The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories That Shape the Political World

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Was the 2000 presidential campaign merely a contest between Pinocchio and Dumbo? And did Dumbo miraculously turn into Abraham Lincoln after the events of September 11? In fact, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman argue in The Press Effect, these stereotypes, while containing some elements of the truth, represent the failure of the press and the citizenry to engage the most important part of our political process in a critical fashion. Jamieson and Waldman analyze both press coverage and public opinion, using the Annenberg 2000 survey, which interviewed more than 100,000 people, to examine one of the most interesting periods of modern presidential history, from the summer of 2000 through the aftermath of September 11th.
How does the press fail us during presidential elections? Jamieson and Waldman show that when political campaigns side-step or refuse to engage the facts of the opposing side, the press often fails to step into the void with the information citizens require to make sense of the political give-and-take. They look at the stories through which we understand political events-examining a number of fabrications that deceived the public about consequential governmental activities-and explore the ways in which political leaders and reporters select the language through which we talk and think about politics, and the relationship between the rhetoric of campaigns and the reality of governance.
The Press Effect is, ultimately, a wide-ranging critique of the press's role in mediating between politicians and the citizens they are supposed to serve.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"There is much to be learned from the book's point-by-point analysis and...appeal for higher standards in journalism."—The New York Times

"Jamieson has authored a number of substantial books about politics, and her latest does not disappoint."—National Journal

"A disturbing picture of how poorly the media cover political discourse [and] why the press so often fails."—Denver Post

"Based on meticulous research and pretty well scrubbed free of bias, this highly readable book is the latest work in an established vein of media criticism aimed at telling us why we are getting short-changed and telling reporters how to improve.... The book's analysis of what has gone wrong and what is likely to go wrong in the future constitutes a well-judged and useful dissection of our flawed media."—The New Leader

Publishers Weekly
"The greatest generation was used to storming beachheads. Baby boomers such as myself was used to getting caught in a quagmire of Vietnam where politics made decisions more than the military sometimes." These garbled sentences, from a speech George W. Bush gave a month after September 11, were not dissimilar to those the President had delivered earlier. Yet the U.S. press, which had vigilantly chronicled all of Bush's earlier malapropisms, had decided the president had changed and was now eloquent. This fascinating, well documented and entertaining critique of the national press makes the case that the mainstream media doesn't so much report the news as create it, especially when journalists "transform the raw stuff of experience into presumed fact and arrange facts into coherent stories." University of Pennsylvania communications professor Jamieson and research fellow Waldman focus mainly on how the press reported the 2000 election, the Supreme Court's decision on the Florida vote and its response to national politics after 9/11. In each instance, they uncover and substantiate how the national press shapes the news. During the election, for instance, the press adapted a "frame" for each candidate, presenting Bush as "not too bright" and Gore as "untrustworthy." This "frame" defined most of the coverage, they say. Jamieson and Waldman's analysis is eye opening, and much of it is highly provocative. Intelligent and timely, this is an important addition to the literature on media and current events. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Amateur psychologist, soothsayer, patriot-these are some of the roles adopted by journalists in covering political news, according to Jamieson and Waldman (Annenberg Public Policy Ctr.). By forcing the news into "frames" that correspond to these roles, reporters determine which elements of a story to play up and which to ignore. To illustrate this disturbing phenomenon, the authors cite numerous recent examples, from media complicity in spreading campaign fabrications to the influence of journalists on the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. The only appropriate role for the news media to adopt, the authors maintain, is that of "custodian of fact." Too often, they argue, reporters simply analyze the strategies used by opposing sides rather than sorting out the facts behind the issues. While acknowledging that the truth can be elusive, the authors cite a few exemplary cases of journalistic integrity and fact finding. This important book, which demonstrates that media distortion is far too complex and insidious to be explained by mere liberal or conservative bias, belongs in all journalism collections.-Susan M. Colowick, North Olympic Lib. Syst., Port Angeles, WA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195173291
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/8/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,002,908
  • Lexile: 1430L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Packaging the Presidency and Eloquence in an Electronic Age. Paul Waldman is a senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction xi
Chapter 1 The Press as Storyteller 1
Chapter 2 The Press as Amateur Psychologist, Part I 24
Chapter 3 The Press as Amateur Psychologist, Part II 41
Chapter 4 The Press as Soothsayer 74
Chapter 5 The Press as Shaper of Events 95
Chapter 6 The Press as Patriot 130
Chapter 7 The Press as Custodian of Fact 165
Conclusion 194
Notes 199
Index 209
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