Media Institution: Crash Course Government and Politics #44

Hello. I’m Craig, and this is Crash Course
Government and Politics, and today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite subjects:
the media and its role in politics. At last, we’re finally going to hear a fair
and balanced account of how the lamestream media is distorting the American public’s
understanding of current affairs! Yeah, sure, except for the segment of the
American public that gets all of their information from right wing media sources. Ok, so the media can be a thorny issue, but, we are
talking about politics here, and technically we are a part of the media, so we should probably say something
about it. Other than how awesome we are at it. [Theme Music] (deep, growly voice)
I am the media! Ha ha ha ha ha! (regular voice)
So, in terms of politics, the main function of the media is to provide information so people
can make decisions and get involved in politics. (deep voice)
Ha ha ha ha! (regular voice)
Sorry. For the economically inclined, the media lowers information costs. Rather than
going out and researching what we might want to know, which takes time and effort, various media
outlets tell us stuff that they think we will find useful. We probably have a sense of what we mean by
media, but it’s a good idea to break it down into types, because each of the forms of media
work slightly differently, and the role of the different types has changed a lot over
the years. There’s a lot more beards, for instance. The oldest form of media, at least, that we
are going to talk about today, is print, which means newspapers and magazines. Print is no
longer the main source of information for Americans, but it sure used to be. Especially
in the days when some large cities had papers that would put out a morning and afternoon
edition. But just because fewer people are reading
print media doesn’t mean that they aren’t very important. For one thing, most of the
other news media organizations rely on print for their news. Newspapers like the New York
Times and the Washington Post still break most major news stories and provide a lot
of information for television and Internet news. Print media also tend to offer more detail
and comprehensive news stories, although this is changing quickly. One aspect of print media that is
often overlooked is that it’s still the main source of news for educated elites, and these are the people
whose opinions tend to matter a lot in making policy. If you’re skeptical about this, watch a morning
news program or check out an article on a news aggregator website and see how often the program article references
the Times or the Post. You might be surprised. The second oldest, and in some ways still
most important source of political information comes from broadcast media. As a Youtuber,
I hate to say this, but television still reaches more Americans than any other form of media, and
remains an important source of political information. Radio is less important at reaching a diverse
mass audience, although talk radio, especially conservative talk radio, matters a lot in
the political media landscape. But despite it’s massive reach, broadcast media has a
significant drawback in shaping public opinion: television stories are very short, usually less than
two minutes long, and therefore less informative. A third major media force in politics is,
what’s that called? The Internet! You probably already know that, though, since you’re watching
this video. It’s a little bit tricky to write about how the Internet affects politics because it’s changing
so rapidly. But there are a few things we can say. As a news source, the primary advantage of
the Internet is that it can update so quickly. This is great for breaking news, although
there’s an argument that it pushes news organizations towards creating more stories and hot takes (also my
nickname in high school), rather than deep reporting. In the early days of the web, Internet news
was mostly just online versions of print newspapers, but that landscape has shifted, a lot. First
came blogs about politics, and then sites dedicated to politics. Which, this being America,
tended to polarize into right wing and left wing sites. The growth of social media provided new avenues
for politicians, campaigns, and parties to get their information to the masses, and now
every candidate has at least one Twitter profile and Facebook page. And they’ve probably got
a Snapchat and a Tumblr, and a, uh, maybe a Tinder, and staff dedicated to maintaining
a social media presence. This can be great for lots of information about a
candidate or their policies, but it’s hardly unbiased news, so if this is your only source of information,
you’re probably aren’t going to get the full story. For a sense of how the media landscape has
changed over the past two decades, check out this chart. That’s right, we got charts here.
Cause we are video media. The surprising thing to me about this data is not that so many
more people are getting their news from online sources, but that such a high percentage still
relies on television news, especially if you combine local, national, and cable news programs. I, sometimes I forget I have a TV. I guess
you can chalk it up to information costs. Without any research on your part, watching
a nightly news program will keep you decently informed, and it only takes twenty-two minutes
of your time, without the commercials. So just sit there and let the TV do the thinking
for ya. I should probably talk about those commercials
a little bit. One of the really great things about the Internet is that it opens up the
possibility of a lot more non-commercially supported information becoming available.
There’s no commercials on the Internet… none. A serious complaint about broadcast and print
journalism is that, because they are primarily financed by advertising, news organizations
have an incentive not to report on stories that are critical of their parent organizations
