The Persuasive Methods of the Media

As I mentioned in the previous post, I read through the New York Times on a daily basis.  I also try to keep informed on the world’s current affairs by checking news media sites, and reading through a few magazines from time to time.  I learn about general pop culture in Rolling Stone, the latest cycling news in Bicycle,  and new products from  After glancing through each of them today, in order to find a topic for this blog, I realized that all types of media engage in some form of persuasive rhetoric.

The sites and publications that are primarily interested in dispensing current events use credibility appeals to persuade people to acquire new information from them.  “Fair and Balanced” or “News you can trust” are popular slogans news networks use to convey the sense that they are politically unbiased.  Additionally, ads for the printed news sources say things like “word class journalism” or “with more prize winning writer’s than any other publication”, in an attempt to gain wider circulation.  All of these examples are using the same types of rhetorical strategies to entice readers.  Of course, the obvious question is “which one is really the most accurate?”  I’ve found over the years, that each news source often has the same “facts” to offer their readers, with the differences between each source being largely attributable to presentation and style.  If you can read between the lines, the news source that will most likely appeal to you, is the one that resonates most with your literary or media preferences.

As for the websites and publications that are not interested in selling the news, their appeals largely target the emotional core of their audience.  For instance, fitness magazines often advertise new workout tips that you need in order to achieve a healthier body.  Each issue claims to offer better, faster results and an overall happier you at the end of whatever program they are promoting this month.  But how can their be so many different types of exercises, and which ones are really the best?  The short answer is that the workout tips and exercises are largely the same from month to month.  The authors or instructors simply switch some of the names, make a few negligible tweaks, and present a new program packaged in words designed to make you feel fresh; regardless of whether or not you actually attempt to follow the advice.  The same could easily be said of almost every type of non-current events media.

In fact, a careful eye at the grocery store will spot the same techniques being used to sell food.  Every so often, orange juice (or other beverages) companies change their packaging, font and text color, and slap a phrase like “new improved formula” on the bottle…and it usually works to improve sales, for at least a small amount of time.

Every type of organization that is attempting to acquire profit, engages in some form of rhetorical persuasion.  They first provide their target demographic with a need; sometimes a need they did not even realize they had, and then engage in varied persuasive techniques to show the audience that they can satisfy that need.  By paying attention to the types of strategies that are being used, you can protect yourself from the powerful effects of fancy language and avoid paying $2 more for the new improved Oreo…it’s still the same cookie as ever.