Contemporary journalism has come under scrutiny as various studies have analysed the social roles and effects of it in the modern world. Journalism and the presentation of news worldwide have changed in nature over the last twenty years as news is far more easily accessed now as opposed to 1984. Most of us can now access news at the click of a button through the internet, mobile phones, digital television and teletext. We have more channels to obtain news from than ever before but how do we use this news or maybe the question is how does this news use us?
Many different theories exist as to what role journalism plays in the modern day. Each theory has merits but each one is also very questionable. The development of media moguls beginning in the 1970’s and covering the vast majority of the 1980’s and 1990’s and the power they yield in news circles has grown as an important issue in analysing journalism and it’s content. Figures like Rupert Murdoch have become key players in the news world. Murdoch owns many news providers the world over. A close look at Murdoch’s empire would show that his view of the world would be to the right.
Murdoch has never been as blatant as Robert Maxwell who on purchasing ‘The Mirror’ declared ‘I have bought a megaphone and I intend to use it’i but at the same time has used his holdings as an agenda setting tool. The Columbia Journalism Review published a scathing opinion on how Murdoch operates ‘Murdoch uses his diverse holdings, which includes newspapers, magazines, sports teams, a movie studio, and a book publisher, to promote his own financial interests at the expense of real news gathering, legal and regulatory rules, and journalistic ethics. He wields his media as instruments of power with politicians who can aid him, and savages his competitors in his news columns.
If ever someone demonstrated the danger of mass power being concentrated in few hands, it would be Murdoch.’ii So if we are to believe that ‘news is a window on the world’iii then surely nit is very dangerous that men like Murdoch have chosen the position of this window. The most popular 24 hour news channels on both sides of the Atlantic (Sky News in the UK ; Ireland and the Fox News Channel in America) are owned by Murdoch and as an estimated 75% of peopleiv get there news from television this is a worrying statistic. The general belief is that Americans are more likely to believe what they see on the news as fact (News Matters)v so the position of power Fox News holds especially in an election year is worrying.
The fact that those who run and operate the Fox News channel are republicans may well lead to another stolen presidency. ‘And then something called the Fox News Channel called the election for the other guy’vi is the line used by Michael Moore in his highly controversial film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ as an entry point into the debate over Florida in the 2000 presidential election in the USA. Was this election an example of powerful media not just reporting the news but making news happens in a way that benefited them?
How can a channel with such a right wing bias, not to mention a candidate’s cousin at the controlsvii, scare everyone around to their way of thinking? The seed of doubt over Gore’s tally in Florida cast by Fox News may well have swung the election in Bush’s favour(numerous independent recounts post Florida 2000 have shown Gore won any state wide recount)viii and the fear is John Kerry may fall victim to the same fate this November.
It may be well worth remembering this quote on November 4/5 if Bush gets re-elected ‘For better or for worse, editing is what editors are for and editing is the choice and selection of material’ix. Is it any wonder with the sort of power yielded by Murdoch that he is widely regarded as the inspiration for the character of Eliot Carver in the 1997 Bond film ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’. Carver is a media mogul who starts a war to raise the profile of his newest cable channel and the actor who plays him resembles Murdoch in the film.
Maybe the news media doesn’t set the agenda. Perhaps it just reaffirms our belief structure and panders to our preconceptions over certain issues. For example there are sections of society who want to see an end to immigration into the UK and would be in favour of the Tories view to put a limit on immigration. However is it not hypocritical for a party who’s current leader is the son of immigrants to be proposing this plan? However very little has been said in any media about this belief been hypocritical because a sizeable proportion of the population back this plan. If the news is for reaffirming beliefs did it play a role in creating the beliefs? It probably didn’t. From a young age people pick up ideas and political beliefs that they’ll carry with them for life. A prime example is that the two major parties in the Republic of Ireland get their support through political ideals been passed along in families and the news doesn’t have much effect on the voters of either party.
The Marxist theory on journalism on news is that journalism exists to reproduce the world we live in. if this were true than the Australian elections which took place on October 9th would have received as much coverage as the presidential election in the USA is currently getting, but it didn’t. We are encouraged to consider ourselves citizens of the world but news programmes and newspapers continue to have tunnel vision when it comes to international stories.
If journalists were to reproduce the world we live then the 6 o’clock news might cover some interesting political debate from somewhere like Spain instead of having their Spanish correspondent stalking the Beckhams. The main problem with the Marxist theory is that most newspapers and news programmes suffer from time and space constraints and foreign stories only interest’s the public in times of war, disaster and if their country gets mixed up in the story.
Does Journalism set agendas, allow our beliefs a place to exist or does it reflect the world? Does it actually do any of the three? Journalism’s roles and effects are so vast that they end up contradicting each other. Since the first newspapers rolled off the printing press, questions have been asked about the power of the press. It is likely we will never have an answer for the question and isn’t that the way as students of the media we like it?