For decades, print media such as newspapers have been used to inform the public of political issues to celebrity scandals to the latest sports news. Newspapers have, for years, been one of the most heavily used forms of informative media around the world, however they have seen their slow decline in the last ten years due to the rise of social media and the internet, however thats a topic for another time. Due to this, newspapers tend to be very out spoken during political events as the companies that own them understand that their papers can potentially influence a large audience. Do companies make newspapers that agree with their audience or purposely spark debate? In this essay I will be making an argument for both sides and will be using The Sun and the Guardian newspaper as the foundation of my argument.
The Sun and its influence on the audience.
The Sun is the second most popular and best-selling newspaper in the UK, owned by Newscorp, a conglomerate within the big six, and arguably one of the most powerful companies in the world. In 2016, the UK had one of the most polarizing political events in history, the Brexit vote. The Brexit vote ended with the final decision to leave the EU; during the build up to the vote it was made clear by multiple political parties that leaving the EU would potentially benefit large companies within the UK. Rupert Murdoch (the owner of Newscorp) showed his interest in Britain leaving the EU during this period because of this exact reason, therefore the ideologies of himself and the company, Newscorp were seen bleeding into the media, and in this case The Sun newspaper. Furthermore, this shows that newspapers do in fact choose ideologies to present to their audience, not entirely to inform the public but to potentially influence its reader to agree. If this is to succeed, it can lead to a huge impact on the political event due to newspapers such as The Sun having such a large audience, increasing the chance of influence. Therefore, ideologies are presented to audiences through newspapers for their own gain, which I will further develop in the next part of my essay.
Do newspapers give the audience a choice when it comes down to ideologies?
If you live in a democracy, every person is free to own and voice their own opinions, however newspapers have always been known to sensationalise the news, which in this case is done to ever so slightly, try push their audience into agreeing with the papers ideology, for the companies own gain. This is done in multiple ways, for example the front page alone. In 2017 the Sun released an issue during the UK election, with the front page being one rather comedic large image of Corbin in a bin, with a headline reading ‘Don’t chuck Britain in the Cor-bin’ and anchorage text using language to make the reader dislike Corbin with phrases such as ‘Terrorists friend’. (This is all an example of how media language is used in newspapers to make the audience think in a certain way). This therefore clearly shows that The Sun is trying to push their audience into agreeing in the same views as its own. This is evident as a survey was made during the election on weather people who read The Sun would vote for Conservatives or Labour. It was shown that 70% of the people asked said that they would vote for the Conservatives.
On the other hand, it can be argued that newspaper companies tailor their papers to appeal to a certain demographic. For example, the sun could be making their papers in support of the conservatives as the majority of their audience supports them, therefore if they make papers tailored to their audience people will buy them, because they agree with them (preferred reading). But will they? Are people looking to buy papers to agree with what they say or are the readers looking for debate? There is plenty of evidence for both ideas, for example The Sun in fact was in favour of the Labour party for over 25 years, from 1945 to 1970, then changing to conservatives for the next 18 years and then back into siding with labour. The Guardian is a great example as it can be seen changing their political opinion a lot in the last 60 years as seen in the image below.
This shows that papers potentially tailor their papers to agree with the views of their audience, almost following the crowd. Or on the other hand, creating papers that cause debate, which would inevitably lead to attention, which would lead to more papers being sold. I want to also make a point on social media and how debate amongst individuals is more easily available then ever, this means that if something controversial is happening, their will be people talking about it (with the rise of social media; this conversation will involve millions), which is an enormous form of publicity… As they say ‘all publicity is good publicity’. At the end of the day it all comes down to business and financial gain and if a newspaper can potentially increase sales by agreeing with their audience or sparking debate… why not?
Newspapers which are incredibly popular, in this case The Sun, can only benefit from choosing ideologies in their newspapers. Firstly, the influence. When a newspaper has such a huge audience (by this I mean both print and social media, due to print slowly declining however still keeping its audience through the use of social media) within a country it is bound to influence a political event, due to political events being fuelled by opinions. Where do people get the information to create an opinion? The media and personal experience (sadly mostly media) and in this case The Sun newspaper. Lastly, if the newspaper is unsuccessful in influencing its reader, it is bound to at least create debate. It is said that newspapers benefit from feeding off the peoples prejudice. People don’t buy newspapers to find out what they already know, they want to be shocked, surprised and informed. Therefore, papers will always choose certain ideologies and sensationalise the news, as this will supply the audience with the gratifications they seek. This creates opinions that cause debate and controversy, which leads to more people buying the newspaper and the company earing more profit. This is shown as for the last 60 years every leading national newspaper has been incredibly out spoken during political events, and have all sided with different political parties. Therefore, I believe that newspapers do in fact choose ideologies to present to their audience, for their own financial and beneficial gain.