THE ROLE OF THE MASS MEDIA IN THE POLICY PROCESS
The mass media have become a central part of life in general and politics in particular in the United States. In fact, the relationship between communications and politics is so crucial that we must consider communications a key feature in our study of politics. For most individuals in our society, political realities are mediated through mass communications ( Nimo and Combs 1993). Our discussion of mass media mainly focuses on newspapers and television and, to a lesser extent, radio.
Today, there are about 1,700 daily newspapers in the United States with a total circulation of about 60 million. Some of the major national newspapers include the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Most other newspapers are either regional or local in nature and circulation. There are also over 7,000 weekly papers with a combined circulation of about 39 million. Additionally, there are many weekly magazines, some dealing primarily with news while others cater to the highly specialized and segmented markets. Some of the major national news weeklies include Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. There are over 10,000 radio stations. There are about 5,000 commercial AM radio stations, 4,000 commercial and 1,300 education FM stations. There are approximately twenty-three national radio networks. In 1990, there were 1,449 television stations, mostly commercial, while others are educational. About 85 percent of commercial television stations are affiliated with a major national network. The major national networks include the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), Cable News Network (CNN), the Fox Broadcasting Network (FBN), and the Financial News Network (FNN) ( Jamieson and Campbell 1992; Bennett 1988).
As can be seen from the above, Americans today live in an information age dominated by enormous communication empires. This, in turn, has raised some concerns about the influence and impact of the mass media on