Making Laws and Making News: Media Strategies in the U.S. House of Representatives

Making Laws and Making News: Media Strategies in the U.S. House of Representatives

Making Laws and Making News: Media Strategies in the U.S. House of Representatives

Making Laws and Making News: Media Strategies in the U.S. House of Representatives

Synopsis

The news media, especially television, have become a fixture on Capitol Hill in the past twenty years. Making Laws and Making News describes the interactive relationship between the press and Congress that strongly affects the news, the legislative process, and the types of laws enacted. Instead of focusing on how reporters decide who and what to cover and how news is resented, Cook examines the other side of the equation--the relationship between the media strategies of House member's press offices and the legislative strategies of the members themselves. The book won the 1990 Benjamin Franklin Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing.

Excerpt

This is a book about how members of the U.S. House of Representatives make (or try to make) news and how that activity affects their jobs and the way they go about them. Not long ago the news media seemed to be bit players on Capitol Hill, especially on the House side. Today they have become so ubiquitous that observers have expressed concern about the appeal of their spotlight--that it may affect the distribution of power and alter the way the chamber conducts its business.

Because speculation has been rife while inquiry and analysis have been surprisingly limited, this book examines the who, what, when, where, how, and why of House news coverage and of legislators' strategies for seeking it. Part of this study focuses on what the news looks like: who makes news, what is newsworthy, when does the legislative process get reported? the other part emphasizes the view from members' press offices; why do members seek publicity, how do they attempt to shape the news, are they successful?

In general the study elucidates a relationship of mutual benefit and limitation. Reporters need the news and the insights House members can provide; members need coverage to further legislative strategies. in effect, making news has become integral to making laws or, as one press secretary commented, "Press work is an extension of policy." But the relationship also limits the kinds of issues on which legislators focus and shapes the processes by which policies are drafted, debated, and enacted.

This study began with a conversation some years ago with Burdett Loomis. He, Stephen Hess, and Lyn Ragsdale have been invaluable sources of information and encouragement. Lee Sigelman and Steven Smith provided key suggestions at the earliest stages.

The research was mostly accomplished during a year in Washington . . .

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