First of all, before considering how the mass media influences our lives and how it covers what is happening in the world, it is necessary to start with the functions of mass media. The entertainment function of the mass media is commonly used by the public to amuse itself in a routine environment. Education of the public regarding its rights, moral, social and religious behaviors is another important function of mass media. But the most influential function is to inform the masses with the news. Therefore, the present era is usually described as the information age as well. People need news and information for various reasons. On the one hand, information can socialize with people, but on the other hand, it can play a decisive role in forming public opinion.
News media can be defined as socially shared texts that cover the community and the public sphere. They possess two important features, such as regularity and accessibility. From the point of view of routine regularity and general accessibility, it is very essential for the public because they become aware of the fact that everything they get to know through the press is also revealed to others. News does not only inform the public about the current events of the world but what is furthermore important, they make the public feel that others are reading it at the same time. Only in such a way, people become public as public opinion is firmed.
Consequently, if the main goal of the news is to form public opinion, it is necessary to consider how it influences society. In the last 50 years, the media influence has grown incredibly with the development of technology. If in the past century we could know the latest news through telegraph, radio, and newspapers, nevertheless, they appeared not as regularly as today when the Internet promotes it’s spreading very quickly. Our society depends on communication and information, and as a proof, each person starts its day with a cup of coffee followed by checking news on the Internet, on TV, or reading the newspaper. We begin our new day with a public opinion already formed in the morning. People trust mass media a lot as most of the beliefs and daily life assumptions are based on what they hear from the news. Mass media uses this trust and manipulates public opinions to form the right thinking.
For example, regarding the attacks of 11.09.2001, mass media exposed Osama’s guilt for these events as it was told by the authorities. As a result, public opinion was formed to support the war against terrorism. Other ways of influence include polls and trends, especially when it concerns political campaigns. It is already proved that candidates, who can pay more for their advertising campaign on TV, get more votes.
Thus, mass media uses many strategies to persuade us. Firstly, it manipulates our lack of knowledge of a certain area. It has so strongly gained public confidence that the target audience stopped to strive for knowledge and education. As a result, it gets easily manipulated by common things and knowledge. Secondly, education and information became too available that it is not valuable anymore. If earlier people strived to analyze and read books to form their own opinion about the main events in the world, it is not necessary anymore nowadays because mass media can do it quite successfully instead of us.
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Being misled, people lose the ability to think critically and accept everything they hear as truth. They even do not assume that they can be manipulated. Those who want to hear the truth or to distinguish it from the manipulation in this big flow of information simply cannot define what they mean under it. The question of whether the truth has any relation to the news is arguably and controversial, but what can be said for sure is that the truth means facts. Therefore, if we want to distinguish the truth from what we hear or read, we just should concentrate our attention on the facts only and leave their interpretation and emotional constituent aside. Truth also means verification, so it makes the task a little complicated because the public cannot simply verify the information. For example, everybody knows that there is such a prominent figure in the political field as Barack Obama, but hardly any people managed to see him personally to verify his words. It is especially hard to verify the facts when the news is presented in the written form. It can simply be misinterpreted by the press.
Mass media can create a panic among the public or present shocking news in order to form a needed public opinion on certain questions. It is easier to make people do what they have to when they are scared or shocked. Then we can observe the crowd effect which consists of a manipulated mass that is ready to act as they are directed and ordered.
Some scholars simply view news as goods, and the question of whether it is sold successfully or not mostly depends on how well it is marketed or advertised. People are reluctant to listen to what they offer, so mass media usually presents the news we want to hear and are ready to consume. In this case, it does not matter at all whether this information is reliable or verified. People are eager to consume it and the reporters will do their best to satisfy the public. It is obvious that people experience the need for information and mass media does not lose the slightest opportunity to satisfy it.
Japan and China are two of the most powerful countries in East Asia, and their interaction with each other affect the entire world. It is important that these relations are not easy to be understood. The public knows the issues, but it does not know how to interpret them, so it gives a wonderful opportunity for mass media to present the news in the most beneficial way. Sino-Japanese relations regarding the Senkaku Islands conflicts can demonstrate how the news is covered by the mass media. Japan and China did not touch the dispute of the island and kept a tacit agreement. Tokyo kept an agreement not to let anyone settle on the island at the same time as Beijing agreed not to let the disputes bother political and trade relations. Changes in these bilateral relationships took place when there was a provoked conflict between Japanese coat guards and Chinese fishing vessels together with Chinese activists that made an attempt to settle on the islands.
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Mass media made a great benefit from this conflict. Firstly, it could easily become a monopolist in the interpretation because the public finds it hard to interpret the relations between China and Japan. This conflict was described on TV, on the Internet and newspapers and had a mass character because Sino-Japanese relations have an impact on the whole world. Some media sources reported that this conflict can hardly provoke the war between the countries that would shake the whole world. Furthermore, countries are worried that there might be a deficit of Japanese and Chinese household appliances and people will race to purchase it till it is not too late.
Thus, we can see that media sources interpret the news in the way they want. The public is aware of what is happening on the islands, and these events just need supportive opinions and facts. Papers cover different opinions with an attempt to elucidate which side the USA will support in this conflict. However, these views are highly controversial. On the one hand, it will support Japan for sure because it has an agreement for the administration of the islands as part of the post-war occupation of Okinawa. On the other hand, China is dominating the world trade market now; hence, cooperation with it may be even more beneficial.
Nobody can surely determine where the truth of this conflict lies. Whatever the result is, the conclusion remains the same. News manipulates our consciousness. People should be aware of what is happening in the world, but they should not lose the skills to estimate the situation critically. Press usually reports the information we are reluctant to hear, so it is the key factor that should be always bared in mind.