The Role Of The Media In Democracy

How much does your vote really count? As a voter, does your choice really matter? How much influence does the media have on your vote? How many choices does the media actually make when it comes to our nation\'s leadership? These are questions pondered by both political scientists and the average American citizen each year as the second Tuesday in November approaches. Though we know that the framers founded this nation on the principles of representing it\'s citizens, and on the ideals of a nation for the people and by the people; it is obvious that the people feel that their vote doesn\'t always count. In this paper I plan to expand on these questions and the justifications behind asking them, and I plan to follow up with a specific example in which the media played a highly significant role in the choice of high government officials.

How much does your vote really count? Does your choice really matter? According to the framers, your choice does matter. They say that one man equals one vote. Congress also seems to believe that the American vote should count. They have passed Amendments to the Constitution in order to give more people the chance to vote and the chance to make a choice of their representatives. But why then does the people actually directly elect so few officials? Perhaps they agree with the ideas of Converse and Lane and are using voting only as a way to attempt to get the citizens out of the voting slump they seem to be in. Converse stated that voters are minimally informed, minimally capable, and therefore incompetent of voting. Lane claims that this is not the problem, but that instead, voters are simply lazy in their ideology. (Muraca, July 13, 1999) I tend to agree with both, but I don\'t feel that the fault lies on the shoulders of the people. Rather, I feel that the burden of voter incompetence lies on the shoulders of the media. Voters are not uninformed perse, but they are limited in the amount in information that they posses. The reason that this information is limited is because of the media. Media makes the choice everyday what they do and do not want the public to know. The power to make the choice of our knowledge rests in their hands. Without the information they pass on from day to day, we, as voters know nothing about the happenings of our government. Yet on more than one occasion the media has held back information that could be crucial to decisions we make about our democracy. A prime example occurred during the Gulf War. Thousands of our nation\'s men and women were fighting for their country, yet the media limited the amount of information that they chose to pass on to the public. Each day the media is faced with the choice of making decisions of what news to pass on, when that news could make a significant difference in someone\'s life, or in the fate of our nation.

How much does the media effect your choices in voting? When we first ask this question, we think of the obvious. The media informs us of canidates, their personal backgrounds, their ideology, their stances on issues, things they do in the community they represent, and the platform on which they plan to run. However, once they get past the initial introduction, they "tend to be highly critical of politicians; they consider it their job to find inaccuracies in fact and weakness in argument." (Janda et al., 192) They force the faults of politicians on us, seldom speaking of the positive aspects from that point on. This, in turn, gives the voters a negative vision of their representatives as leaders. If faults are constantly being pointed out, voters begin to think that all politicians are incompetent and unable, and therefore see no need to vote. The media does not intentionally force these negative views upon the mass public; rather they point out the faults because it makes a better story. Although the media does not directly create or change opinions, it tells the public what to think about. By using priming techniques, we can see the media directly swaying the direction