MODEL ANSWERS – Lecture 7
MODEL ANSWERS SUBMITTED BY STUDENTS
1. The biggest benefit and harm of the media are _________ and _____________.
“The biggest benefit and harm of the media are information and distortion.”
2. What is the “sound bite”, and is it getting longer or shorter? Why?
“A sound bite is an audio [verbal] clip played on TV, or the radio, or the internet. I think it is getting shorter, so that its contents can be easily taken out of context to imply things that weren’t really said.”
“The sound bite is getting shorter because the editors are more concerned about more people watching, keeping their attention, and not about getting the politician’s views across.”
“The ‘sound bite’ is getting shorter because the attention span of the viewer/listener/reader is getting shorter and shorter.”
3. Describe briefly how you think newspapers influence public opinion.
“Television reporters look to newspapers for their stories. Newspapers, even though they are not used very often, play a vital role in both the television and the voters.”
“I believe that newspapers influences the public’s opinion by swaying the truth and only showing what they want to show.”
4. Suppose that a reporter promises you that if you “leak” him information, then he will never reveal your name as the source of the information. Should you believe him? Explain.
“Reporters know that if they reveal who their source for information is, they’ll probably never get reports from that person again. They also won’t be able to learn things from other people because no one will trust them. So you should be able to trust reporters to keep their promise.”
“No, because if he is willing to ‘leak’ the information that you ‘leak’ then he might as well leak yours.”
“If the leak does involve a crime the reporter will be forced under oath to reveal the identity of the person that gave him the leak unless the state in which the events take place has passed shield law, in which case the reporter will not be forced to reveal the identity of the ‘leaker’.”
5. Is a political “trial balloon” filled with air or helium? Explain what it is.
“A ‘trial balloon’ doesn’t have any helium or hot air in it! A trial balloon is when the government gives a story to the press, just to determine the public’s reaction to it. If the reaction is favorable, then Congress might pass the legislation, or the Executive Branch might proceed with its agenda, etc.”
“When a politician sends out an idea or a story to the press, solely to gauge the public’s opinion on the subject, the story is called a trial balloon. It can be filled with either air or helium, for if the public likes the thought, it rises, yet if a negative attitude is found, the story sinks as if filled with substance heavier than its surroundings.”
“A political trial balloon is filed with air, specifically hot air. A political trial balloon is a media story staged by the government in order to gauge public reaction to a certain policy. Based on public reaction to the trial balloon, the government may then take action based on what they have learned.”
6. The “fairness doctrine” required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides in campaigns and personal attacks. It was abolished in 1985. Should it be reinstated?
“No. The media has the right to take sides in a political issue. Also, if the government has the right (despite the First Amendment) to control broadcasts in such manner, why not newspapers and magazines? … The ‘fairness doctrine’ leads to a slippery slope getting steeper all the time.”
“I think the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ should be reinstated for television channels that receive public funding, but not for privately owned channels.”
7. In about a month, CBS is going to air a “docu-drama” about Ronald Reagan. I saw clips at a conference on Friday, and many are complaining about distortions and outright lies. Should CBS have a right to air it? What rights does Nancy Reagan have, if any?
“Nancy Reagan can help set CBS straight about her husband, but she has no constitutional right to do anything about it. She canot sue CBS because they are using their constitutional right of free speech and unless the Supreme Court wants to overturn the decision of New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) there is nothing anyone can really do.”
“If CBS absolutely had to embarrass a former president, then they should do it to Bill Clinton. I guess you can say he deserves it.”
“CBS being allowed to air lies about Ronald Reagan has a slight parallel to Nike being allowed to lie about their work conditions overseas. … About the only right Mrs. Reagan has is to sue CBS.”
8. Are third parties (other than the Democratic and Republican Parties) relevant? How?
“I think that third parties are important. They help bring out issues that the major parties don’t have a platform on. They also help the minority voices be heard.”
“I think that third parties are not all that relevant because very rarely are they elected, and they mainly focus on one issue.”
