Media is important in the society. The term media is derived from the word medium which means a mode. Media is considered as a tool that is used to pass information to a mass audience (Christians, 2009). Traditionally, media was available in only two forms; newspaper and magazine. However, the invention of technology gave rise to other forms such as the television, radio, cinemas and the internet (Hallin, 2004). Media serves a number of roles in the society some of which are obvious while other roles are not clearly identified by many people. A lot of people are still debating on whether the media is serving a positive role in the society or a negative role. Some people believe that it has negatively affected the society in a number of ways but many people still consider it as a positive tool within the society. Media is a significant tool in the society because it is all over around us. Other than acting as a source of entertainment, media acts as a watchdog, it controls the flow of information and also acts as an interpreter of the government’s functions and activities to the citizens (McQuail, 2005). By looking at these functions, this paper provides an argument about the positive effects of the media highlighting how they outweigh the negatives and how these roles could be improved.
Basic role of the media
The media has become a significant tool in today’s world and many people refer to it as a daily meal that is necessary for the society. Media strengthens the core values of the society by providing information concerning various aspects of the environment (Christians, 2009). It is one of the main sources of entertainment. It also serves as an education tool for the audiences by providing educative programs. People can use the traditional forms of media which are still relevant today such as the newspapers and magazines to access information. They can also use modern forms such as the television, radio and the internet to access the programs offered. It has a significant role in the social, cultural and political environment in the society due to its ability to reach a mass audience thus creating awareness. However, the media has also played a major part in undermining some of the cultural aspects that used to exist (Hallin, 2004). Politically, the media has the ability to split people’s opinions. Culturally, the media has introduced a new way of doing things as depicted in the movies such as violence and revenge. Consequently, the audience have the initiative to pick on contents that are good to them and reject those that are not good.
Flow of information
The media provides an effective flow of information to the audience. Information is a very important equipment in the development of a community. Information shapes the ideas and opinions of people in the society (Christians, 2009). This means that without this information the opinions of people will be stunted. Their thinking and development of ideas will also be limited if the information available is insufficient. However, the media seems to always provide the same kind of information concerning many aspects (Hallin, 2004). This could explain why with time, some people have become bored of watching television and reading news stories. Perhaps, media could be more effective by providing information concerning things that have a direct effect on how people live their lives. They can achieve this by providing breakthroughs in different sectors such as technology, health and other areas that can help to prepare for a better future.
The media practitioners act as interpreters of information to the public. Their collective role is to gather information and deliver the same to the public in a simple way that can be easily understood (Hallin, 2004). Just like the way a student does his or her research for a thesis by going to the library to read and gather all the information, then writes a thesis of about a thousand to two thousand words, journalists also do the same. They attend events, gatherings and other public meetings, record the speeches then writes and broadcasts stories of the same information to the public. Such stories will explain the event, provide facts and statistics in a simple way that an average person could understand. They can however improve on this role by reporting information that does not cause fear among the audience (Reinikka, 2004). This can be achieved in stories that report on war, terrorism and political controversies. At times such stories might lead to unnecessary fear among the public. The media should not take things too far when reporting about these stories instead, they should just stick to the facts and broadcast or write what will not develop fear among the audience.
Journalists also save people the need to physically attend meetings (Hallin, 2004). Imagine if each and every person would be required to attend all the public gatherings that lasts for hours and hours just to be told that the price of sugar in China has reduced or has risen. This could be a really difficult and inconvenient task. The media helps in providing a platform where people can just sit in their sofas and watch, listen to or read through reports that have been prepared by the journalists (Reinikka, 2004). In these reports, journalists answer the five W’s and one H; who, what, where, why, when and how questions, which helps the audience to understand everything about the events and other news stories. Through this, the media helps the audience to understand every detail pertaining to matters of the government in a simple way. They also help to provide updates on other sectors such as sports, business, entertainment and other areas.
