Understanding Public Opinion: A Guide for Newspapermen and Newspaper Readers

Understanding Public Opinion: A Guide for Newspapermen and Newspaper Readers

Understanding Public Opinion: A Guide for Newspapermen and Newspaper Readers

Understanding Public Opinion: A Guide for Newspapermen and Newspaper Readers

Excerpt

Without benefit of this book or of a course in social psychology, even a callow newspaperman would know enough to be subtle in crusading for low-cost public housing in a wealthy suburb, for compulsory sterilization in a predominantly Roman Catholic community, or for free love almost anywhere.

With a knowledge of public opinion--what it is, how it is formed, how it can be measured, how it operates, and so forth--the editor or publisher should be better prepared to conduct a successful editorial campaign.

At lower journalistic levels, the newsgatherer who knows something of the principles which determine collective social behavior should be able to report and write with greater understanding and should find his work personally more profitable and pleasurable.

With the idiosyncracies of most of those with whom he comes in contact in his quest for news, the reporter need not be concerned. If, however, any form of eccentricity becomes widespread, perhaps epidemic, that fact is itself newsworthy.

In such a story the important element of news interest is the why. Without an attempt at explanation, the account of a zoot suit riot, land boom, skyrocketing adulation of a new popular hero, success of a new political, religious or other movement, or some similar social phenomenon is incomplete. To obtain the answer to the why of such a story--or of thousands of others which come to mind--it is not necessary, however, to have complete psychiatric data regarding every person involved. That is as nonessential as it would be to obtain complete medical histories of every victim of a virulent disease epidemic . . .

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