American Politicians and Journalists

American Politicians and Journalists

American Politicians and Journalists

American Politicians and Journalists


In teaching a course on government and the media, we have found that our students are somewhat cynical about politicians. They are willing to believe that foremost in any politician's thinking is getting elected. Some would add, at whatever cost.

But these same students are usually less willing to recognize that career goals also motivate journalists. Once introduced to the idea, however, they begin to see its practical value in explaining journalists' behavior.

The way politicians and journalists interact — each seeking to advance their own careers — is the theme that ties together the topics we cover in this book.

Some presidents and some newspeople view this interaction as a zero-sum game — or equivalent to a military engagement. Our view differs. We suggest that the healthiest form of interaction for a democratic polity is a mixed-motive game, with elements of both cooperation and conflict. A stance of guarded cooperation generally promotes civility, tends to maximize news for the citizen consumers, and makes politics and journalism fascinating enterprises for practitioners and students.

While career advancement forms the integrating core of professional journalism and politics, we note here, as we do again in Chapter 1, that the practitioners in both have other, more altruistic goals as well.

We are indebted especially to the work of one former and one present colleague. Norton E. Long, in his classic article "The Local Community as an Ecology of Games," describes how the journalist seeks . . .

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