Mass Media And The Public Opinion Problem Media Essay

The war on Iraq is drawing to a close, but over the last six years, it has eclipsed the news agenda. Ever since the Gulf war ended in 1991, the United states and Britain have been waging an undeclared secret war on Iraq for twelve years1. The US led war in Iraq began in March 2003. Their intent was to abolish the Iraqi society allowing them to command Iraq’s huge oil reserves. This war received unparalleled media coverage on television and in the press. News networks spent significant amounts of money in situating reporters and photographers in Iraq. These reporters spent time with the coalition armed forces on the front line where they were able to provide live coverage of events as they happened. A number of consequences followed.

Get Help With Your Essay

If you need assistance with writing your essay, our professional essay writing service is here to help!

Essay Writing Service

Watchdog groups raised issues about the sheer quantity of war coverage, the nature of that coverage and the independence and objectivity of those so-called ’embedded’ journalists2. Clearly, it became important to know not only what the public felt about the actual war, but also how the public received information and formed their opinion about the war. Radio had World War II. Television had the Vietnam War. Cable TV had the Gulf War. Now, the Internet may have the U.S. war with Iraq3. In this modern day war, reporters with laptops and digital cameras reported directly from battlefields. Cameras were placed at key locations for live online feeds 24 hours a day. Interactive, 3-D maps updated online graphs of troop movements, casualties and weapons used4. The Internet is capable of providing so much more, with unregulated and unbiased reports/opinions of the war. It is also capable of connecting people with like minded opinions for discourse. Coupled with other semiotic advantages of the web (instant, cost-effective), the information explosion of the Internet has led to a worldwide crises in the television industry. This crisis is responsible for transforming the creation, distribution and consumption of content. As audiences make a move from television to the Internet (for unbiased war coverage), the television industry has struggled to keep up with new technologies, to reinvent itself, to formulate new formats, to find consumers on new platforms, to cut costs and create new business models such as providing free online access to shows on their networks. This shift in mass audience attention from television to the Internet will have a large impact on the media landscape. “You’re combining the speed of television with the depth of print,” says Mitch Gelman, executive producer of “This could define how [the] future [is] covered.” 5

Research Question

Does the explosion in Internet media further diversify and fragment the media landscape, reducing the influence of biased media on public opinion?

Thesis Statement

Even though the Internet is a privilege that is enjoyed only in first world countries and television and radio is still the primary source of information in most developing nations, an apparent bias in television news media has led audiences to seek more objective information from the world wide web because television news is filled with selective viewpoints while the interactivity, diversity and information capacity available on the Internet has the potential to allow the public to form a more knowledgeable opinion about politics and their government.


The significance of Internet news, forums and online political discussions as an information source is the ability to diversify the type of news people receive, and improve their ability to check the actions of elected officials. As opposed to news coverage on television which, filled with reports of vague truths, incomplete facts, inaccurate rumors and selective viewpoints, is determined to sell the war. Thus people are turning to online news sources in great numbers, to get a more balanced, objective and realistic perspective. Television and the Internet are pulling in opposite directions, and hence this study is important to understand this growing trend.


This research paper claims the theory of a shift of audience attention in an information era that now includes new un-monopolized and un-biased media sources such as the Internet and hence a shift to a more diversified public opinion. This paper will bring forward the relationship between media usage and support or opposition to the Iraq war. The claims put forth in this paper will be based on the Pew Internet & American Life Project Iraq War survey, March 20-25, 2003.


The purpose of this research is to show that public opinion is directly dependent upon what source they get their news information from. The round-the-clock convenience of the Internet and the centralization of un-regulated and un-biased information on the web can cut information costs for citizens while still providing ample political and government information6. Thus the goal of this paper is to show that television media does not continue to exert an effect on public opinion as the impact of the Internet has made opinion more diverse leading to a crises in the television news industry.

Statement of scope and limitations

The scope of this research is to show how the US television media have altered facts, reported several inaccurate stories and never acknowledged that this has been more of an invasion than a war. As a result of this apparent bias in television news media, audiences are seeking more objective information from the world wide web. This paper will not cover how the Internet is a privilege that is enjoyed only in first world countries and television and radio is still the primary source of information, shaping public opinion, in these developing nations. Also, this paper will not cover how most television shows are streamed illegally online and has led to a decline in network revenue.