of advertisers. This doesn’t stop us from getting negative reports about News Corp or the Washington
Post group, but they’re unlikely to report on themselves. So this question of how much we can trust
the news comes down largely to issues of bias, because it’s pretty rare that news organizations
lie outright. Without the public trust, readers and viewers will just go somewhere else. This
doesn’t mean that newspapers, and to a much lesser extent, television companies, are without
bias, though. The New York Times and Washington Post do tend
to be more liberal than conservative, but overall they’re probably balanced out by the Wall Street Journal,
Fox News, and talk radio, which tend to be conservative. Putting political bias aside, the most persistent
bias in the news seems to be towards conflict and scandal! And these are not really liberal or
conservative issues. If anything, the news media is most biased towards conflict, which may explain
why you don’t see a lot of stories about compromise. Two politicians smiled and shook hands today, and then
walked away, happy. That doesn’t sound interesting. Let’s look at the three main factors that
effect news coverage in the Thought Bubble. The first factor influencing the news is the
journalists who make it. The journalists are even more important than their bosses, the
publishers, because they have the discretion to report and interpret the news. If you think
the news is just the facts, then it’s useful to remember that the New York Times slogan
used to be: all the news that’s fit to print. Do reporters have a bias towards one political
ideology or the other? Probably. More journalists identify as liberal and as Democrats than
say they are conservative or Republican. The next factor to consider is the source
of political news: the politicians themselves. Politicians do a lot of things to create a
positive media image for themselves, and this goes beyond shaking hands and kissing babies.
They show up at important events, like opening day of the baseball season, or a natural disaster,
and make the most of these photo opportunities. They also cultivate relationships with reporters,
because if a journalist likes you, they might be more likely to write something nice about
you. Or at least something less mean. One of the best ways to cultivate a good relationship
with a journalist is by leaking information to them. A leak is a disclosure of confidential
information to a journalist, and politicians can use them to cement relationships with
news organizations, and to make sure that a story is reported the way that they want
it reported. Reporters have a hard time refusing a scoop,
so if a politician gives inside information, they can usually influence the way the reporter
will tell the story. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Even more important then leaks are press releases.
These are stories written by politicians, or more likely their staff, that are released
to the press. Politicians hope that stories will be reported with minimal revisions, and
they often are, especially since there’s so much pressure for news organizations to put
out content as quickly as possible. News organizations like them a lot, because
they lower the cost of producing information. But advocates of responsible journalism worry a lot
about them because, coming directly from politicians, they’re certain to be biased. And when they’re
reported as straight news, they can be misleading. The third factor influencing the media is
us, the consumers of news. Why do we matter if news is just a matter of reporting what
happens? We matter because producers of news want us to read and watch it, so they make
news that we will want to read and watch. In practice, this means that the news will be tailored
to the groups of people most likely to consume it. And those people are not always a good cross-section
of Americans as a whole. People who watch and read the news tend to be better educated
and wealthier than those who don’t, and media producers respond to this. What this means
in practice is that certain segments of the population, and their concerns, are under-reported.
Among the large groups that don’t get media attention that is proportional to their size
are the working class, especially union workers, religious groups, veterans, and various minority
groups. So the media plays an important role in American
politics as the filter through which politicians can make information available to the public.
The media, as the name suggests, mediates this information and shapes it in powerful
ways. In the sense that it doesn’t actually create or change the structures of government,
you could argue that the media isn’t all that important to the American political system.
But if you believe that information is key to understanding why and how American politicians
act, then we start to see media in a new light. In many ways the most important thing about
media is what it doesn’t cover. It’s really hard for voters and other citizens to formulate
opinions and try to influence their elected representatives if they don’t even know something
is an issue. Even in the twenty-first century, when there are so many more sources of information to
choose from, there are still stories we don’t get to hear. The first step to hearing them is probably
a better understanding of the media and its importance as a political institution. Thanks
for watching, see you next time. Crash Course is produced in association with
PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course US Government comes from Voqal. Voqal supports
nonprofits that use technology and media to advance social equity. Learn more about their
mission and initiatives at Crash Course is made with the help of all
of these unbiased journalists. Thank you. Except for that guy. He’s pretty biased. That one’s
not even a journalist. I don’t even know who that is.

