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

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

Conclusion

While we chide reporters for their failures we also indict the way politics is practiced and our own shortcomings as citizens. When those communicating to the press provide inadequate definitions, play fast and loose with the facts, and fail to show the trade-offs inherent in governing, the task of reporters is made more complicated. But where the ballot doesn't permit citizens to check a box or punch a chad indicating dissatisfaction with the quality of campaign discourse, reporters must go beyond bemoaning the sad state of political argument. Citizens need journalists to fill in the blanks when definitions are wanting, test evidence when its legitimacy is in question, and concentrate not on who will win or lose but on the ways in which the proposals of candidates and officeholders would affect individual lives.

The proposal we offer is a simple one. Reporters should help the public make sense of competing political arguments by defining terms, filling in needed information, assessing the accuracy of the evidence being offered, and relating the claims and counterclaims to the probable impact of the proposed policies on citizens and the country.

For decades, Walter Cronkite, America's most respected journalist, closed his nightly news program on CBS with the statement “That's the way it is.” We have seen that “the way it is” is determined by news frames constructed by journalists. If journalism is, as Washington Post publisher Philip Graham described it, “the first rough draft of history,” at times the draft is rougher than it might be.

-194-

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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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