How do individual politicians use the news media to reach their political goals? This study addresses the question by proposing an actor‐centered, functional approach. We distinguish 2 essential functions (and subfunctions) the mass media have for political elites. The media are a source of information; politicians depend on it for pure information and they can profit from the momentum generated by media information. The media also are an arena elites need access to in order to promote themselves and their issues. These 2 functions offer certain politicians a structural advantage over others and, hence, are relevant for the power struggle among political elites. A systematic functional account enables comparisons of the role of the media across politicians and political systems.