These include newspapers, magazines, newsletters, advertising, websites; radio and television broadcasting.
A survey of news channels and programs that feature political discussions; of the coverage of politics by American newspapers and internet sites; of radio shows reveals the wealth of information in circulation about American politics. The question is to what extent are people exposed to this information; to what extent do they absorb it.
In 1987 Americans spent $6 billion for their weekday papers and nearly $1.4 billion on Sunday newspapers2. In 2001, there were approximately 248 million television sets in the United States and 1,669 hours, the equivalent of 70 days, was the projected time that adults in the United States would watch television in 20043.
There is both a wealth of information about American politics and a high degree of public exposure to it. On the other hand, this does not determine that the media coverage or the public's perception of it is in any way slanted to the promotion of a particular political view.
One of the most interesting means of measuring the degree to which media is reflective of the public opinion on American politics is to compare and analyse news coverage alongside reviews of public opinion. Several key issues warrant consideration. The war in Iraq and the present state of the US economy are two decidedly "hot topics" in the news today. Other interesting comparisons can be drawn with issues such as the war in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s, and perhaps the US policy against Communism until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
The most accessible political issues for analysis in this context are the war in Iraq and the US economy as a means of monitoring the political spectrum relating to the approval of the presidency of George W. Bush at this time. One of the most controversial times in recent history for the mass media was the 2001 election; this event also warrants analysis as a means of demonstrating the kind of influence that the media appears to have upon US politics.
An important view is expressed by Entman regarding the workings of the mass media and its relationship to politics within the United States. Entman describes the political and the economic as the two "real" marketplaces within the United States. He also states that "in ideal vision", the competition between these two marketplaces is considered to driver journalistic excellence. The reality, he concludes, is very different from the idea4.
Entman states that, in practice, the competition between the economic and the political markets in the United States "prevent journalists from supplying the kind of news that would allow the average American to practice sophisticated citizenship"5. The ultimate conclusion offered is that the America public know and care very little about the government and so do not seek or understand "high-quality political reporting and analysis", holding either the government or journalists accountable in any respect6.
Certainly Entman's opinion requires the support of evidence; there is ample supply.