9. Are platforms of political parties irrelevant? Explain, including a description of what a “plank” is.
“No, platforms of political parties are not irrelevant, because we need to know the party’s goals and positions on the issues facing our country to help make our decision of who we want to support. Each issue position is known as a plank.”
“[Y]ou can look at the party [candidates are] from and have at least some idea of what they will stand for. For instance, if Alyssa G. ran under the Republican Party, even if she did not speak of her views on issues, it is a safe bet that she would be for tax cuts and anti-abortion.”
“[P]eople shouldn’t base their vote on the political platforms of th[e] parties. Instead, they should find out where each candidate stands on each issue and base their vote on that information.”
“It’s almost like the Republican Party is a person, and the platform is his skeleton (the platform is like the structure of the party). And the planks are each bone that make up the skeleton. Each plank represents a single issue.”
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the governorship of California without ever being nominated by a political party. Many feel would not have been nominated by a major party in an ordinary election. Using this and any other examples you can think of, explain if you think political parties provide a “check and balance” to the power of the media.
“Yes, political parties do check the power of the media. One of the ways by which political parties do this is through the nomination process. If somebody wants to run for office no matter how much the media wants him to be elected he must be nominated by a major political party (Republican or Democratic) or he won’t have a chance. The only reason Schwarzenegger was elected to the governorship was because that was a special election.”
“[I]f the party did not want the media involved they could opt not to speak to them, denying them of a good story which is essential to maintain a media company. For example, if the Republicans disapprove of how CBS airs this Reagan film, they could [thereafter] call on other companies than CBS before they stage their media events, denying CBS of viewership.”
11. List the following news sources by the amount of their political bias, and briefly explain your decisions: newspapers, magazines, television, radio, internet, school textbooks, speeches at conferences, and email from friends.
“[O]ne being the most politically biased, eight being the least: 1. Magazines, 2. Newspapers, 3. School textbooks, 4. Television, 5. Radio, 6. Speeches at conferences, 7. Email from friends, 8. Internet.”
“School textbooks are very liberally biased. Many are fighting for the cornerstones of our country to be removed from textbooks, such as knowledge of George Washington and the truth about the Constitutional Convention. Science books teach evolution. …”
“The Internet is the least biased because nobody controls it.”
12. A biased “hypothetical” question can sink a politician, and influence the views of students. Consider this hypothetical: the captain of an overcrowded lifeboat kicked someone else off in order to save the lifeboat and the group. Is this murder? Does the answer change if the victim is chosen by drawing lots? Many schools ask young students about this “lifeboat” situation, and some parents complain. Do you see a subtle bias in asking students the “lifeboat” question?
“Ending another’s life is murder. Murder with consent is murder. … The subtle bias in this lifeboat question is making you (the young students especially) think that it is ok to kick someone off and that is not murder. Rather kill one than all ten, right? Wrong!”
“I think that it is definitely murder. … The subtle bias is making the question sound like pushing the guy off is just saving lives rather than killing someone. If they worded the question just asking if pushing someone off a boat into freezing water in the middle of the ocean was murder than almost everybody would say yes.”
“Of course there is a subtle bias in the question. … You are putting those kids in a sutiation that most likely won’t happen to them. Why bring it up?!”
“The answer to the lifeboat question is definitely MURDER! It also violates amendment V of the Constitution: “No person shall … be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” [Instructor’s note: Constitution probably can’t be used against Captain]
“Yes, there seems to be a slight bias in this question. The way it is worded is leading, in favor of the view that it is not murder. ‘In order to save the lifeboat and the group,’ and ‘kicked off,’ are the ‘nicest’ way to word what is actually murder! … The question implies that murder can sometimes be right, if it is the ‘best thing’ to do in the particular predicament. This is what is called ‘situational ethics’ – right and wrong changes with the situation.”
“There is a subtle bias towards the left which is designed to start the erosion of the importance of life in the students’ minds.”