All the News That's Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News/Audience Economics: Media Institutions and the Audience Marketplace/Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the Twenty-First Century

By McManus, John | Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

All the News That's Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News/Audience Economics: Media Institutions and the Audience Marketplace/Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the Twenty-First Century


McManus, John, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator


Books Hamilton, James T. (2004). All the News that's Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 344.

Napoli, Phillip M. (2004). Audience Economics: Media Institutions and the Audience Marketplace. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 256.

Calabrase, Andrew and Colin Sparks (2003). Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the Twenty-First Century. Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Eleven years ago when Market-Driven Journalism: Let the Citizen Beware? was published, I thought the reaction would be a resounding "Duuuuuh. Everyone already knows that!"

But what seemed so obvious to me as a refugee from a newspaper career appeared patently ridiculous to many, if not most, American media scholars, particularly those who had never worked in a newsroom. The idea of treating news as a business, and the newscast or paper as an economic product responsive to markets, was dismissed as "economic reductionism" of the worst sort.

Professional journalists, I was told, insulate news from narrow business pressures. And professional managers ameliorate, rather than enforce, the short-term profit demand of owners and shareholders. In any case, markets are the free and natural means of connecting supply with demand. In markets we Americans trust, for news as well as almost everything else.

So it's particularly satisfying to see U.S. scholars finally addressing the rogue elephant in the newsroom. The Europeans, versed in Marx, saw the conflict between business' goal of maximizing profit and journalism's goal of maximizing public understanding much earlier.

In All the News That's Fit to Sell, Professor James T. Hamilton of Duke University's Sanford Institute of Public Policy uses economic theory to explain a number of the news media's principal failings. Borrowing from Anthony Down's 1957 classic An Economic Theory of Democracy, Hamilton describes "rational ignorance" as the root cause of the under-reporting of important political news. The public has little interest in political information because it has so little ability to influence government policy; it's not worth the time to stay informed. If the market doesn't demand it, news businesses won't provide it.

Another economic factor undermining public affairs reporting is the effort to add readers or viewers at the margins of the news audience. The effort to recruit new customers shifts news topics in a "softer" direction-toward more feature reporting. Those features are tailored not for the average citizen, nor even the typical news consumer, but for those the news organization is most interested in attracting-those with the best customer potential-younger and upscale individuals.

Investigative reporting is rare not just because of its cost relative to, say, copying the description of a crime from the police blotter, but because once a story is reported, competing news organizations can also publish it and collect some of the benefit without participating in the expense of digging up the information.

What to do? Hamilton proposes four broad remedies:

* First, government should reduce the cost of reporting information about public affairs. Enhance the Freedom of Information Act and publish more government records on the Web.

* Second, nonprofits should produce more of the raw material of serious news by assuming or sharing the cost of researching public issues with news media.

* Third, the development of professional norms should be encouraged among journalists.

* Fourth, adjust copyright laws to put more information in the public domain sooner.

I've been longing for reliable, intuitively satisfying measures of the level of market-orientation of various news media. The empirical studies Hamilton describes in his middle chapters left me with lots of questions. And I suspect undergrade might find these chapters hard going.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

All the News That's Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News/Audience Economics: Media Institutions and the Audience Marketplace/Toward a Political Economy of Culture: Capitalism and Communication in the Twenty-First Century
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.