The Roles of Mass Media and News Stories
In an increasingly connected world, it is more important than ever to be informed about what is happening in the world around us. The media is our primary way of doing this and achieving this goal. However, with the media being so diverse and significantly contributing to our understanding of the world, it can be confusing as to just what it does. Jordan Sudberg, the CEO and Medical Director of Spine and Sports Rehabilitation in New York, describes the role of the media as “to convey and create emotion, without necessarily providing the truth.” Another way of saying this is that news reporting is to seek out and uncover the truth, but not always in all cases.
1. Information Function
The first function of news is to provide people with the latest information, whether it is very recent occurrences or things that have happened far in the past. To fulfill this primary function, news reporting must be timely and accurate. Even though these two aspects are not contradictory, they are often at odds with each other when reporting events that occurred a while ago. When media reports on events that took place a time ago, they often describe them in a way that paints them in a favorable light. For example, if some famous celebrity has died, news reporting of their death will likely portray them as a complex working icon. However, if these people had been living an unhealthy lifestyle that led to their death, the media might not report this information because it is no longer new. It is more important to say what is unique and validating than the example above.
2. Interpretation Function
An essential aspect of the media is that it tells us how to view things and their consequences. To fulfill this function, news reporting must be able to not only describe events but to explain them as well. Because of this, it must have a rhetorical dimension. For example, if a meteorite crashes into Earth, people need to know about the event to stay safe. However, it is also helpful for the people to be told that this event can be interpreted in various ways and that they should only believe what they choose to believe. The same could be said if we were speaking about a bomb going off in a place. People must know (based on the fact that there was a bomb) what it is and what caused it. However, they should not take all possibilities too seriously, as anyone could be just another lie from an untrustworthy source.
3. Bonding Function
The media also creates a sense of familiarity and closeness with other people. Due to this function, news reporting must offer a report that connects people. If it is not doing this, it will fuel feelings of distance and isolation instead of adding to the sense of closeness. According to Jordan Sudberg in his paper “A study of the Roles of Mass Media and News Stories”, there are two ways that people can bond with each other. First, silencing the other makes them seem less than human, and second, if they are given a voice to complain about the things that happen to them, they can feel close to others. For news reporting to fulfill this function well, it must not only describe events and their consequences but also give voice to those affected by these events.