All forms of mass media face tight restrictions on time and space. Newspapers and magazines have limits on column inches, while prime‐time shows and news coverage have limited minutes. To cover many topics and issues, or to entertain, media generally simplifies stories or reduces them to fit in the allotted space or time. The goal is to make information and entertainment faster and more digestible for an audience. While this may lead to convenience for consumers, sociologists recognize that media frequently oversimplifies crucial social issues and other concerns.
Oversimplification, in turn, leads to stereotyping. Critics have targeted prime‐time entertainment in particular for portraying distorted images of minorities and women. Although prime‐time programming has increased the numbers and types of roles for minorities and women, programming as a whole still does not reflect the demographics of the general population. Prime‐time programming remains whiter and younger than the average American population.
Some people are concerned that, as people pick and choose from so many sources and markets fragment, with young people watching young people shows and older people watching older people shows—and never the twain shall meet—there is no longer any truly “mass” media. As a result, Americans' common imagery and frame of reference for many issues is disappearing. Ignoring cultures and opinions different from one's own is now easier than ever, and critics fear that the eventual result may be less, rather than more, social cohesion.