The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectuals and the Public Sphere

The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectuals and the Public Sphere

by Ronald N. Jacobs, Eleanor Townsley
     
 

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While the newspaper op-ed page, the Sunday morning political talk shows on television, and the evening cable-news television lineup have an obvious and growing influence in American politics and political communication, social scientists and media scholars tend to be broadly critical of the rise of organized punditry during the 20th century without ever providing a…  See more details below

Overview

While the newspaper op-ed page, the Sunday morning political talk shows on television, and the evening cable-news television lineup have an obvious and growing influence in American politics and political communication, social scientists and media scholars tend to be broadly critical of the rise of organized punditry during the 20th century without ever providing a close empirical analysis. What is the nature of the contemporary space of opinion? How has it developed historically? What kinds of people speak in this space? What styles of writing and speech do they use? What types of authority and expertise do they draw on? And what impact do their commentaries have on public debate? To describe and analyze this complex space of news media, Ronald Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley rely on enormous samples of opinion collected from newspapers and television shows during the first years of the last two Presidential administrations. They also employ biographical data on authors of opinion to connect specific argument styles to specific types of authors, and examine the distribution of authors and argument types across different formats. The result is a close mapping that reveals a massive expansion and differentiation of the opinion space. It tells a complex story of shifting intersections between journalism, politics, the academy, and the new sector of think tanks. It also reveals a proliferation of genres and forms of opinion; not only have the people who speak within the space of opinion become more diverse over time, but the formats of opinion-claims to authority, styles of speech, and modes of addressing publics-have also become more varied. Though Jacobs and Townsley find many changes, they also find continuities. Despite public anxieties, the project of objective journalism is alive and well, thriving in the older, more traditional formats, and if anything, the proliferation of newer formats has resulted in an intensified commitment (by some) to core journalistic values as clear points of difference that offer competing logics of distinction and professional justification. But the current moment does represent a real challenge as more and different shows compete to narrate politics in the most compelling, authoritative, and influential manner. By providing the first systematic study of media opinion and news commentary, The Space of Opinion will fill an important gap on research about media, politics, and the civil society and will attract readers in a number of disciplines, including sociology, communication, media studies, and political science.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jacobs and Townsley, in their rich and detailed analysis, demonstate that the space of opinion consists of a plurality of spaces, with a variety of formats... The Space of Opinion gives the reader a deep insight into the multifaceted field of opinion formation in the United States, presenting a rich variety of examples." —American Journal of Sociology

"Jacobs and Townsley provide an important anatomic overview of the inner workings of the various media systems, offering a general framework for examining changes that will undoubtedly continue in the future... Highly recommended." —CHOICE

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199339648
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/06/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Ronald N. Jacobs is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University at Albany, State University of New York and author of Race, Media, and the Crisis of Civil Society: From Watts to Rodney King. Eleanor Townsley is Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College and co-author of Making Capitalism Without Capitalists: The New Ruling Elites in Eastern Europe.

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