by Telemundo. Altogether, the station aired six didactic segments in the week prior to election day. Three of the pieces offered lengthy biographies (average time of 2:25) of candidates for president, senate, and county sheriff. Each report explained the same material, including age, marital status, job experience, and positions on major issues of each office. None of the segments included sound bites from the candidates, staff, or citizens. Two other didactic pieces appeared to be direct results of the citizen initiatives reported earlier in the campaign. In one segment, the station profiled a recently naturalized citizen who implored eligible voters to exercise their rights. This same citizen had been a part of the earlier report on project Safe Vote '96. In addition to urging citizens to vote, she briefly told viewers why she had waited so long to become a citizen, and again, she urged people not to be intimidated into not voting. A second segment appeared to be aimed at educating recent citizens regarding the concrete steps involved in the voting process. The 2-minute, 30-second segment contained no sound bites, but focused on practical information such as how to register, how to find one's polling place, and how to mark the ballots used in San Antonio precincts.
The difference in political news reported exemplified at Telemundo has several implications concerning the media and democracy. On the local level, the station functioned to fulfill in a small way some of the claims laid out in normative theories of the media. The station operated to a limited extent as a platform or discursive space for the discussion of controversial, pernicious issues of racism, poverty, and discrimination that are clearly part of the common social reality of south Texas. As a player in the metropolitan media market, however, Telemundo's actions should not be interpreted as normative altruism. Rather, the station's marginal position vis-à-vis its competitors in the need for advertising dollars had created the conditions for innovation, which had taken a decidedly grassroots turn. Turow ( 1996) provided a convincing justification of this argument, noting major innovations in mass media programming and their relation to marginal positions in the pop music, film, and television markets. Given the logic of the support system of local news programs outlined earlier in this chapter, Telemundo's grassroots turn was aimed at an unattractive demographic segment--the disenfranchised--resulting in the commercial failure and termination of the program. Diverse and contentious discourse in election coverage proved commercially disastrous.
A particular ideological vision of the press emerges in the well-known recommendations of the Hutchins Commission, which in 1947 announced the controversial concept that the U.S. news media should place daily events