News: The Politics of Illusion / Edition 7

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Part of the Longman Classics in Political Science series, this renowned text-known for its lively writing style, provocative point of view, and exceptional scholarship-has been thoroughly revised and updated to include the most current case studies and the latest research. A favorite of students and instructors alike, this behind-the-scenes tour of the American media explores the central question: How well does the news, as the core of the national political information system, serve the needs of democracy? In examining this question, the text discusses how various political actors-from presidents and members of Congress, to interest organizations and citizen activists-try to convey their messages through the news.
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Editorial Reviews

Follows the evolution of the news, both as a social and economic product and as a key to understanding the American political process. Analyzes how the press, public, and politicians interact in a political system that is not always functional, offering in-depth case studies and current examples. This fourth edition reflects the decline of mass media and the fragmentation of the mass news audience, the rise of strategic communication and new technologies of audience targeting, the rise of news negativity, and the news reform movement. The author is affiliated with the University of Washington. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher

News: The Politics of Illusion is a smart, provocative introduction to media and American politics. Bennett argues that the American political information system – with news at its center - is broken, with serious consequences for democracy. Bennett lays out his case, and invites readers to make up their own minds.” – Paul Freedman, The University of Virginia

“This book is written smoothly in flowing prose, free from the jargon that obscures to much social science writing. Bennett is critical, but never carping, praising the news system for what he considers its many strengths and condemning it for what he perceives as its shortcomings.” - from Doris Graber’s Foreword

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780321421616
  • Publisher: Longman
  • Publication date: 8/4/2006
  • Series: Longman Classics in Political Science Series
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 7
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The News about Democracy
Ch. 1 What's News? The Construction of Political Reality 1
Press-Politics 2
News Images and Political Realities 4
Inside the News System 6
Economics versus Democracy 8
Information Systems and Their Limits 9
News as Social Construct 11
From Mass Media to Media Monopoly 14
More Channels, More Choices? 15
Different Package, Same Contents? 17
Is Television the Problem? 23
A Definition of News 26
Why the News Matters: The Political Gatekeeper 26
Imagining Other Kinds of News 29
Where Do the People Fit into the Information Picture? 31
Ch. 2 News Content: Messages for the Masses 37
Four Information Biases in the News: An Overview 39
Four Information Biases in the News: An In-Depth Look 47
Personalized News 48
Dramatized News 52
Fragmented News 58
Normalized News 64
News Bias Reconsidered 72
Ch. 3 How Politicians Make the News 77
The Politics of Illusion 78
News Images as Political Reality 80
The Goals of Image Making 81
The Techniques of Image Making 85
Symbols and Their Political Uses 86
Defining the Political Situation 88
News Control: Getting the Message Across 90
Press Relations: From Cooperation to Intimidation 100
The Effects of News Control 106
Why Images Prevail 110
What Comes First: Apathy or Disinformation? 112
Ch. 4 How Journalists Report the News 117
The Importance of Work Routines and Professional Norms 118
How Reporting Practices Contribute to News Bias 118
Reporters and Officials: Pressures to Cooperate 119
Reporters as Members of News Organizations: Pressures to Standardize 123
The Paradox of Organizational Routines 126
Reporters as a Pack: Pressures to Agree 129
When Journalism Works 135
Ch. 5 Inside the Profession: Objectivity and Other Double Standards 141
Why Objective Reporting Does Not Work 142
Fairness: The New Objectivity 143
Professional Journalism Standards 145
Professional Practices and News Distortion 149
The Adversarial Role of the Press 149
Standards of Decency and Good Taste 153
Documentary Reporting Practices 157
The Use of Stories as Standardized News Formats 157
Reporters as Generalists 159
The Practice of Editorial Review 161
Objectivity Reconsidered 162
Ch. 6 The Public: Prisoners of the News? 167
The Prisoner's Dilemma 168
Prisoners Who Can Think for Themselves 169
Why the News Still Matters 170
Common Patterns of Information Processing 171
Other Reasons People Follow the News 180
Escaping the News Prison 189
Ch. 7 Freedom from the Press: Solutions for Concerned Citizens 193
News and Power in America: The Ideal versus the Reality 195
Why the Myth of a Free Press Persists 197
Critical Proposals for Citizens, Journalists and Politicians 200
Proposals for Citizens 200
Proposals for Journalists 207
Proposals for Politicians and Government 211
The Perils of Virtual Democracy 218
Index 221
About the Author 233
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