Mass media is a term used to denote a section of the media specifically envisioned and designed to reach a large Number of audience such as the population of a nation state. Mass communicated media saturate the industrialized world. The television in the living room, the newspaper on the doorstep, the radio in the car, the computer at work, and the fliers in the mailbox are just a few of the media channels daily delivering advertisements, news, opinion, music, and other forms of mass communication. Because the media are so prevalent in industrialized countries, they have a powerful impact on how those populations view the world. Nearly all of the news in Canada comes from a major network or newspaper. It is only the most local and personal events that are experienced first-hand. Events in the larger community, the state, the countries, and the rest of the world are experienced through the eyes of a journalist. Not only do the media report the news, they create the news by deciding what to report. The "top story" of the day has to be picked from the millions of things that happened that particular day. After something is deemed newsworthy, there are decisions on how much time or space to give it, whom to interview, what pictures to use, and how to frame it. All of these decisions add up to the audience's view of the world, and those who influence the decisions influence the audience. The media, therefore, have enormous importance to conflict resolution because they are the primary, and frequently only source of information regarding conflicts. If a situation doesn't make the news, it simply does not exist for most people. When peaceful options such as negotiation and other collaborative problem-solving techniques are not covered, or their successes are not reported, they become invisible and are not likely to be considered or even understood as possible options in the management of a conflict.
The news media thrive on conflict. The lead story for most news programs is typically the most recent and extreme crime or disaster. Conflict attracts viewers, listeners, and readers to the media; the greater the conflict the greater the audience, and large audiences are imperative to the financial success of media outlets. Therefore, it is often in the media's interest to not only report conflict, but to play it up, making it seem more intense than it really is. Groups that understand this dynamic can accommodate to it in order to gain media attention. Common criteria for terrorist attacks include timing them to coincide with significant dates, targeting elites, choosing sites with easy media access, and aiming for large numbers of casualties. Protesters will hoist their placards and start chanting when the television cameras come into view. It is not unusual for camera crews or reporters to encourage demonstrators into these actions so they can return to their studios with exciting footage.
In most parts of the industrialized world, the news has to "sell," because the handful of giant media corporation that control most of the press place a high priority on profitable operations. Media companies face tight budgets and fierce competition, which often translate into fewer foreign correspondents, heavy reliance on sensationalism, space and time constraints, and a constant need for new stories. Reporters with pressing deadlines may not have time to find and verify new sources. Instead they tend to rely on government reports, press releases, and a stable of vetted sources, which are usually drawn from "reliable" companies and organizations. Media outlets are also dependent upon advertisement revenue. Many newspapers and television stations think twice before reporting a story that might be damaging to their advertisers, and will choose to avoid the story, if possible. In many other countries around the world, especially emerging nations and dictatorships, governments impose tight restrictions on journalists, including penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment and execution. In these environments, precise self-censorship is necessary for survival.
Without the media, most people would know little of events beyond their immediate neighborhood. With the news, however, all one has to do is turn on a television or turn to the Internet. Even when it is biased or limited, it is a picture of what is happening around the world. The more sources one compares, the more accurate the picture that can be put together. In addition to the media corporation, there are also a range of independent news outlets, though they have a much smaller audience. Some of these provide an alternative view of events and often strive to publish stories that cannot be found in the mainstream media. Technological advances in many industrialized (primarily Western) countries make it possible to read papers and watch broadcasts from around the globe. While language skills can be a barrier, it is possible to live in the Canada and watch Arab-language broadcasts from the Middle East, or to get on the Internet and read scores of Chinese newspapers. Having access to these alternative voices limits the power of monopolies over information. Another important benefit of a functioning mass news media is that information can be relayed quickly in times of crisis. Tornado and hurricane announcement can give large populations advance warning and allow them to take precautions and move out of harm's way. In a country suffering war, a radio broadcast outlining where the latest fighting is can alert people to areas to avoid. In quieter times, the media can publish other useful announcements, from traffic reports to how to avoid getting HIV. It is a stabilizing and civilizing force.