Our government under the Constitution of the United States protects all forms of media. Our country's freedom of speech/press serves as the basis of protection for the press. With this protection there are some common elements that are important to each form of media. They are as follows:
America's press tradition is community based."
Most of the news industry in our country follows those guidelines established for business, because they are owned and operated as such. Often, a newspaper owner or publisher's job is a business owner rather than a writer or journalist. They decide ultimately how the actual product will appear and what news to carry based on his/her business sense.
While the media is definitely a business, it is also a public trust. Basically what that means is that it conducts itself based on the "public's right to know." Media has placed certain pressures on the leaders in this country to pass "sunshine" laws. These laws require the government to hold meetings in full view of the public. It has also pushed to pass a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which allows people the right to "government records and documents not classified for security reasons." With the passing of such rights, the media has often been honored with the title of "the fourth estate." What this means is that while we enjoy the checks and balances of the legislative, judicial and executive branches, the media is often a "fourth" check for the other three. While those citizens who serve our country as some sort of official have been open to public inspection, private citizens do have the right to privacy. Libel is "a false and malicious published statement that damages somebody's reputation." While libel is not typically punishable by criminal law, it is a civil crime. Many members of the media have been sued because of libel, and this has had a negative monetary effect on the media industry.
Aside from the laws established by our forefathers, the media is mostly unregulated. This means that whether you are reading the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, or the Star, there is no one to say which source is genuine. "The press does not require minimum standards for membership, does not issue or revoke licenses, and does not regulate professional standards." It is up to individual businesses and journalists to create and stick to their own standards. There are stricter standards imposed on the broadcast media than print media. There are licenses given for operation purposes, which are directed at "ensuring competition and diversity."
The media has not established a universal definition of news, though some agreement has been made is regard to what is "newsworthy" and what isn't. The media has also agreed on some of its roles in society. Some of those roles are "to inform, to educate, to reform, to entertain, to incite, or all of the above."
There are very few forms of media that are related to political organizations or parties, which makes it nonideological. This trait alone separates the American press from any other press around the world. Even when you are looking at an editorial, they are full of opinion, but the opinion is based on an issue, not usually a political organization or party. There are, however, few government-owned and operated media businesses in the world. Those established by America are primarily those that are overseas, such as the "Voice of America."
Lastly, the American press is typically community based. Most types of media focus their attention on the news surrounding their communities. This is probably related to the business sense of media. People often want to know what's going on around them and where they live, and will pay money to hear about this rather than what's happening on the other side of the country or world. Due to this, many visitors to the United States complain about a lack of world news. Again, the media is a business and focuses its attention on what will sell.
In conclusion, while media is pretty much unregulated and controversial, it has helped many people gain information and knowledge by pushing legislators to pass laws, such as "sunshine" laws and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIC). Due to our constitution's Bill of Rights, the media has been able to enjoy certain freedoms allowing them to establish their own standards and codes of what is "newsworthy" and professional. These rights have also encouraged the media to act as another check for our current system of governmental checks and balances.