Navigating the News: A Political Media User's Guide

Navigating the News: A Political Media User's Guide

Navigating the News: A Political Media User's Guide

Navigating the News: A Political Media User's Guide

Synopsis

In a perfect world, political news would be objective and fact-based. Instead, it is biased and unreliable. This engaging book was written to help readers master the media. Combining insight and humor, it exposes the bias, irrationality, bad arguments, and misleading numbers that abound in political media. It shows readers how to take advantage of available news sources, and it guides them in developing the skills needed to sort through the flood of hype and misinformation.

Specifically, the book examines types of political media and why it matters whether one gets political news from television, radio, newspapers, or the Internet, including social media. It discusses the latest developments in political behavior, economics, media studies, and neuroscience to explain why the political media does what it does to systematically distort consumers' view of politics--and it looks at ways consumers tend to be irrational in choosing and interpreting news. Finally, it offers concrete suggestions that will enable readers to become more critical of what they read, see, and hear.

Excerpt

October 4, 2012, was a really big day for the news media. It was the day after the first presidential debate, in which President Obama had been absolutely obliterated by Mitt Romney. Up to that point, Obama had been slowly but steadily pulling away from Romney—on the day of the debate, polling showed Obama with a comfortable lead, on pace to pick up 332 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed to win the presidency. But according to the media, the debate suddenly changed everything. Time’s Joel Klein called it “one of the most inept performances I’ve ever seen by a sitting President.” Andrew Sullivan, writing for the Daily Beast website, captured the sense of near-panic among Obama partisans with an article titled “Did Obama Just Throw the Entire Election Away?” In less than a day, the media narrative of the 2012 campaign had shifted so much in favor of Romney that National Journalfelt the need to run an article on “5 Reasons Why It’s Too Early to Write Off Obama.”

It turned out that it was too early to write off President Obama, who ended up winning a race that wasn’t nearly as close as many in the media predicted. Far from being a toss-up, the election went decisively for Obama, who finished with 332 electoral votes—exactly the number projected on the day of the debate that supposedly “changed everything.”

You might be inclined to write this off as an isolated incident—except it wasn’t. For years, political scientists have been saying that debates don’t really matter much in presidential elections. And they have plenty of hard data to prove it. Debates often give candidates a bump in support, say the . . .

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