Media in the United States are changing quickly because of the various factors that influence the society, the media business, and the entire information industry of the country. In the media sphere, competition grows and, at the same time, rights to spread the news expand. However, there are still so-called media leaders that remain very powerful and make the rest to adapt to them. Despite the official direction towards informing people as honestly and objectively as possible, the national media are polarized. When they present the news, they create the tension and disagreements in the society and promote particular political ideas. The citizens receive the information that polarizes the society instead of uniting its members around common goals. All the above mentioned may make people more hostile to those who do not follow their beliefs and more easily manipulated by the politicians.
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The changes in the media system
First of all, it is important to speak about the changes, which have taken place in the media industry recently. According to the article in The Washington Post, the previous generation had much less access to information since there were very few TV-stations. In the evenings, the families could only watch the news and did not have the choice of programs (Levendusky). However, the situation has changed significantly as people have many channels they can choose from. For instance, they can watch the TV on their computers or find something interesting on cable or satellite. As the result, the media sphere is very competitive because there are many mediums that fight for people’s attention. Besides, the technological development enabled the channels to present their news and other programs in a more interactive way (Hallin). According to a journalist Daniel Hallin, the news have changed greatly. The competition and the introduction of the reality news absolutely changed the public’s understanding of the way how information should be provided. It could be expected that the medi would unite around similar goals because of that; however, the need to fight for the viewers and satisfy the political demands of both the owners and the audience made them polarized more than they used to be.
Polarization and its effects
Unlike in the past, when the main duty of a journalist was to report, the media have different objectives in mind nowadays. They want to set agenda and make pay attention to the things that they think are important. The media feel their influence because they are in control of information, can manipulate the public opinion and support particular ideas in the society. As a result, the media use their impact in order to polarize the society. To do this, they have recently adopted 24/7 news cycle, which helps this negative process to develop very much. The effect of this new business cycles on politics, voters and democracy is that they tend to focus on more radical ideas, which are likely to separate them from the rest. It can turn society into a battlefield for people who do not agree about a certain subject. The 24/7 business cycle makes the viewers chose certain pieces of information. They want to read only the news that are the same as their beliefs. Such preferences cause the a lot of problems and lead to the lack of agreement between the people.
Looking at the current statistics, it becomes evident that those Americans who support Republic Party often watch Fox News while those who are in favor of the Democratic Party prefer MSNBC (Levendusky). Such tendencies demonstrate that the news represents particular opinions, which are more common for certain political parties. Even more importantly, the media agree that such things happen, and they use them in order to become more popular. They often present the news so that to attract the audience, which supports a specific party. As a result, the news, which must be objective, becomes a tool to represent one’s views and convince people that it is the only right way of looking at the problem. Because of the competitiion between the channels, they misrepresent a lot of information in order to make their position better and create illusions that their information is more relevant and convincing. The report about Donald Trump on Fox News is a good example: the presidential candidate had an argument with a hostess and started a so-called war with the channel (Nolte). In the process, Trump also supported other media channels such as CNN, which provided more information about him and agreed to air his speeches live (Nolte). The conflicts between the politicians and the media on the one side and the fighting for the viewers between the media on the other lead to the fact that some media begin to defend or criticize certain politicians and present their news in a polarized way.
Polarization results in negative consequences for the society. People become more radical and less understanding towards other members of society. Moreover, although people have more information and more sources, they search for the sources which already provides such information that is similar to their beliefs and values. In fact, they do not get more knowledge than the people years ago (Carville). People are looking for sources to support their beliefs. Thus, the polarization leads to the further ignorance and conflicts between those who have the opposite beliefs.
With the social and technological development, the media need to adapt to the changing reality all the time as well as to compete for the audience, which has much more opportunities to see something interesting. Therefore, in order to attract the people, the channels provoke them with controversial ideas or polarized reports about significant events to create a discussion and encourage debates. In such a way, media are able to associate themselves with political groups and the people who have strong ideas and beliefs. They can also attract more attention from the society in general. The possible consequences of polarization explain the reasons for the media following it.