Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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1.3.2 Section 7: Interactions between policy makers, media and citizens

This section focuses on the operation of power in relationships between political leaders, the media and citizens, based on the underlying question: who influences who?

One approach is to consider the individual investigative journalist or 'news hound' sniffing out a story, undaunted by vested interests, determined to uncover facts and to break his or her story to the public at any cost. This might be called 'the heroic journalist narrative'. Another is to argue that the ownership and system of media production is such that the news contains stories and interpretations of them that systematically favour the ruling elite, and as a result is biased against non-mainstream views and voices. This has nothing to do with the views or actions of individual journalists: the argument is rather that in a capitalist society, audience share and commercial interests determine what counts as news.

An alternative approach, based on a study of US media coverage of the Vietnam War, focuses on relationships between political elites and journalists, rather than on the media production process as a system. In this perspective, news is not determined by the relationships between elites and production processes, but rather an outcome of the struggles both within and between social groups (including political elites and journalists). It is shaped by the particular cultures and histories of those groups in different contexts.

This section also explores just how much autonomy there is at the level of media culture and examines the degree of freedom that contemporary (and indeed public-corporation based) journalism can enjoy, and further explores the notion of the ‘heroic journalist’.

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