Here we examine metatalk - discourse about discourse. What do participants see when they step back and observe the very discourse that they are involved in shaping? Their subjective view of media coverage of the abortion issue has its own reality, especially when it is widely shared.
We have observations from two different kinds of participants here: journalists and spokespersons for advocacy organizations. Journalists in our newspaper samples often write about the discourse, both in news accounts and commentaries. We have culled their observations looking for implied standards of quality. In addition, we have interviews with a small number of American and German journalists who have frequently written on one or more aspects of the abortion issue for the newspapers in our sample. The interviews solicit their observations on the abortion discourse and on how they and their colleagues have performed. Advocates are sometimes quoted in the media, commenting on the discourse rather than on abortion per se. In addition, we have their responses to interviews that focus on their perceptions of the media.
Metatalk examines a discourse with an implicit set of normative standards - that is, it praises or condemns from the standpoint of some often-unstated ideal that is used to assess what is observed. We examine two questions here: (a) What are the similarities and differences in the normative standards in Germany and the United States? and (b) To what extent are these normative standards congruent with the criteria from democratic theory discussed in the last two chapters?
Some normative standards are shared even though those who comment on them may see them as being met in different ways and to