In communications, media are the storage and transmission channels or tools used to store and deliver information or data. Media are often referred to as synonymous with mass media or news media, but may refer to a single medium used to communicate any data for any purpose. Media of the United States consist of several different types of communications media: television, radio, cinema, newspapers, magazines, and Internet-based Web sites. American media conglomerates tend to be leading global players, generating large revenues, as well as large opposition in many parts of the world.
A central method in which the media influences the U.S. political system is through gatekeeping, a process through which information is filtered for dissemination, be it publication, broadcasting, the Internet, or some other type of communication. Gatekeeping occurs at all levels of the media structure, from a reporter deciding which sources are included in a story to editors deciding which stories are printed or covered, and includes media outlet owners and even advertisers. This, in turn, determines to a great extent which issues will be important to Americans and on the agendas of their elected officials.
The Internet has provided a means for newspapers and other media organizations to deliver news and, significantly, the means to look up old news. Some organizations only make limited amounts of their output available for free, and charge for access to the rest. Other organizations allow their archives to be freely browsed. It is possible that the latter type obtain more influence, as they are true to the spirit of freedom of information by virtue of making it free. Anyone who has followed external links only to be confronted with a pay-to-view banner might attest that the reputations of organizations that charge is not enhanced by their charging policy, particularly when the same information is available from sources that don't charge.