In order to live in a society, a person must be acculturated into the society and its behavior patterns through some sort of acculturation process. This is really a learning process that teaches individuals what is appropriate and acceptable behavior and thinking and what is inappropriate and unacceptable. This socialization process occurs within an institutional framework built by the society in question, which helps socialize a child into that society. While every society may have different institutions in its framework, there are some institutions common to almost every society – family, peer group, religion, education, occupation, political affiliation and mass media (Pujari, 2015).
Some may object to the inclusion of mass media; however, it is difficult to imagine that television, which is turned on an average of 7 plus hours a day in U.S. households, does not have an impact on those who are watching it. Mass media, and the emergence of social media, have become the predominate forms of communication among younger generations. While representatives of the media will always argue that all they do is provide entertainment for public consumption and they are not responsible for how people use it or how it effects them, it is ridiculous to think that mass media have no impact upon their audiences. Since communication is the vital link between people and these institutions, it is also the vital instrument in passing on the material of socialization (Pujari, 2015). In fact, news media may be the most important source of cultural learning for children as they grow up. It seems that children are spending less time with the family, and more time with peer groups and media. The influence is noticeable.
Media and Social Responsibility
While the media will argue that all they do is provide entertainment, their representatives consider them to be businesses, which means that the content of the entertainment is driven by its ability to attract an audience that advertisers want to reach with their messages. Advertisers use these media because they know that their messages will have an impact on those who receive them (Sissors and Baron, 2010). Advertisers know that what is said and how it is said does have an impact on the audience, and that advertising through these media can motivate consumers to purchase the product (Parente and Strausbaugh-Hutchinson, 2014).
While it is not universally agreed that businesses have some social responsibility toward the public, businesses are feeling the pressure to accept social responsibility for their behavior. Because they communicate with people and attempt to get people to modify their behavior toward the product, they have to accept responsibility for their communications. In fact, social responsibility in the business community has developed into an increasingly important area of controversy and discussion over the last fifty years (Edmundson, 2015). There are business people who still believe, along with Milton Friedman, that a business’s social responsibility is simply to increase shareholder profits (Edmundson, 2015). However, more and more critics and opinion leaders in the media are asserting that businesses must accept responsibility for their business practices, communications messages, truthfulness about what their products will do and will not do, and their relationship with the community and the environment. They can no longer use, “it’s not my responsibility”, as an excuse for doing nothing in the face of bad behavior.
News Media and Political Opinions
There is little doubt about the news media’s influence on political opinions of the public. Media are, perhaps, the most important influence on the audience’s political thinking and opinions. For example, the New York Times is unquestionably a liberal news outlet whose editorials and opinion pieces are slanted toward the liberal left philosophy. There are very few, if any, conservative pundits writing for the Times, and if there was a conservative who offered an opinion it would be drowned out by all the liberal voices competing for attention in the paper. Consequently, anyone who reads the New York Times will likely be a liberal in terms of politics or soon become one, if they continue to read it.
This is also becoming true of television news media. CBS news has a reputation for being more conservative, especially now that Dan Rather has been put out to pasture, and ABC is seen as more liberal, as was NBC under Brian William’s leadership. In fact, MSNBC has become the voice of the liberal left. Other news media are established conservative voices in the community and nation, and people who pay attention to these media will either adopt their political orientation or they already have it and read or listen to the medium because of its orientation. Interestingly, the public is beginning to see more individual news stories take on a political viewpoint. For example, in the 2004 election cycle, Dan Rather manufactured a news story concerning President Bush’s National Guard tenure, which made the president look like a slacker. The intention was to do damage to President Bush’s reputation and image so that he would lose votes among the public. When it came to light that the store was false, the damage was done to Dan Rather’s reputation and also to CBS’s reputation and image.
Impact on Journalism and News Consumption
Electronic media, along with social media such as Facebook and Twitter, have changed the nature of how the public gets news. For years, newspapers and magazines were the most important and widely used sources of news for most of the public. The news stories were generally longer and more detailed so that the public had a better understanding of what transpired. However, as electronic media, such as radio and television, opened the door to shorter news stories that could be delivered faster than printed media could deliver them. For example, when President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas in 1963, the news spread across the nation is a matter of minutes instead of the days it would have taken with newspapers and other printed media. The same thing was true for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC. The news networks were on the air broadcasting the attacks almost as they were happening. Social media, such as Twitter, have made it possible to communicate during the event from people who are actually experiencing the news.
The impact on news consumption has been astounding. Electronic media have flourished with their ability to provide fast delivery of news, but in return the news is often incorrect because it has not been thoroughly checked before the story goes out over the air. Twitter is making news delivery even faster and, perhaps, more reckless as a result of speed. Newspapers have experienced a decline in circulation because as a news medium, they are too slow. The news in the paper is old before it even gets printed. Consequently, the public has turned to electronic media, television, radio, Internet, Twitter, Facebook, computers, etc. for its news, and the faster it is delivered, the better. The public has traded depth and accuracy for speed and instant information.
- Edmundson, B. (2015). Why Milton Friedman Would Have Been Okay With Benefit Corporations. Triple Pundit. Retrieved from: http://www.triplepundit.com/2015/11/milton-friedman-okay-benefit-corporations/
- Parente, D. and Strausbaugh-Hutchinson, K. (2014). Advertising Campaign Strategy: A Guide to Marketing Communications Plans, 5th edition. Cincinnati, OH: South-Western College Publishing.
- Pujari, S. (2015). Socialization: The Meaning, Features, Types, Stages and Importance. Your Article Library. Retrieved from: http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/sociology/socialization-the-meaning-features-types-stages-and-importance/8529/
- Sissors, J. Z. and Baron, R. B. (2010). Advertising Media Planning, Seventh Edition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.