Outline of argument

Television media coverage of news events is part of the free-market system in the U.S. where a number of elite groups can influence the type of coverage given to an issue and who gets heard7. This becomes a troubling factor in the case of news covering foreign affairs because the public has fewer sources of information to compare against. This has increased the importance of the Internet as a news source. As the television media is becoming concentrated in the hands of a few, it heightens the possibility that the public will have trouble getting both sides of a report. So far, the Internet has resisted the trend toward a singular message. Opposing viewpoints and information not available from other news sources flourish on the Web. For example, a 2003 Pew Internet and American Life survey found that the majority of respondents reported using the Internet for political news because of convenience and dissatisfaction with television media8.

Literature Review

“… about 50 per cent of the population now believes that Iraq was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. This has happened since September 2002. In fact, after the September 11 attack, the figure was about 3 per cent. Government-media propaganda has managed to raise that to about 50 per cent. Now if people genuinely believe that Iraq has carried out major terrorist attacks against the United States and is planning to do so again, well, in that case people will support the war. – Noam Chomsky, Iraq is a trial run9”


To explore the influence of both the Internet and the consolidation of television media on public opinion, this paper uses data and statistical analysis from surveys done by Pew Internet and American Life project entitled ‘The Internet And The Iraq War.’ These surveys are consistent with other writers such as Herman and Chomsky (Manufacturing consent and Iraq Is A Trial Run), Shapiro and Dempsey (What moves public opinion) and Macye and Steven (Embedding The Truth) among others also mentioned in this research paper. Even though some of the articles mentioned in this paper were published before the Iraq war, their detailed analysis of the effect of media on the public opinion still has modern day ramifications for this growing shift from television to the Internet. Hence the survey data along with several consistent articles in this research paper tests the theory of media influence on public opinion in a digital age that now includes new forms of media such as the Internet, as well as increased biassnes of the television industry.

An inherent bias

Experts have long agreed that news coverage has a very overwhelming influence on public opinion. Analyzing surveys and polls of public opinion on issues regarding the Iraq war,

Page, Shapiro and Dempsey (1987) find that change in public opinion is attributable to the source of news media forming the opinion. Public opinion towards the Iraq war in 2003 provides a case study under very unusual circumstances than other wars. Radio had World War II. Television had the Vietnam War. Cable TV had the Gulf War. Now, the Internet may have the U.S. war with Iraq10. Under these very different circumstances of newer technology, Page et al have found that, we might expect media coverage of the war to have a direct effect on public opinion.

Among experts arguing that news media are systematically biased, no other has been as influential as Herman and Chomsky. In ‘Manufacturing Consent,’ they advanced a ‘propaganda model’ that “suggests that the ‘societal purpose’ of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state11” (298). While trying to shed light on the relationship between politics and media, this work is often taken as evidence of a biassnes in the news media.

Using multivariate logistic regression, surveys done by Pew Internet & American Life Project in 2003, which seem to agree with the Herman and Chomsky’s analysis, found that television media coverage of the Iraq war shaped public opinion. Respondents who watched cable or network television as a primary source of news about the war, about thirty million Americans, were statistically more likely to support the Iraq war. But, respondents who read online war news were significantly less likely to support the war13. “The Internet has become a rich repository for satirical and subversive alternate visions. With the US campaign against Iraq, a unique form of resistance is emerging: not so much on the streets as through the electronic networks of the Internet.14” A former reporter turned media critic Bernard Goldberg writes,

“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore.15”

Shanto Iyengar, in ‘The Accessibility Bias In Politics’, argues that when the networks make a certain event more accessible by giving it extensive coverage, viewers automatically give that issue greater importance and use their opinions concerning that issue to a greater range when thinking about their country at war. “During the Iraq war coverage individuals were fed a steady diet yellow journalism.16” Yellow journalism, such as images of blown up military vehicles and downed helicopters, capture the attention of an audience much more than pictures of everyday mundane events. The practice of looking for the next big event, whether it comes from a suicide bomber or from an ambush on coalition troops, convinces Americans to believe that the war is far from over. Television news programs have sensationalized the war and discarded objectivity in favor of their own opinion of the conflict. A reporter for the International Herald Tribune, Michiko Kakutani observed, “Network producers have turned real-time reporting of the 2003 war in Iraq into prime time reality TV entertainment. Rather than presenting the real horror of war.17”

Shift to the Internet

In three different polls, an aggregate sample of three thousand respondents was asked, “Where do you tend to get most of your news?” The options offered were “newspapers and magazines” or “TV and radio.” Overall, nineteen percent said their primary news source was print media, while eighty percent said it was electronic18. These results are consistent with the findings of Kull and Ramsay, in Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War, who mention that traditional news sources are to blame for misperceptions regarding the reasons to invade Iraq.

