Edited for Television: CNN, ABC, and American Presidential Elections

Edited for Television: CNN, ABC, and American Presidential Elections

Edited for Television: CNN, ABC, and American Presidential Elections

Edited for Television: CNN, ABC, and American Presidential Elections


Edited for Television is a concise, accessible examination of the role of network and cable news media in American presidential campaigns. The second edition acknowledges the political changes that have taken place since the first edition, namely the key policy battles of Clinton's first two years, the midterm elections, Clinton's revival as a political force, and the 1996 election. Through all these changes, television continues to cover politics largely as it did four years ago. In particular, television reporters still make themselves and their concerns a central component of the political story. A new closing chapter considers the fact that, despite a deliberate effort by reporters to make their work more substantive in 1996, issue coverage remained sporadic and episodic while thematic content of cable and broadcast news again emphasized the horse race, personalities, process, and, to a lesser extent, nonissues. Examples of CNN and ABC news coverage from 1996 make interesting illustrations for the updated chapters.


We are heading for a presidential campaign that within the next twelve years will
take place either within a TV studio or at least within television's special confines.
I am not sure I know what to do about it.

--Roger Mudd

It was that kind of year.

A real vice president sends a real gift to the fictional child of a fictional television character. A billionaire becomes a media celebrity and a serious independent presidential contender, only to self--destruct--twice--under television's searing hot lights. Larry King emerges as an electoral force, perhaps the first-ever host of a presidential campaign.

The 1992 national election did not simply unfold on television; it was of and about television. Presidential candidates masquerading as pitchmen hawked toll-free phone numbers and feel-good imagery on forums ranging from the traditional ("Meet the Press" and "Today") to the unorthodox and downright bizarre ("The Arsenio Hall Show" and MTV), as all the while television reporters dutifully legitimated these events by making them the focus of coverage. There were "electronic town meetings" and "infomercials," with candidates serving as ginsu knife substitutes. Ross Perot went so far as to reduce his reborn quest for the presidency to a series of commercial messages, which the major television networks felt worthy of news coverage in their own right. Roger Mudd erred only by allowing twelve years for his prediction to come true.

Television's domination of the electoral spotlight was far more insidious than these events suggest. Some of it may be understood in terms of what Mudd calls "television's special confines," in which the medium sets the conditions for what millions come to know as the presidential campaign.

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