There is no denial that the outrage media- what some consider to be their go-to source of news and what others consider to be a waste of time, has tremendous power on the general public and politics. The cable news ratings for February 25, 2015 show the Rachel Maddow Show secured the second most viewed slot at 9’clock and The O’Reilly Factor having the highest viewers at the 11’clock slot (Cable News Ratings). Even though each show attracts 1.3 million viewers daily, the shows’ content influences people on a much larger scale than just its viewers.
The Outrage Media, an “emotional, partial and opinion based” news outlet, is able to influence an institution that is meant to be “rational, impartial, and fact-based” (Berry and Sobieraj). Media outlets, including netroots, are able to put so much focus on an issue of their choice that it eventually becomes the focal point of politicians’ debates and speeches. “The press and the media do not reflect reality, they filter and shape it; media concentration on a few issues and subjects leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than other issues” (Media Power in American Politics: Agenda-Setting). After reading about this concept of irrational media affecting a rational process, I immediately thought of all the negative consequences that could emerge. However, taking a step back I realized it is not all bad.
Interpretation, as explained by Barnhurst, has become a trend among journalists. Journalists are now moving away from storytelling and moving towards how the story will affect them. Allowing reporters to share their personal views, instead of just cold hard facts, exposes viewers/readers to perspectives they would have maybe not considered before.
The power of agenda setting also allows the netroots to create a social movement to enact change. No longer are the voices and problems of locals ignored. Agenda setting has created a trickling effect that begins from local communities and blogs, then picked up by news stations and the outrage media. The media outlet then has the power to discuss the issue as many times until it is perceived as a critical issue. In a 1968 study, by Dr. McCombs and Dr. Shaw, 100 Chapel Hill residents were asked what they believed to be the most important election issue. Many responded with the same issue reported to be most important by local and national news. “If a news item is covered frequently, the audience will regard the issue as more important,” (Media Power in American Politics: Agenda-Setting). While some may argue that this takes away viewers’ ability to think, one could argue that this provides coverage for an issue that would have otherwise been ignored if it weren’t for the media. Once the news story has been deemed as significant, it eventually makes its way into politicians’ agendas, forcing politicians “to become more reactive than proactive, undermining their traditional agenda-setting role” (Kreiss).
While many may see this shift in journalism negative, I believe it is important to consider the power it has given to the netroots campaign, if used correctly. What may seem as a power shift from politicians to the media, it can be also seen as a shift of power onto the public. It is just about who takes advantage of this power.
Barnhurst, Kevin G. “The Makers of Meaning: National Public Radio and the New Long Journalism, 1980-2000.” N.p., 29 Oct. 2010. Web. <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10584600390172374>.
Berry, Jeffrey M., and Sarah Sobieraj. The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
“Cable News Ratings.” TVbytheNumbers. N.p., 02 Mar. 2015. Web. <http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2015/03/02/cable-news-ratings-for-friday-february-27-2015/369092/>.
Kreiss, Daniel. “Acting in the Public Sphere.” UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, n.d. Web. <http://jomc.unc.edu/news/daniel-kreiss-acting-public-sphere>.
“Media Power in American Politics: Agenda-Setting.” Boundless. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://www.boundless.com/political-science/textbooks/boundless-political-science-textbook/media-10/the-role-of-media-in-politics-71/media-power-in-american-politics-agenda-setting-396-718/>.