News media (United States)

News media (United States)
American news media, reporting from a political event

Mass media are the means through which information is transmitted to a large audience. This includes newspapers, television, radio, and more recently the Internet. Those who provide news and information, and the outlets for which they work, are known as the news media.

Some high-quality news media organizations exist in the United States. However, some critics[who?] suggest they are undermined by lower quality media, which do not satisfactorily provide information and critical analysis. Others argue[who?] that the news media are simply catering to public demand. The role of the government-funded media is small in the US in comparison to the public media in most other countries.[citation needed]


Structure of US news media

The American media is made up of profit-making and nonprofit enterprises. A private, nonprofit news service, which is called the Public Broadcasting Service or PBS, is partially funded by the U.S. government and partially funded by charitable donations.

Private-sector news media

There are thousands of newspapers in the United States. Some are available throughout the country, such as the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune (owned by the New York Times), the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times (owned by the Washington Post), as well as news magazines such as Time and Newsweek.[citation needed] They often keep editorial opinions in separate columns from news.

The "big six" companies are:

General Electric

media-related holdings include television networks NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, 26 television stations in the United States, and cable networks MSNBC, Bravo and SyFy.

Time Warner

holdings including: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TBS, TNT, America Online, MapQuest, Moviefone, Netscape, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock, and New Line Cinema, over 150 magazines such as Time, Cooking Light, Marie Claire and People.

Walt Disney Company

ABC Television Network, cable networks including ESPN, the Disney Channel, SOAPnet, A&E and Lifetime, 227 radio stations, music and book publishing companies, production companies Touchstone, Miramax and Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, the cellular service Disney Mobile, and theme parks around the world.

News Corporation’s media

holdings include: the Fox Broadcasting Company, television and cable networks such as Fox, Fox Business Channel, National Geographic and FX, 35 television stations, print publications including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, TVGuide, the magazines Barron’s and SmartMoney, book publisher HarperCollins, film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios, numerous Web sites including, and non-media holdings including the National Rugby League.

CBS Corporation

the CBS Television Network, CBS Television Distribution Group, the CW (a joint venture with Time Warner), Showtime, book publisher Simon & Schuster, 27 television stations, and CBS Radio, Inc, which has 140 stations. CBS is now the leading supplier of video to Google’s new Video Marketplace.


holdings include: Music Television, Nickelodeon, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Paramount Home Entertainment, Atom Entertainment, publishing company Famous Music and music game developer Harmonix. Viacom 18 is a joint venture with the Indian media company Global Broadcast news.

Major providers of television news:

Major newspapers include:

Major news magazines:

Public sector news media

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is a non-profit public broadcasting television service with 349 member TV stations in the United States. PBS was founded in 1969, at which time it took over many of the functions of its predecessor, National Educational Television (NET).

PBS is funded more by charitable donations than by the government.[citation needed] It is responsible for a relatively small portion of US media output.[citation needed]

In 2006-07, PBS' prime-time television broadcasts ranked seventh in the U.S. in audience size, behind CBS, Fox, NBC, ABC, CW and USA.[1]

In the United States, listeners can hear programming produced by two nonprofit radio networks, National Public Radio, funded by the federal government, by sponsoring corporations and organizations and by listeners themselves, and Public Radio International.

The United States differs from some other countries, especially in Europe in that the public service broadcasting is very limited.[citation needed] In many countries (e.g. United Kingdom, France) public sector broadcasting is highly respected and is considered to provide high-quality news information and analysis.[citation needed] In the United Kingdom, the British Broadcasting Corporation is funded through a television licensing fee currently set at 10.96 pounds sterling per household per month.[2] In France, a news giant is TV5.

Public attitudes regarding news media

Research suggests that most Americans do believe the news that they receive through the media, but with reservations[3]:

"[Americans] say they can believe most, but not all of what national news organizations say… [But] upwards of 20% say they disbelieve much or all of the news delivered by many national news outlets." [Source: The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press [3]]


An important role which is often ascribed to the media is that of agenda-setter. Wasserman describes this as "putting together an agenda of national priorities - what should be taken seriously, what lightly, what not at all". Gary Wasserman calls this "the most important political function the media perform." [4] Agenda-setting theory was proposed by McCombs and Shaw in the 1970s and suggests that the public agenda is dictated by the media agenda.

Agenda-setting in domestic politics

In a commercialized media context, the media can often not afford to ignore an important issue which another television station, newspaper, or radio station is willing to pick up. The media may be able to create new issues by reporting and should that should be considered seriously. Also, they can obscure issues by reporting through negligence and distraction. If persons are affected by high crime rates, or unemployment, for instance, the media can reduce the time they report on potential solutions, the nature of class-based society or other related issues. They can reduce the direct awareness of these problems on the lives of the public. The media can make the problem in essence "go away" by obfuscating it. The public can go away to another media source, so it is in the media's commercial interest to try to find an agenda which corresponds as closely as possible to peoples’ desires. They may not be entirely successful, but the agenda-setting potential of the media is considerably limited by the competition for viewers' interest, readers and listeners. It is difficult to see, for instance, how an issue which is a major story to one television station could be ignored by other television stations.

Different US media sources tend to identify the same major stories in domestic politics, which strongly implies that the media are prioritizing issues according to an exogenous set of criteria.

Agenda-setting in foreign policy

One way in which the media could set the agenda is if it is in an area in which very few Americans have direct experience of the issues. This applies to foreign policy. When American military personnel are involved, the media needs to report because the personnel are related to the American public. The media is also likely to have an interest in reporting issues with major direct effects on American workers, such as major trade agreements with Mexico. In other cases, it is difficult to see how the media can be prevented[clarification needed] from setting the foreign policy agenda.

McKay lists as one of the three main distortions of information by the media "Placing high priority on American news to the detriment of foreign news. And when the US is engaged in military action abroad, this 'foreign news' crowds out other foreign news".[5]

Horse race approach to political campaign coverage

American news media are more obsessed than ever with the horse-race aspects of the presidential campaign, according to a new study. Coverage of the political campaigns have been less reflective on the issues that matter to voters, and instead have primarily focused on campaign tactics and strategy, according to a report conducted jointly by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of the Pew Research Center, and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Harvard University, which examined 1,742 stories that appeared from January through May 2007 in 48 news outlets. Almost two-thirds of all stories in US news media, including print, television, radio and online, focused on the political aspects of the campaign, while only one percent focused on the candidates’ public records. Only 12 percent of stories seemed relevant to voters’ decision-making; the rest were more about tactics and strategy.[6]

The proportion of horse-race stories has gotten worse over time. Horse-race coverage has accounted for 63 percent of reports this year compared with what the study said was about 55 percent in 2000 and 2004. “If American politics is changing,” the study concluded, “the style and approach of the American press does not appear to be changing with it.”

The study found that the US news media deprive the American public of what Americans say they want: voters are eager to know more about the candidates’ positions on issues and their personal backgrounds, more about lesser-known candidates and more about debates.[6] Commentators have pointed out that when covering election campaigns news media often emphasize trivial facts about the candidates but more rarely provide the candidates' specific public stances on issues that matter to voters.[7]

See also


  1. ^ PBS | About PBS | Corporate Facts
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Internet News Takes Off, The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press,
  4. ^ Wasserman, Basics of American Politics (London, Longman, 2003) p. 234
  5. ^ McKay, American Politics & Society (Oxford, Blackwell, 2005) pg 144
  6. ^ a b "Study: Media Focused On Tactics Not Issues", October 29, 2007, also archived at:
  7. ^ New York Times, July 30, 2004, Paul Krugman, "Triumph of the Trivial,"

Further reading

External links

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