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How Media Outlets Influence Policy in Washington, D.C.

The media — here meaning both actual journalists and the general medium of communication — are an integral part of Washington, D.C., politics and the policymaking process. Politicians can rise or fall because of a single tweet. Policies are exalted or pilloried according to who wrests control of the media narrative.

Some critics have accused the mere existence of the media with altering the political debate. The 24-hour news cycle, they say, has turned every little decision into a breaking news story and has, in turn, encouraged politicians to use every vote as a test of brinkmanship and showmanship.

In this analysis, all the blogs, web portals, and influencers reacting to events in real time on services like Twitter are making politics a nonstop cacophonous conversation, polarized around party lines, where the object is not to increase public understanding but to win a perceived advantage over one’s political opponents.

But the changing media landscape in Washington has also introduced what would generally be considered positive aspects to the policymaking process. The spread of information rapidly and cheaply means that any voter who has the time and motivation can educate himself about the actions of the federal government like never before — and he can just as easily express himself should he have something to say.

Also, organizing among geographically or demographically disparate groups of individuals has never been easier, allowing grass-root movements to grow literally overnight. Many Americans who previously felt alienated from politics find it easier than ever before to express their opinions, associate with likeminded strangers, and generate pressure for their preferred changes to public policy.

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