Democracy Without Citizens: Media and the Decay of American Politics / Edition 1

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"The free press cannot be free," Robert Entman asserts. "Inevitably, it is dependent." In this penetrating critique of American journalism and the political process, Entman identifies a "vicious circle of interdependence" as the key dilemma facing reporters and editors. To become sophisticated citizens, he argues, Americans need high-quality, independent political journalism; yet, to stay in business while producing such journalism, news organizations would need an audience of sophisticated citizens. As Entman shows, there is no easy way out of this dilemma, which has encouraged the decay of democratic citizenship as well as the media's continuing failure to live up to their own highest ideals. Addressing widespread despair over the degeneration of presidential campaigns, Entman argues that the media system virtually compels politicians to practice demagoguery.
Entman confronts a provocative array of issues: how the media's reliance on elite groups and individuals for information inevitably slants the news, despite adherence to objectivity standards; why the media hold government accountable for its worst errors—such as scandals and foreign misadventures—only after it's too late to prevent them; how the interdependence of the media and their audience molds public opinion in ways neither group alone can control; why greater media competition does not necessarily mean better journalism; why the abolition of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine could make things worse. Entman sheds fascinating light on important news events of the past decade. He compares, for example, coverage of the failed hostage rescue in 1980, which subjected President Carter to a barrage of criticism, with coverage of the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines in Lebanon, an incident in which President Reagan largely escaped blame. He shows how various factors unrelated to the reality of the events themselves—the apparent popularity of Reagan and unpopularity of Carter, differences in the way the Presidents publicly framed the incidents, the potent symbols skillfully manipulated by Reagan's but not by Carter's news managers—produced two very different kinds of reportage.
Entman concludes with some thoughtful suggestions for improvement. Chiefly, he proposes the creation of subsidized, party-based news outlets as a way of promoting new modes of news gathering and analysis, of spurring the established media to more innovative coverage, and of increasing political awareness and participation. Such suggestions, along with the author's probing media criticisms, make this book essential reading for anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In Democracy Without Citizens, Robert Entman contributes some original criticism to the old debate [about the media and politics]. [He] avoids simplistically scapegoating politicians as cynical, media managers as greedy or readers and viewers as apathetic....This is an unusual departure from an often partisan and predictable body of literature."—The Los Angeles Times

"One of the strengths of the book lies in its examination of the pressures on the news media and how these pressures influence political reporting."—Journal of Communication

"Entman has produced a very thoroughly argued and concise text on a number of issues at the core of serious research into the relation between media, society, and the political process in the United is with a sense of intellectual excitement that one reads the book, which constitutes a significant—and for once...too short—contribution to debate about media and politics in the USA."—Journal of Social Sciences "An outstanding treatment of the media and politics—perfect for my upper-level course....Indispensable."—Patrick A. Pierce, Saint Mary College

"Accessible to scholars and non-scholars alike...the book is well worth reading for its ideas alone."—Journalism Quarterly

"Why haven't journalists cured journalism? Entman does a thorough fact-based diagnosis of the malady. But he also shows how needed reforms get lost in the maze of the media. A well researched book by an independent-minded scholar who cares about democracy, this work will be of much and lasting value."—James David Barber, Duke University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195065763
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/1990
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Lexile: 1420L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

About the Author:
Robert Entman teaches public policy studies and political science at Duke University and is co-author of Media Power Politics. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Part I. Understanding Media Influence
1. The Dilemma of Journalism: Democracy Without Citizens 17
2. Objectivity, Bias, and Slant in the News 30
3. Straight Talk on Slanted News: "Bias" and Accountability in Reporting Carter and Reagan 39
4. How the Media Affect What People Think--and Think They Think 75
Part II. Improving Journalism
5. Newspaper Competition and Free Press Ideals: Does Monopoly Matter? 91
6. Faith and Mystification in Broadcast Deregulation 102
7. Improving Journalism by Enhancing Citizenship 125
Appendix A. Citizenship and Opinions: Data and Statistical Analysis 141
Appendix B. Public Opinion Impacts: Data and Statistical Analysis 144
Appendix C. Newspaper Competition: Data and Statistical Analysis 158
Notes 165
Bibliography 205
Index 223
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