People who depend on the Internet as their main news source, who tend to be younger and better educated than rest of the public and is roughly 68 percent of the American population, expressed unfavorable and analytical opinions of traditional news sources and press performance19. These audiences, about 6 out of 10,also say that news organizations do not care about the people they report on, and fifty three percent, of that number, believe that news organizations are too critical of America20. In the 2003 surveys these respondents mentioned they got news of the Iraq war from the web because “you don’t get all the news and information you want from traditional new sources such as the daily news paper or the network TV news.21” They also said “getting information online is more convenient22”

The Internet strips away one of the most despicable beliefs of journalism – “the ridiculous idea that journalists are fair-minded truth seekers out for nothing more than a good story.23” Due to Internet journalism -which has broken the monopoly of the status quo-, Mark Poster, in The Second Media Age, says we are shifting back towards an era of open discourse, much similar to the old days when various newspapers with various political connections, competed for the public’s attention.24 He goes on to explain that the interactivity, diversity, flexibility, and information capacity available on the Internet have the capability to allow the public to become more knowledgeable about politics and government.

It’s hard to be unbiased

Over the last six years of the Iraq war coverage, we have become used to watching journalists report from battlefields. These embedded journalists live, sleep, eat and face danger with the troops. Spending so much time with them, the journalists get to know the troops as individuals. Hence the reports are humanised. But these much praised reports of war overlook the fact that these embeds are embedded with one side only. This in no way is a balanced perspective25.

A very pessimistic John Simpson of the BBC says:

“I don’t want to spend my whole time with people to whom I owe my safety, my protection, my food, my transport, and then be expected to be completely honest about them, because there’s always that sense that you’re betraying a trust.26”

In today’s style of non stop news coverage, it is very hard for a report to be unbiased. News programs today are made to grasp the attention of hyperactive and impatient audience (since there are other channels to choose from). Usually, every television news report is told in less than two minutes. This results in a great loss of detail, and that’s where the TV reporter’s personal bias comes into play: he or she decides what parts of a story to include or omit.

As many people have pointed out, broadcast news is dangerous, not because of what’s reported, but because of what is not reported. Fortunately the Internet is becoming a more reliable source of daily news, and it helps fill in the gaps. Anyone looking for current news, can gather more information in five minutes on the Internet than they can get in an hour of watching television.


The television media culture has become arrogant, often ignorant and mindless, but not quite so dominant as it used to be. Specifically, television news is no the same anymore. The Internet, with its hundreds of news sources, some ‘professional reports’ and many others not so professional, is doing to television news what television news did to newspapers a generation ago, steadily stealing its audience.


see >> //


1.(see John Pilger’s The Secret War on Iraq).

2. The ‘Media Workers Against the War’ and the ‘Indymedia’ network — media War coverage. wiki

3. //

4. //

5. //

6. //

7. //,0,4

8. //

9. //

10. //

11. Manufacturing Consent

12. //

13. //

14. //

15. //

16. //

[oxford journals] >> //

17. Michiko Kakutani. “The Ultimate Reality TV Show: Coverage on the War in Iraq.” At Issue: Reality TV. Ed. Karen F. Balkin. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2003. August 2004. 25 July 2010. .

18. //

19. Lbid, page



22. lbid

23. //

24. //

25. see downloads dooley

26. //




Most Used Categories

EssayHub’s Community of Professional Tutors & Editors
Tutoring Service, EssayHub
Professional Essay Writers for Hire
Essay Writing Service, EssayPro
Professional Custom
Professional Custom Essay Writing Services
In need of qualified essay help online or professional assistance with your research paper?
Browsing the web for a reliable custom writing service to give you a hand with college assignment?
Out of time and require quick and moreover effective support with your term paper or dissertation?