Instinctively, I agree. I've often thought writing for a newspaper is like wetting your pants - it feels hot to you, but not to anyone else.
There is, however, one piece of evidence to the contrary. In the late 90s, Fox News began to spread across the US. By comparing voting behaviour in towns with access to it to similar towns without access, economists could see whether the media affected voters. And this paper found that they did:
This effect might be only temporary, however. And as TV is a more powerful medium than dead trees, it gives us an upper limit to the likely influence of the latter.
We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gained 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News. Fox News also affected the Republican vote share in the Senate and voter turnout. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 28 percent of its viewers to vote Republican, depending on the audience measure.
Bryan suggests politicians court the press not to persuade voters, but to keep the lid on nasty stories. I suspect there's another reason. Politicians regard the media the same way D-list celebs, such as Heather Mills, do; newspapers create their identity, and it's only the press that validate (or not) their sense of who they are.