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Blog 7: Political News

Chapter 4 of  D. Garber’s book Media Power in Politics (6th Edition) talks about the effects of new media on political information. One of the biggest effects was fragmentation of audiences. Gurevitch, Coleman, and Blumler (authors of this section of the book) define fragmentation as finding political information that reinforces your political ideas and beliefs. With this concept we are lead to believe that virtually every person can find some sort of political information (whether it is a blog, newscast, or newspaper) that conforms to their political schema. The Pew Research Center’s finding have also indicated that fragmentation may be occurring in our society.  The 2009 study showed that Fox News was more often viewed by those who considered themselves a Republican and CNN was viewed more often by those who considered themselves to be a Democrat.  Gurevitch et, al also state that the recent rise in partisanship could be largely attributed to the media fragmentation.

Now the question arises: is fragmentation a good thing? Does is matter if Democrats get their news from one source and Republicans get their news from another source? The answer seems so obvious. No, political fragmentation is not good. Yes, it does matter if one party is getting their information from one source and the other party is getting their information from another source.

This situation seems to parallel the classic scenario that we all faced as children. On the playground, two of your best friends get into an argument. One of your friends confides in you and tells you their side of the story. The other friend involved in the argument confides in another person. More often than not, when you are asked to decide which friend is in the wrong, you are going to choose the one who didn’t confide in you. You choose to believe that they are in the wrong because you were only told half of the story. Virtually your opinions is skewed because you do not have the full view of whats going on.

This same childhood mentality is happening in today’s society. When one political party chooses to get their information from one source and the other political party get their information from another source, they are never going to agree. When we get two different accounts of what is happening we aren’t going to agree. The fact of the matter is there is one story. Those who are more conservative are going to report on it one way and those what are liberal are going to report on it another way. When one fails to look at the other sources of information, they merely become ignorant to the issue.

The outcome of this fragmentation is a decline in partisanship. When leader have a jaded view of issues they are less likely to work with the other side to come to a solution that appeases them both. When partisanship fails, it takes longer for things to get done because the parties cannot come to a solution. Consequently, when things in the political scheme don’t get completed the citizens get angry. This is a vicious cycle that seemingly never ends.  The advances in new media outlets may have given us more options for the political information but at the same time it has almost hindered us by creating this fragmentation that is causing fragmentation.

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  1. April 4, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Good post. I particularly liked this: “When we get two different accounts of what is happening we aren’t going to agree. The fact of the matter is there is one story.”

    Also the idea at the end that increased partisanship results in less political accomplishments, which results in more voter anger (and probably in turn even more partisanship) is a good one.

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