The Two W's of Journalism: The Why and What of Public Affairs Reporting

By Davis Merritt; Maxwell McCombs | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
13

Elections

Fifty or a hundred years from now will Americans look back to turn-of-thecentury elections and shake their heads in bewilderment, as people do today when they read about the electoral process as it existed in the mid- 19th century? Will they wonder how democracy survived the days in the 1990s when presidential candidates spent more than $3 for every vote cast and U. S. senators had to raise thousands of dollars a day every day of their 6-year terms to compete for re-election? Will it seem a bizarre irony to those future historians that as more and more money was spent, fewer and fewer voters participated; that the White House was turned into a grand resort for major campaign contributors; that the major communication about candidates and issues was through 30-second sound bites on radio and television, where attack advertising dominated?

Will those scenes strike their sensibilities as harshly as Michael Schudson's description of Election Day in the middle of the 19th century strikes ours?

The area (around the polling place) is crowded with the banners and torches of rival parties. Election Day is not set off from other days but is the culmination of a campaign of several months. You must still be a white male to vote, but not necessarily of property. During the campaign you have marched in torchlight processions, perhaps in military uniform, with a club of like-minded individuals from your party. If you were not active in the campaign, you may be roused on election day by a party worker to escort you to the polls on foot or by carriage. On the road you may encounter clubs or groups from rival parties, and it would not be unusual if fisticuffs or even guns were to dissuade you from casting a ballot at all.

If you do proceed to the ballot box, you may step more lively with the encouragement of a dollar or two from the party—not a bribe but an acknowledgment that voting is a

-119-

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The Two W's of Journalism: The Why and What of Public Affairs Reporting
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • About the Authors ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Part I *
  • Chapter 1 - The Why 3
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 2 - First Things First: Why We Have a First Amendment 9
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 3 - Conflicting Visions of Democracy 19
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 4 - The Evolution of Journalism 31
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading 39
  • Chapter 5 - What the Public Needs to Know 40
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 6 - Three Publics for the News 50
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 7 - Technology and the New Millennium 60
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Part II *
  • Chapter 8 - The What 69
  • Chapter 9 - Sampling the News 72
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 10 - Framing Stories and Positioning Citizens 80
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 11 - Positioning Ourselves as Journalists 91
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 12 - Deliberation 106
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 13 - Elections 119
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 14 - Polling—use and Abuse 132
  • Suggestions for Additional Reading *
  • Chapter 15 - A Map of the Future 146
  • Author Index 151
  • Subject Index 155
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