  1. In Mexico the media (the main TV station) creates or destroys every single politician. The president is merely a joke.

  2. Pretty sure in light of Brian Williams, and NBC's editing of Zimmerman's 911 tape, that the statement "broadcast media may be bad, but they don't lie outright" is a statement easily debunked.

  3. "in the early days of the web" I'm disappointed there wasn't a screenshot of the Drudge Report, which looks just like it did in the 90s

  4. I'm betting that in a few years a new medium will immerge, namely interactive media. More and more you see serious games taking of. No longer just for fun, but also discussing more and more adult topics. If you look at games like democracy 3 and it's political bias, it is clear to see that this has potential. Question is will it be for good or for ill.

  5. Great, now I can watch OAN and not get automatically angry because I already know what to expect from their biased, conservative reporting.

  6. If you found this interesting i recommend googling noam chomsky and the bias of the elite. He has some great insight i know you'll love.

  7. By the way a Turkish newspaper, "Cumhuriyet (Republic)", has surprisingly appeared @1:31. According to text I could read, the footage is from 1930s.

  8. Good video as usual, thanks. I'm disappointed that the concentration of ownership (over the last couple of decades) of mainstream media wasn't mentioned and neither was the infiltration of mainstream media by organizations like the CIA. I think both are responsible for the lack of reporting on important subjects that those in control don't want reported. On the flip side, internet reporting often occurs with little fact checking and limited ownership of mistakes. Still, I'll take the internet over Reuters PR BS any day. 🙂

  9. I think we've reached a point where everyone in the US must acknowledge that the cable news networks are not responsible news sources. Between bias, corporate influence, and the drive to show divisive, inflammatory content, they haven't been responsible for years. I like PBS and NPR for news, but they do lean more or less to the left, although I think there are PBS programs doing the last responsible reporting left in the US.

  10. Too bad the reporters are not also the editors or owners of the media. The editors and owners are the ones that really determine what news is given to the public. And they are not left wing, far from it..

  11. What about the new propaganda laws? If they just legalized lying to the American public, then why not explain it in this video?

  12. I recommend Noam Chomsky's and Edward S. Herman's "Manufacturing Consent" for a deep analysis of the workings of mass-media institutions. For anyone truly concerned with upholding democracy and the necessity for free media should take a look at this book. Fair warning, though, their conclusions might not exactly uplift your "America is the freest country evaaah"-spirit.

  13. This is why you always need to get news from LOTS of different sources, no matter what your political affiliation. The news is always biased and frankly, it's disingenuous of the media to pretend it's not.

  14. "this being america". Nah, media being divided in left and rightwing is pretty much a worldwide thing, at least in democracies. Belgium has the classic progressive-conservative bias between De Morgen and De Standaard
    Germany Der Standard is conservative while Die Zeit is more progressive
    Holland has this divide between De Volkskrant and Trouw
    In Italy, Berlusconi owns most conservative TV stations while most independent news sources tend to be progressive.
    The UK has a typical divide between Daily Mail on the extreme right and Daily Mirror on the left.

    Just to say, open your eye to the world, America isn't the world. USA isn't even America. Apart from the specifics, most of this series goes for most democracies.

  15. 1st example the Trans Pacific Partnership where the Corporations want Americans to compete with Malaysia who get paid $0.50 per hour or $0.00 per hour because they are slaves. Look it up, they are not going to tell you these things and the Media is not going to report on it.

  16. This entire series should be a basis for civics classes (if they even still have those)…it would keep the students attention and provide a great basis for open discussion.

  17. Hello John Green, i'm watching all of your videos and i like them a lot. i know many people ask you to do this or that video but Republic of Georgia. The Georgian kingdom and Empire of Trebizond king David the builder from 960- 1089 -1300 is very very interesting time in Caucasus region relationship between Kingdom of Georgia and Byzantium. please make video, i will help you if you will need something.

  18. Actually, Washington Post has been more right-leaning, but they appear more in the middle with the rise of Fox news

  19. 4:00 – you said "decently" informed, but Fox viewers have been shown to be less informed than those that do not consume any news.

  20. @anonymous anonymous "The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than a man who reads nothing but newspapers." That's the actual quote. Yet it doesn't make it true.

