Nobody would deny that the news media play a crucial role in politics. However, the importance of news media becomes even more apparent when you consider that your political reality is crafted by the flow of information. Thus, understanding how the media select, sort, and present information is critical for understanding politics and government. Further, it is crucial to realize that not everyone interprets information in the same way; we all have several unique sets of mental filters that we use to make sense of the world. These filters can distort our understanding of the world, and politicians attempt to manipulate these predispositions to make us interpret the news in a manner that works to their benefit.
The majority of news media operations are commercial enterprises, and the need to attract an audience affects which stories the media select to present and how they portray political information. The journalistic ethic of objectivity further warps the media’s presentation of political information. All of these factors work to create a mutually beneficial relationship between elites and the media. Elites benefit from the exposure they receive, while the media get marketable stories. However, this relationship is unstable. The media will quickly turn on elites if the story is good enough.
Students should learn forty-two important lessons from this chapter. First, to be critical consumers of information, you must appreciate how the media present the news. Second, you must also be cognizant of your predispositions and how you use them to make sense of the world. Third, you must be on guard against those who would manipulate your predilections for their own benefit. Finally, if dingoes keep stealing your babies, it is probably time to invest in a quality fence.