The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories That Shape the Political World

By Kathleen Hall Jamieson; Paul Waldman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Press as Storyteller

The reports that journalists offer their readers, listeners, and viewers are not called “stories” by accident. By arranging information into structures with antagonists, central conflicts, and narrative progression, journalists deliver the world to citizens in a comprehensible form. But the stories that journalists tell and the lenses that color their interpretation of events can sometimes dull their fact-finding and investigative instincts.

In the illustrations that follow, we describe instances in which reporters failed to investigate and locate the facts that would have undercut the coherence of a story being told because the lens they adopted made fact-finding seem unnecessary or irrelevant. In the first set of cases, while replaying coherent, compelling stories, reporters missed facts that would have disrupted the story line even though the story line itself was being disputed. In the second set, involving events in times of crisis or war, government-blessed versions of fact were uncritically embraced and deceptions tacitly forgiven.

Of course politicians cast the world in stories, too. Political actors argue through the use of narrative for a number of reasons. First, they understand that narrative has persuasive power; when arguments are arranged into stories, they are more readily recalled and more easily believed. Second, they understand the reporter's preference for good stories around which news can be built. If a story is compelling enough, it can increase the chances that coherent but inaccurate information will pass through to the public, as is the case in our first example from the 1988 presidential campaign.

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The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories That Shape the Political World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction xi
  • The Press Effect *
  • Chapter 1 - The Press as Storyteller 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Press as Amateur Psychologist, Part I 24
  • Chapter 3 - The Press as Amateur Psychologist, Part II 41
  • Chapter 4 - The Press as Soothsayer 74
  • Chapter 5 - The Press as Shaper of Events 95
  • Chapter 6 - The Press as Patriot 130
  • Chapter 7 - The Press as Custodian of Fact 165
  • Conclusion 194
  • Notes 199
  • Index 209
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