The media, politics and public life are such familiar terrain for us: every day we access news media to see, hear and read about the latest political event and the opinions of public figures. For most of us, exposure to the news media is a routine activity, a backdrop to our everyday lives—and yet it is a vital means by which we stay connected to public life and it is a form of participation in public life, which would not exist without the everyday involvement of ‘the public’. The media, in this sense, perform the quite extraordinary task of facilitating the public culture. The media give life to public culture through the ways they connect public figures to the public, through the ways they give organisations and individuals involvement in public life, through the ways they provide a domain within which we make and experience the reason, the values and the pleasures of public life.
While the media, politics and public life are familiar terrain, we generally know little about how politicians and the news media interact, we struggle to articulate the nature of the power of the media, and we are unsure about our own status and roles in public life. Part of this difficulty resides in the sheer complexity of the field of the media, politics and public life: power relations occur within and across institutions and organisations, myriad acts of communication from voluminous governmental reports through to corridor gossip undergo complex processes of transformation into news stories and images, a plethora of divergent individual opinions stand in contrast to the solidity of‘public opinion’. This book begins to address and explain this kind of complexity, which I believe warrants greater levels of political