What role does the powerful new media play in Politics? The short and long term effects cannot be denied. But does the new media offer us sound political information or simply entertain us for profit and ratings?
The New Media
Every so often, the mass media system in the United States experiments significant transformations that signal a new plateau in its evolution. Widespread recognition of the new media’s role on the political scene occurred during the 1992 Presidential campaign. The candidates flocked to talk radio, television talk shows, news magazine programs and the internet. Although the media offered many options to deliver their views, the debate as to rather or not the content was informative or entertainment had begun.
If there has been one communications format that has become emblematic of the new media, it is talk radio. Talk radio used to be the “night shift” of the airways. Talk radio reinvented itself. Talk radio became an important candidate forum in 1992. President George H. Bush interviewed with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. By 1994 nine talk radio hosts ran for statewide or local office. Most were unsuccessful, but their positions in talk radio gave them legitimacy as
Other unsuccessful candidates such as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and New York Mayor Ed Koch moved into local or national talk show host jobs. Talk radio had a political platform. Americans were tuning in. Ratings were up. Profits were rising. Talk radio had become a force to be reckoned with.
Cable television opened the airways for an onset of media opportunities. Time slots were filled with talk shows and news programs that you could tune in twenty four hours a day. The television media quickly enhanced their position in the political process. Politicians and the mainstream press could not help but take them seriously. One of the criticisms levied against the television media was that they trivialized serious issues of governing by mixing politics with entertainment. Every political issue at hand could now be analyzed and scrutinized twenty four hours a day on cable news. Campaigns had to give a second look on the role of media in politics. The media could be a tool of support or a thorn in your side. Campaign strategy had to be changed. The power of television was not to be denied.
Twenty five years ago the term “modem” did not even appear in the dictionary. Modems connect people to online computer services such as CompuServe,Prodigy, America Online or MSN, and to hundreds of thousands of world wide websites and home pages. Increasingly, the internet has become a tool for political communications as well. On the net you could gain political info, express political opinion, and mobilize other voters and political leaders. You could also make political donations. In this years Presidential race, candidates have raised literally millions of dollars online. The web has become a electronic town hall. In a brief time, the web has grown into a major player in the new media.
The media has found its niche in today’s politics. Rather its talk shows, television or the internet, they have laid a foundation, built a platform from which to voice their social agenda and flex their political muscle. How much of that voice is quality content is still up for debate. One thing is for sure, if you want to succeed in politics, it will not hurt to have the media in your corner.