The greatest force impacting media and democracy is the explosion of information now circulated via more sources than ever before. Super stations are buying up small competitors. Media powerhouses owning several media formats the American public hears only what the media giants want us to.
The media is one of the most powerful and dangerous forces behind the growth of Big Government. For far too long the media has been biased on issues, certain political candidates and the two-party system. It varies from state to state or from one locale to the other, but overall the media has failed to give equal coverage to all candidates because it takes sides and advocates its own agenda. Raising ad prices during a campaign easily eliminates any candidate or group that has less available funding. This exclusionary bias infringes upon the people’s right to make a fair assessment of all the candidates and cast an educated vote in an election.
There is an ever-increasing segment of the population that considers itself neither Democrat nor Republican and many people are tired of having to vote in the two-party system. When I polled people about why they do not vote, the common reply I hear is that people do not feel like either of the candidates is a good choice. So, the second question I asked in my poll is, “Why not vote for an independent candidate?” The common response is, “I didn’t know there was another person running.” Some independent candidates have excellent ideas and abilities to implement them, but media costs are so exorbitant that not every candidate can afford to advertise in the mainstream media. We are responsible as voters to do our own research but many people don’t have the time to turn over every rock to find the alternate candidate. This discourages worthy candidates from even attempting to run for office. I was recently told that I was wasting my vote should I cast it for someone who couldn’t win. Whatever happened to the beloved underdog? America loves a winner, but the winner isn’t always the most capable candidate, and vice versa.
While working with a local political campaign this past year it became apparent that our city newspaper had predetermined which candidate it would support. The editor refused to send a reporter to take to the press the story of a local independent councilperson. However, some of the large party candidates received free coverage on the evening news and through interviews initiated and published by local the newspaper. People tend to vote for the candidate that has the most public exposure and we all know that means media dollars. Without publicity and financial backing from political parties a candidate doesn’t stand a chance even though he or she may be the best contender. It is true that the candidate who spends the most money usually wins the election. This was particularly true in the local council election mentioned above where a young woman ran against a good ol’ boy calling himself a Republican, and a Democrat candidate who supported higher taxes. Even realizing that she probably wouldn’t win the election, I chose to help my friend with her campaign because she is making a point and bucking the system. I admire her tenacity and belief that she could have an affect on democracy. When the votes were tallied and the expenditures were accounted for, the number of votes was in almost exact proportion to the amount of money spent on each campaign.
In the 2008 Presidential Election, the media can better serve democracy by returning to true journalism, and by being more open-minded and less influenced by issue advocacy and dollar signs. When biases are put away, true freedom of speech and freedom of press will return and a true democracy will exist.
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