How does the president get to the eyes and ears of the public? How do we allow presidential policies and information to be transmitted? It is through newspapers, television, and radio that we as society get most of our political resources. The media is an essential part of yesterday and today?s political scene. In Newsmakers: the Press and the Presidents, Howard Smith and Luanne Norris portray how the media affects individual presidencies, and what kind of concerns each side projects. Overall, the press plays a vital role in reflecting information between the president and the public.
Together the press and the president create news and coverage, but through it all they have become natural enemies. It is a battle for each party because every president needs the press to inform the public of what he says. Policies need to be known by society and with the media being the natural conveyer there are bound to be issues.
?The media agenda seems to have direct, sometimes strong, influence upon the policy agenda of elite decision makers.?(Rogers, Deaning) This idea seems to ring truth. The media may influence attention by policymakers in less direct ways; however, the public?s familiarity with political matters is closely related to the amount and duration of attention these affairs receive in the mass media. We don?t tend to realize the capacity at which we rely on the media for direct information. It?s in a sense like watching a television show on 20/20. The first side of the story is presented to us and we completely put all of our trust into it as if it were the only likely answer. We immediately adopt that side only to discover that the other alternative is just as powerful. The meaning behind this is if we were presented with both sides of every political issue or scandal we might be able to have greater effects on them.
The press portrays each individual presidency differently. Whether or not the press agrees with the president, and whether or not the president agrees with the press, entirely effects what news will be considered important.
?The press has a huge and identifiable impact?Officials believe that the media do a lot to set the policy agenda and influence how an issue is understood by policymakers, interest groups, and the public.?(Linsky)
Lets take the Bill Clinton controversy for example. The press consistently flooded our lives with Clinton?s personal life, and in doing so neglected to report the real presidential issues. We allow the media to entrap our thoughts and concerns until we realize that all we are paying attention to is hyped up drama about our president?s personal life. Whether or not the president engaged in sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky became the focus of our nation. We completely abandoned the idea of assessing the president?s real attributes. We didn?t allow ourselves to pay attention to the fact that he has helped in strengthening our economy and funding our schools. He has also come up with several ways to combat drugs and crime. So in a way we find the personal issues of our president more gratifying than what he has actually done for the well being of this country.
In using Bill Clinton as an example we see how carried away the press and media can get in reporting what is worthwhile. However other presidents have endured the same type of media exploitation, but with different results.
When Harry S. Truman was president he created a stir in the way things were done. All American presidents had their problems with the press, but no other president ever engaged in such open fights with the press as Truman did. As a result Truman experienced few papers that actually backed him. Typically one would think that this would have a lasting effect on his presidency and society. This wasn?t the case at all. During Truman?s presidential campaign in 1948, most papers in the country supported his rival, Thomas Dewey. The press was purposely down on Truman, but the thing was that the American public loved the aggressive president. They thought he was straightforward and honest. They thought it was humorous the way that he handled the press. Truman remained on top regardless of the type of press he received. He was able to speak to the people through his knowledge and wisdom rather than through the media?s surreal attempt at creating a realistic view of him.
For centuries the American press has almost been a sacred entity. No one was supposed to question it. The press could attack whomever and whatever it wished, but no one was to attack it. Today we have to realize that what may be considered news, could very well be the opposite. What the press and media perceive as important and vital is in many instances not. Keeping in mind the purpose of news and the importance of it should help in leading us to a more professional and focused society.