|1.||What are the mass media?|
|2.||Are the mass media independent? Or are they part of the corporate establishment?|
|3.||How do the media decide what to include in the news and what to leave out?|
|4.||Should government control the media? Or are the media already in accord with government thought?|
Conservatives maintain that newspaper journalists must be objective, in other words, that they should not take a stand. Reporters should present fact, not opinion. Their task is to report press releases from government agencies and authoritative figures, and to report on public events ranging from society weddings to presidential activities. News that is potentially injurious to the national security should not be printed. This position was accepted by The New York Times when it did not print its knowledge that the United States, in 1961, was organizing an invasion of Cuba.1 It is the belief of conservatives that the celebrity status of television anchormen has given their statements too much weight in the public mind. Together with presidential lies2 this has created a situation of conflict between powerful Presidents and influential newscasters.3 It has created an advocacy press in which opinion and ideology take precedence over facts, a harmful type of journalism that creates unnecessary political divisions. If newspaper and television journalists do not return to their proper role as objective reporters, then government may have to compel them to do so by persuasion or censorship. The American political system is best served by a press that does not get politically involved with the issues it reports.
Liberals strongly believe in the Jeffersonian edict that it is better to have no government and a free press, than to have a government without a free press.4 Freedom of speech, guaranteed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the first commandment of liberals. Errors of judgment the press commits must be self-corrected. Whatever news it reports must be determined by the press itself. Government must not intrude on the workings of a free press if democracy is to survive.
Socialists hold that the mass media and newspapers are part of the American power elite. Newspapers are typically run by powerful economic interests. Television and radio stations are often owned by huge corporations. The news that is presented in the media is in large part determined by corporate interests.5 For this reason, socialists and radicals are seldom able to obtain a fair hearing of their views. The actions of elites are fully reported in the mass media, whereas the activities and statements of nonelites receive relatively little attention. According to socialists, the media work together with government and corporations, and are linked to corporate elites by financial ties and class interests.