Government in and out of the News: A Groundbreaking Study Shows That There Is Less News about the Federal Government in the National Media Than There Used to Be, and That What News There Is Tends to Be Negative and Judgmental. How Is All This Affecting Our View of Government?

By Lichter, S. Robert; McGinnis, Patricia | The Public Manager, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Government in and out of the News: A Groundbreaking Study Shows That There Is Less News about the Federal Government in the National Media Than There Used to Be, and That What News There Is Tends to Be Negative and Judgmental. How Is All This Affecting Our View of Government?


Lichter, S. Robert, McGinnis, Patricia, The Public Manager


The past 20 years have been marked by dramatic changes in the political environment. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, American hostages were being released after their lengthy captivity in Iran. Americans were disillusioned with presidential power in the wake of Nixon's resignation and depressed by economic stagflation of the Carter administration. Our leading adversary, the Soviet Union, rarely looked stronger.

Twelve years later, when Bill Clinton took office, the Cold War had been replaced by a series of foreign policy challenges from Haiti to Somalia to Iraq. The Soviet Union had splintered into more than a dozen struggling nations. Good economic times had come and gone, the federal deficit had skyrocketed since 1980, and again a president (George H. W. Bush) had been replaced, in large measure due to a failing economy.

Another eight years later, George W. Bush took office in the wake of the most controversial presidential election in more than a century. He faced a deeply divided public from an office tarnished by scandal and an economy almost burned out from the high tech boom. Before his first year was out, the US suffered a terrorist attack unprecedented in scale, and with enormous consequences for American political culture.

Aggressive and Expanding News Media

Through all these events, successive administrations and Congresses had to reach the American people through an aggressive and expanding news media led by the "big three" broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and by national newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. These, along with influential regional newspapers around the country, were the lenses through which most citizens viewed their government.

The media environment also changed markedly between 1981 and 2001, with the rise of 24-hour cable news, the resurgence of talk radio, and the growth of the Internet. Nevertheless, the network newscasts and the major national newspapers remained highly influential voices. Today, the newer media sources have not necessarily displaced the old; instead they are offering a wider range of choices for news consumers.

Although the national news media remain dominant sources of information, their political coverage is not always highly regarded. Studies have shown that citizens routinely give the news media lower grades than the parties, the candidates, the pollsters, and even campaign consultants. Other research on media coverage of elections has indicated a decline in the quality and quantity of campaign news on network television.

Government: In and Out of the News

To gain additional insight on all this, the Council for Excellence in Government commissioned the Center for Media and Public Affairs to look at how news coverage of government has changed over time. This study, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, seeks to clarify the relationship between the media and the federal government by providing an empirical portrait of trends in government news coverage since 1981. The result is Government: In and Out of the News, and the findings offer a unique perspective on what "makes" news, and sheds some light on journalism trends regarding news "sources" and the always controversial "tone" of news coverage.

1981, 1993, and 2001:

Touch Points in Time

The first years of three presidential administrations (Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush) are used as the study's time frame. They were specifically chosen because each marked a partisan change in the executive branch. This allowed comparison of all three partisan changes of power over the past quarter-century, with the substantial policy and personnel shifts that accompanied them.

The sample comprised nine media outlets: the three broadcast network evening news shows (ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News), two nationally-influential newspapers (the Washington Post and the New York Times), and four well-regarded local newspapers with regional influence (the Austin American-Statesman, the Des Moines Register, the San Jose Mercury News, and the St. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Government in and out of the News: A Groundbreaking Study Shows That There Is Less News about the Federal Government in the National Media Than There Used to Be, and That What News There Is Tends to Be Negative and Judgmental. How Is All This Affecting Our View of Government?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.