aid the United States offers to foreign disaster victims ( Van Belle, Drury, and Olson, 1998) and the levels of development aid the United States offers are closely tied to the salience of countries on U.S. network television newscasts ( Van Belle and Hook, 1998). However, it is also true that news outlets respond to the actions of U.S. leaders, indexing the levels of coverage of foreign policy issues to the levels of debate in government ( Bennett, 1990). Which then, is the driving force, political leaders or the news media? Beyond that, how does the presence or absence of press freedom influence policy choice?
This chapter builds a framework for understanding the role of the news