5 Ways TV Has Influenced Presidential Elections


The Dominance of Media Consultants in Presidential Campaigns

In the early days of mass media, TV, newspapers and radio were used as tools by presidential campaigns. The candidates needed to appeal to the public, so they would use the media to do it. Today, the mass media is not just a means to an end, but one of the most important factors in determining whether a candidate for president wins or loses the election. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and the importance of carefully managing a candidate's image, media experts have taken a dominant role in shaping presidential campaigns [source: Kaid].

The role of the media adviser is to control the way the public sees the candidate's image. They make sure that the candidate doesn't do anything to damage that image in interviews, at news conferences or during live speeches. Richard Nixon started the first White House Office of Communications in 1968, and pioneered the media savvy campaign strategy. Nixon was careful to limit unscripted press conferences or one-on-one interviews, and instead preferred prepared speeches that let him stay in control, without interference from reporters [source: Foote]. In Ronald Reagan's two election campaigns, his advisers carefully managed his image by staging photo opportunities that told the story they wanted. For example, having Reagan photographed sitting on a tractor made him seem like an approachable friend to the working class [source: Foote]. Today, most presidential campaigns take this micromanaging approach to media relations.