The Political Pundits

The Political Pundits

The Political Pundits

The Political Pundits


Nimmo and Combs discuss the key role political analysts play, their methods and strategies, and the potential danger they pose to American democracy--by transforming it into a "punditocracy" which replaces serious citizen debate with discussion guided by show business values. Punditry, Nimmo and Combs argue, produces symbolic rather than effective healing of political ills, political paternalism rather than political reflection, and, in the end, public disenchantment with politics.


Historically, the mass media were heralded as the ultimate instruments of democracy. Print, radio, and TV were destined to unite, educate, and, as a result, improve the actions and decisions of the polity. As sources of timely public information, they provide the greatest potential for understanding ourselves, our society, and even the world.

However, there is growing sentiment among scholars and political observers that the mass media have not made us more informed in our electoral choices or more democratic in terms of electoral participation. As a nation we seem to be less informed, less concerned, and certainly less involved in politics. Many blame the practice of news journalism. The very form and content of contemporary news is like feeding the nation "Twinkies," which are delicious but have no nutritional value.

The problem, according to Neil Postman (1985), is not that the media present us with entertaining matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining (p. 87). The result is pure spectacle. Murray Edelman (1988) argued that:

The spectacle constituted by news reporting continuously constructs and reconstructs social problems, crises, enemies, and leaders and so creates a succession of threats and reassurances. These constructed problems and personalities furnish the content of political journalism and the data for historical and analytic political studies. They also play a central role in winning support and opposition for political causes and policies. (p. 1)

The spectacle of politics is no longer reserved for elections. It is now a daily, or, better yet for most Americans, a nightly event. The "players" are no longer only politicians but also the news reporters, anchors, and . . .

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