The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism

The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism

The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism

The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism

Synopsis

In an ideal world, journalists act selflessly and in the public interest regardless of the financial consequences. However, in reality, news outlets no longer provide the most important and consequential stories to audiences; instead, news producers adjust news content in response to ratings, audience demographics, and opinion polls. While such criticisms of the news media are widely shared, few can agree on the causes of poor news quality. The People's News argues that the incentives in the American free market drive news outlets to report news that meets audience demands, rather than democratic ideals.In short, audiences' opinions drive the content that so often passes off as "the news."

The People's News looks at news not as a type of media but instead as a commodity bought and sold on the market, comparing unique measures of news content to survey data from a wide variety of sources. Joseph Uscinski's rigorous analysis shows news firms report certain issues over others - not because audiences need to know them, but rather, because of market demands. Uscinski also demonstrates that the influence of market demands also affects the business of news, prohibiting journalists from exercising independent judgment and determining the structure of entire news markets as well as firm branding.

Ultimately, the results of this book indicate profit-motives often trump journalistic and democratic values.The findings also suggest that the media actively responds to audiences, thus giving the public control over their own information environment. Uniting the study of media effects and media content, The People's News presents a powerful challenge to our ideas of how free market media outlets meet our standards for impartiality and public service.

Excerpt

Most television news programs are designed to satisfy the
perceived appetites of our audiences. That may be not only
acceptable but unavoidable in entertainment; in news, how
ever, it is the journalists who should be telling their viewers
what is important, not the other way around.

—Ted Koppel, January 29, 2006

After leaving the daily grind of the ABC News Division, veteran anchor Ted Koppel tried his hand as a columnist for the New York Times. Prior to his retirement in late 2005, Koppel had spent decades in the news business; he covered numerous heads of state, natural disasters, major wars, and momentous elections. Rather than focus on the substance of any of these major stories in his first column, Koppel chose instead to discuss a problem he felt could negatively affect election outcomes, public policy, and democratic procedures. In short, Koppel discussed a problem he felt could damage the very fabric of American democracy. This problem is the amount of audience influence over American news programming.

Koppel contended that news firms no longer provide the most important and consequential stories to audiences, an approach sometimes called “traditional journalism.” Instead, outlets fill precious space with news designed to appease the audience’s demands. This leaves audiences . . .

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