The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000

The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000

The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000

The Press and the Modern Presidency: Myths and Mindsets from Kennedy to Election 2000

Synopsis

Scandal and sex sell, even in the serious business of presidential news coverage. The media deference shown to Kennedy and the scrutiny applied to Clinton illustrate the changed relation between the two, and bookend this pertinent, updated 1998 Choice "Outstanding Academic Book" award-winner. Liebovich tackles misconceptions about the media's role in politics; how chief executives cooperate with and manipulate the press as it suits their needs; and how ratings pressures have bent coverage of elections and the Executive Branch for the worse.

Excerpt

The year 1960 was a beginning in American presidential politics, a starting point to a revised relationship between journalist and president. Not only did television become a consequential factor in the 1960 election, but it established itself as the primary vehicle of information in presidential politics—supplanting newspapers, magazines, and radio and quickly burying newsreels for all time. Yet radio, magazines, and newspapers and the presidency itself changed in the 1960s. As the decade opened, two candidates jousted in a gentlemanly manner in anticipation of one of the closest elections in history. Reporters asked respectful questions and reported the campaign in both metaphoric and, in most cases, courteously objective terms, leaving the opinionated prose to the editorial writers and the television commentators.

By the end of the decade, tolerance between correspondents and the president had begun to dissipate. Reporters interpreted as much as they observed, while probing more deeply and critically into the private life of the president. the 1960s brought transformations in the pressroom, the White House, and the public’s perception of the role of the presidency.

Historical recollections of the 1960 election have been somewhat distorted. Much of what is believed to be true about the momentous campaign is either myth or misleading speculation. This is partly because of the Kennedy mystique and partly because of the wholehearted acceptance of the Pulitzer Prize–winning book The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore White. While a marvelous and groundbreaking piece of journalism, White’s book is nonetheless highly speculative and, having been published in 1961, lacking in

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