  21. ya'll suck at facts! matt drudge, brightbart, and info wars get over 32million hits a day….. witch crushes all national news shows.

  22. Two extremes do NOT balance each other. The truth is often a middle ground and neither extreme will highlight that. Watching both extremes will not as well.

  23. They should talk about think tanks and how money is affecting them, cough cough, Koch bros and Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Cato Institute, etc.

  24. New allows you inform yourself on things relevant to you lifestyle and interests. It is one of the best ways for us to learn about the world around us, and we use that to make a personal world view. The problem with this is many commercial or political pieces are told to you as if they are unbiased. I was on a major networks main site (not to be named), and one of the pieces I found was about a law about cars. I own a car, and was interested. Three paragraphs down I came to the realization it was just a massive sales pitch for an insurance site! Looked like news, was on a trusted news site, but it was in no way news. Ads I understand are needed to pay for this free to me news, but dressing up a hooker and calling her your date, although factual (she came there with you), is a tad disingenuous.

  25. Is there not a website that shows every bill or acitivity that goes on in the governemtn. Like what bills are happening in the Legislative Branch or the cases happeningin the Judicial Branch?

    I want to become well informed about these things.

  26. CC always makes me feel optimistic about the current situation… then I test the mechanism and the optimism dies.

  27. HAHA What an Orwellian moment in YouTube history. The government funded P.B.S. sponsors crashcourse to tell you what to think of government. What a sales pitch! I think there is a conflict of interest here everybody.

  28. I think many people forget that it's possible to be biased towards fairness, and the media shouldn't necessarily give equal weight to both sides of the aisle on every issue. It the republican party said tomorrow that it believed the earth was flat, the headline should be "Crazy republicans don't believe the Earth is round", rather than "Republicans and Democrats can't agree on shape of the Earth"

  29. It may be a bias from my upbringing but I'm surprised that religious interests are considered under-represented. Do you mean non-Christian religious interests? Clarification and possibly examples of what you mean could be useful.

  30. "interpreting" the news…based on bias thoughts. "Shapes it in powerful ways."  I've seen some even subtly use certain verbs & adjectives to try to skew the viewers opinion. Or using "mood" music to sway. Playing on the subconscious.

  31. Just remember, journalists are professionals, and with the exception of opinion writers and editorialists, who write away from the newsroom, journalists do everything they can to get their stories right, and work hard to take their bias out of it.

  32. Yet the New York Times and The Washington Post have extremely opinionated and biased articles which are now driving a lot of the public perception because they don't read into it anymore than a one sided article. It's a shame.

  33. This was great, thanks, I been tryin to find out about "social media jobs ny" for a while now, and I think this has helped. Ever heard of – Tanathan Hyperstorm Social – (do a google search ) ? Ive heard some super things about it and my buddy got cool results with it.

  34. I used to think Fox was full of it, but as I grew older and did my research stay away from CNN and MSNBC. Or actually, watch it yourselves, and fact check.

  35. wow crush curse has everything, except for… oh I can´t think anything I just wish I were better at improvisation.

  36. The chart was great, but has a massive typo – actually two. It says "The Trend in Regular New Consumption". Good video overall, though.

  37. Great topic. However, Id like to see a focus on what is the role that media plays in politics and government. What was the governments original role in media and how has that evolved over the decades? We need to talk about partisan selective exposure and how your media outlets are creating confirmation bias.

  38. I stopped watching the news, they profit off tragedy and only show news that they can push the agenda on. CNN and MSNBC want a red USSR America, and fox news, pushed hard against Obama during his terms, and for what, we barely got the ACA appealed, thanks to stupid McCain replacement bombed, and planned parenthood never got defunded. Senator Pual makes it pretty clear that Cocaine Mitch has no desire to defund it because the party needs something to run on. I guess a communist, do nothing house, that wants to steal all our guns isn't good enough. So I just quit watching the news. Why fund them. I'll never forget when the NRA correctly called out CNN for only wanting to profit off mass shooting. Which is so true because when the shooter isn't a white guy, it never appears on the news, ever. I get my news from people that admit their bias. That way when they push agendas I know the money they raise goes to causes I'd support and not milk toast politicians like the Former, RIP, Senator McCain::shivers::

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