Calling Elections: The History of Horse-Race Journalism

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Calling Elections: The History of Horse-Race Journalism is the story of the origins and evolution of the "horse-race" tradition of political journalism in the United States. Thomas B. Littlewood examines how the treatment of elections as sporting events has come to overshadow the reporting of the campaign as a forum for the discussion of ideas. He suggests reasons for the perception of presidential elections as spectator sport: the historical interconnections between gambling, politics, and the press; the ...
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Overview

Calling Elections: The History of Horse-Race Journalism is the story of the origins and evolution of the "horse-race" tradition of political journalism in the United States. Thomas B. Littlewood examines how the treatment of elections as sporting events has come to overshadow the reporting of the campaign as a forum for the discussion of ideas. He suggests reasons for the perception of presidential elections as spectator sport: the historical interconnections between gambling, politics, and the press; the infusion of sports language into political rhetoric; the government spoils system that gives individuals and businesses a financial stake in the status of the contest; the methodological development of "scientific" polling; the fiercely declared independence of many formerly partisan organizations; the perverse conviction of many journalists in the early 1900s that substantive politics was not interesting to news consumers and that partisan "speech" belonged in the paid advertising columns of the newspaper. Political scientists, journalists, sociologists, American Studies scholars, and all those interested in the past, and upcoming, presidential elections will find much to ponder in Calling Elections: The History of Horse-Race Journalism.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Littlewood (journalism, U. of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign) examines how and investigates why the treatment of elections as sporting events has come to overshadow reporting of the campaign as a forum for discussing ideas. He cites historical links between politics and gambling, the infusion of sports language into politics, a spoils system under which parties have a financial stake in the election outcome, scientific polling, and other factors. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From The Critics
In Calling Elections: The History Of HorseRace Journalism, Thomas Littlewood (Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign) provides an excellent and informative survey of how journalism came to report on the presidential selection and election process as if it were a day at the race track, complete with such metaphors as "dark horse candidate" and "neck and neck at the finish line". Calling Elections reveals how treating elections as a spectator sport was the result of an intermixture of gambling, politics, the press, sports language intermingling with political rhetoric, a government spoils system, the development of modern statistical polling, the involvement of partisan organizations, and the perverse conviction of many 20th century journalists that substantive political presentations were not interesting to the people who bought their papers, listened to their broadcast news reports, or tuned in to their television segments. Calling Elections is "must" reading for journalism students, political science students, and the nonspecialist general reader with an interest in the politics of news reporting and the news reporting of politics.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268008338
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1999
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction 1
1 The Colonel and the Key Precincts 7
2 Old Hickory ... and a Passion for Numbers 15
3 Kicking All Politicians to the Devil 29
4 The Lightning and the Fire 35
5 The Unholy Alliance of the AP and Western Union 47
6 The Journalism of Magic Lanterns and Heavenly Hieroglyphics 53
7 Pack Journalism and the Modern Campaign 61
8 Politics as a Sporting Proposition 73
9 Political Speech at Space Rates 79
10 The Literary Digest and the Pundits: Straws in the Wind 85
11 You're on the Air 105
12 The Trials and Tribulations of George Gallup 113
13 The Conversion of the Alsop Brothers 127
14 The Story Is in the Numbers 131
15 Instincts and Impressions in the Land of Camelot 141
16 EVA and the Exit Polls 151
17 A "Good Story" Trumps the Numbers 167
18 And Now ... the Virtual Horse Race 175
Notes 183
Index 197
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