The Mass Media are all businesses that need to satisfy their audiences, advertisers, and governments to further their goal, namely, making money. By breaking news items into small sound bites that the average person can sit through and by favoring news stories that cater to their audience's prejudices and interests, Mass Media caters to an audience with little attention span and a desire to have information fed to them, rather than try to understand it themselves.
In order to cater to advertisers, mass media suppresses news that makes the advertisers or their products look bad and they do news reports or articles on their advertiser's products in order to plug the product in question for free.
The media is also careful not to question government actions too intently and play favorites in the coverage of news in order to appease said government and avoid being censored or having their licenses revoked.
Other businesses, especially large corporations, heavily control the news with their power as advertisers, influence in government, and as owners of media themselves. They use this power to suppress stories that don't support their interests and to get favorable stories into media presentations.
The media does have its own power in the fact that it is given free license to expose and publicize whatever it wants, but in practice they try to keep all those that have power to influence news happy, and to make money doing so.
Also, it is not conducive to high profits if the media needs spend money on actual journalism. It is better business to gather news from other sources and save you the time and money it takes to finance and investigative report.
The media is also purported to adhere to an objective stance that requires speculation, judgments, and evaluations that aren't based on fact be stricken from the news. In actuality, the news items themselves require the reporters to judge what the facts of the situation are and the decisions on what will be covered at all depend largely on value judgments. The lip service to objectivity does however keep the media from straying too far from acceptable societal norms in judgment and evaluation.
Media's quick and dirty "just the facts ma'am" philosophy often results in a dearth of explanations as to why things actually happen or are the way they are. Reporters can't be expected to be experts on every topic they cover, although they wish to appear so. But even when they do fall back on "expert opinion" they try to satisfy all factions that influence the media itself. The result is generally a watered down statement by said expert that the reporter, who is no expert, could have come up with himself.
The media also finds it profitable to slant the news, and accomplishes this in several different ways. They play stories up or down; they use misleading or sensationalized headlines. They omit follow up stories, use emotive language and utilize cartoons to sell a point of view.
Television has become by far the most important mass medium. No other medium can match televisions immediacy, or size of audience. Television has become the main venue for political battles and for major events to be reported, such as wars or natural disasters. Television has so much power that it overshadows all other media and can even influence the world and events on which it reports.
This all being said, smaller scale media outlets are far superior in supplying background information, investigative reporting and even, God forbid, understanding of events. Small circulation magazines and PBS stations provide a lot more in the way of unadulterated analysis. In addition, an intense concentration of media power is in the hands of giant conglomerates that use their vast size not to increase efficiency of the news, but to make lots more money. Their large size allows them to resist the controls of certain media influences, but this is rarely utilized in favor of appeasing anyone shoving a dollar toward them.
Online publications are providing more and more news coverage as time goes by. What this means for the future is an as yet unanswered but interesting question.
Now then, pardon me for a moment whilst I make obscene gestures in the general direction of Katie Couric and her ilk.
In my view the term "socially acceptable" is somewhat of a misnomer in light of the fact that whatever one says, can be and often is, found offensive by this group or that person. If indeed this were what defined what the media would and wouldn't report, then there wouldn't be any news programs at all. Instead, the media defines what is socially acceptable, and thus is defined in turn by the acceptance of that self same society.
The media can wander between any variations of norms due to the fact that it monopolizes the vast majority of American quasi-thought. Whatever seen on TV must be true. This complacent laziness inherent in the largest TV addicted demographic thus enables mass medias to dictate policy more efficiently and immediately than Stalin or Castro could have ever dreamed of. A nation of simplified boob tube jockeys without the wit nor wisdom to differentiate between ridiculous cartoonish over the top violence and the more horrific reality that is spousal abuse. Television has become the nursemaid of more and more children and in raising them, turns them into mindless little pawns that more easily conform to the mandates of the media that has been the child's only confidant throughout his life.
The News on the Internet may well seem a beacon of hope to some that are jaded to the rampant commercialism that saturates other mass media outlets. After all, anyone can put up anything into the net that his or her heart desires. It is a veritable cornucopia of varying opinion, and once you can surf beyond the petty mandates of a given Internet Service Provider, a realm of infinite possibility.
Unfortunately, this is the mistaken opinion of many that think they have found a place to air their grievances and be heard by the public. The most frequented sites are also the most emphatically controlled, and have agendas comparable to newspapers and television, those agendas being the least possible effort and the largest possible profit margin.
People sign on to their respective service providers, get a few snippets of headlines that reflect the aims of the corporations that control those service providers, and move on to download music or whatever their original intent was in sitting down in front of the computer. Sure, you can post up information, but that information which doesn't jibe well with the acceptable is relegated to out of the way sites, assessable only to those who click a wrong link in their quest for pornography or are already looking for the type of information you provide. The end result is your opinion still doesn't reach the masses it was intended too, and preaching to the already converted is a rather futile gesture.
The News is controlled online with the same iron grip it is controlled everywhere else. My solution: go outside and see what is going on for yourself. That is the only way you'll ever know.
Chaos in Motion