Chapter Summary

The institution of the media is closely connected to the shaping and manipulating of public opinion. The news media act as a source of information and opinions, an agenda setter, and a government watchdog. They often set the stage for the mass public and public officials through interviews, stories, and special reports. Since the Vietnam War, the media have changed the way in which news about foreign policy gets to the public. Major shifts occurred from print news to video and electronic news sources, including the rise of the blogosphere and online news sources. While television and cable news provide larger access and coverage, they also reduce the depth of coverage. Similarly, the media can now broadcast live from foreign soil or in the midst of a military conflict in the form of parachute journalism but then leave immediately following the broadcast. Paradoxically, this superficiality and short attention span tends to hobble rather than enhance the coherent conduct of U.S. foreign policy, complicating further the media’s role in the U.S. foreign policy process. Finally, the news media’s role in a democracy is often in conflict with the marketplace, as large media organizations and conglomerates are geared toward profits. These mixed goals present a number of obstacles and problems. The Internet and global news organizations are also primary and growing means for the public to receive information and voice opinions about foreign policy, bringing forth additional concerns. Nonetheless, despite the foregoing concerns, the news media remain yet another powerful “outside-in” influence on the U.S. foreign policy process.