According to the Reynolds School of Journalism at University of Nevada, Reno, media shapes people's beliefs, values, convictions and preferences. People depend on the media to know what is happening in the world around them, informing the decisions they make. Media presentation is often as important as societal influence in determining how a person feels about an issue.
The media encompasses all means of transmitting information, including books, newspapers, radio, television and the Internet. Media is the primary source by which society obtains knowledge and is necessary for an educated public. It allows people to make wise decisions regarding personal issues and facilitates public safety during times of natural disaster.
Because media is often the first and only exposure that people have to issues, it has a vast potential to influence the way people think and view the world. For example, a 1992 study by psychologists at the University of Michigan provided evidence that early exposure to violent programming is linked to violent behavior later in life. Depictions of sex, drug use and gender roles in the media affects people's attitudes toward these subjects.
Professionals are aware of the media's potential for influence. Advertisers use the media to persuade people to buy products. They do so by portraying products in an appealing light, even if the product in question is not beneficial to consumers. The tobacco industry, for example, spent decades convincing people that cigarettes were sophisticated and desirable, despite the health risks associated with smoking.