Media, government sculpt public opinion


Almost daily the media is attacked and criticized as being fake, muddying the public’s perception of government policy, and leaving many to wonder what is real.

About 50 people gathered at the William Street United Methodist Church Friday to hear Paul Kostyu, an associate professor and chairman of Ohio Wesleyan University’s Department of Journalism and Communication, talk about media’s coverage and impact on foreign policy.

The lecture was part of the on-going Great Decisions series.

Kostyu, a former award-winning journalist, explored how media has played a role in foreign policy since the founding of the nation, and the relationship citizens have with media and government.

Audience members reacted with concern and many questions as Kostyu discussed the presidency, the fake news epidemic, and the need for hard-hitting journalists in today’s society. Part of the discussion centered on the differences between social media and traditional news, which helped illustrate the phenomenon of media’s impact.

“I liked his identification right off the bat of news, media, social and entertainment media,” said attendee Barbara Tull. “We often don’t make that distinction.”

Kostyu also examined the media’s influence throughout history, including the Vietnam War and the so-called “CNN Effect,” a theory that 24-hour news networks impact the general political and economic climate.

News media can also change the status quo of foreign policy by shaping international and domestic public opinion through social media and the internet. It helps bring people together, he said.

“Disperse communities can achieve cohesion by cultivating a shared identity among disperse members of ethnic, religious or political communities,” Kostyu said.

Perception management, the shaping and influence by governments of public opinion, also is important, he added. Some attendees said they believed they had been influenced by this practice.

“I think that we’re all surprised by how much it did because I thought we all thought Hillary (Clinton) was going to win, but Trump won, so obviously perception wasn’t reality,” said audience member Marci Dewitt.

Kostyu addressed the turmoil of the current presidency, explaining that President Trump’s actions are not new and have happened throughout history. The difference is people see these opinions more clearly and quickly due to social media, but governments still carry weight, he said.

“Even in the era of the internet, governments have considerable influence over how issues are framed and what issues are on the agenda,” Kostyu said.

Great Decisions 2018 is Delaware’s free community discussion series on current U.S. foreign policy. It runs every Friday at noon through March 23 at the William Street United Methodist Church, at 28 W. William St.


By Madeleine Matos

Special to The Gazette

Madeleine Matos is a journalism major at Ohio Wesleyan University.

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