The media also serves as a watchdog of the government on behalf of the public. They are not only focused on providing the latest updates but also plays a very important role in holding the government accountable (McQuail, 2005). Media helps the public to identify what the government is doing on every matter of human interest. The media oversees this role by always forcing the government to explain their verdicts especially if these verdicts affects the public. However, this function of the media is most relevant in countries and states that have a democratic form of government. Media unfolds stories that could not be heard if journalism never existed. Some government officials hate it when journalists breathe heavily down their necks and they can do anything to scare them off. However, times have change and today the press has her own freedom which is highly protected (McQuail, 2005).
The media also foresees the function of speaking for the people. In the United States of America, Freedom of the press is a very important aspect that has been offered to the journalists (Reinikka, 2004). Such type of freedom ensures that democracy is able to function properly in countries that are democratic. These type of freedom helps to protect the freedom of the media and allow the media to effectively serve the entire country. With this freedom, the media is able to effectively interact with the audience and identify their views and ideas which helps to create discussions and debates. Such debates are important in a democratic government because they create healthy challenges that helps to foster developments.
Through serving this function as a watchdog, media will help to improve the governance of a country or state especially when they monitor all the actions of the people in power. They alert the public on corruption cases that occurs within the government. Corruption is a major factor that negatively affects productivity of a country (McQuail, 2005). At times, they not only report about the negatives done by the government without gathering all the facts but also report on good things that went wrong and also state where it all went wrong. In such a country or state, the media is significant in monitoring such activities done by those in power, then delivering accurate information to the public (Christians, 2009). This has been proved to be an effective check on the government officials because such information raises ideas and opinions on who to vote for and who not to vote for come the general elections.
Media in advertisements
Media has a lot of influence on many things in the society as can be seen in advertisements. A lot of people rely on the information from the media to make decisions (McQuail, 2005). These decisions could be on food, clothing and many other activities. Wrong and inaccurate information could lead them into making wrong decisions while the right information will lead them to make the right decisions especially when purchasing products. Advertisements help consumers to identify and purchase quality products. However, wrong and inaccurate information will lead them to purchase substandard products (Pasti, 2007). This indicates that the media plays a very important role in influencing the decisions of consumers in terms of what they should eat, dress and even what events to attend. Journalists have a responsibility to provide the right information that is not harmful to the audience but useful.
Impact of media on body impressions
The media also plays an important role in creating perfect body impressions for the audience. For example, the media has created impressions on how an attractive body should look like through advertisements and other programs (Pasti, 2007). It has portrayed attractiveness to be based on the structure of bodies, the choice of outfits and how to dress. Well-built men and perfect shaped women have been used as cover girls and men respectively for magazines to create an appeal to the audience. They also influence the audience’s choice of color by stating which colors are the best and how to combine them through fashion shows, blogs and other programs. This enables the audience to make the right choices on what to wear in an appropriate way. They also broadcast and publish useful information concerning weight loss and how to keep fit, something that has proved to be beneficial for the audience. (McQuail, 2005).
Media is a very important tool because it shapes the society. It provides entertainment, education and also influences the society in many ways. It ensures that there is flow of information in the society by gathering facts and statistics then disseminates the same to the audience. The media also act as an interpreter of the government functions to the public where it helps to break down information and report in a simple way that can be easily understood. Notably, the media serves as a watchdog where it holds the government accountable to its actions. It also plays a significant role in persuading consumers to buy certain products through advertisements therefore influencing their decisions. Other than that, it is useful in creating body impressions by providing advice on the best ways to reduce and maintain body weight. It is important for journalists to be responsible when providing information to the public. They need to gather all the facts and focus on the truth because it is their responsibility. Consumers also have a responsibility of choosing media content that is useful to them.
Christians, C., Nordenstreng, K. & White, R. (2009). Normative Theories of the Media: Journalism in Democratic Societies. Urbana, IL: Illinois University Press.
Hallin, D., & Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.
McQuail, D. (2005). McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory. 5th Edition. London: Sage.
Pasti, S. (2007). The Changing Profession of a Journalists in Russia. Tampere: Tampere University Press.
Reinikka, R., & Svensson, J. (2004). The Power of Information: Evidence from a Newspaper Campaign to Reduce Capture. Working Paper 3239, World Bank, Washington D.C.