Democracy Without Citizens: Media and the Decay of American Politics

Paperback | April 30, 1999

byRobert M. Entman

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"The free press cannot be free," Robert Entman asserts. "Inevitably, it is dependent." In this penetrating critique of American journalism and the political process, Entman identifies a "vicious circle of interdependence" as the key dilemma facing reporters and editors. To becomesophisticated citizens, he argues, Americans need high-quality, independent political journalism; yet, to stay in business while producing such journalism, news organizations would need an audience of sophisticated citizens. As Entman shows, there is no easy way out of this dilemma, which hasencouraged the decay of democratic citizenship as well as the media's continuing failure to live up to their own highest ideals. Addressing widespread despair over the degeneration of presidential campaigns, Entman argues that the media system virtually compels politicians to practice demagoguery. Entman confronts a provocative array of issues: how the media's reliance on elite groups and individuals for information inevitably slants the news, despite adherence to objectivity standards; why the media hold government accountable for its worst errors--such as scandals and foreignmisadventures--only after it's too late to prevent them; how the interdependence of the media and their audience molds public opinion in ways neither group alone can control; why greater media competition does not necessarily mean better journalism; why the abolition of the FCC's Fairness Doctrinecould make things worse. Entman sheds fascinating light on important news events of the past decade. He compares, for example, coverage of the failed hostage rescue in 1980, which subjected President Carter to a barrage of criticism, with coverage of the 1983 bombing that killed 241 Marines inLebanon, an incident in which President Reagan largely escaped blame. He shows how various factors unrelated to the reality of the events themselves--the apparent popularity of Reagan and unpopularity of Carter, differences in the way the Presidents publicly framed the incidents, the potent symbolsskillfully manipulated by Reagan's but not by Carter's news managers--produced two very different kinds of reportage. Entman concludes with some thoughtful suggestions for improvement. Chiefly, he proposes the creation of subsidized, party-based news outlets as a way of promoting new modes of news gathering and analysis, of spurring the established media to more innovative coverage, and of increasingpolitical awareness and participation. Such suggestions, along with the author's probing media criticisms, make this book essential reading for anyone concerned about the state of democracy in America.

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From Our Editors

In this penetrating analysis, Robert Entman identifies a 'vicious circle of interdependence' as the key dilemma facing American journalism. He argues that the mass media cannot provide consistently high-quality, independent political journalism, because selling such a product--which might create a sophisticated citizenry--requires an a...

From the Publisher

"The free press cannot be free," Robert Entman asserts. "Inevitably, it is dependent." In this penetrating critique of American journalism and the political process, Entman identifies a "vicious circle of interdependence" as the key dilemma facing reporters and editors. To becomesophisticated citizens, he argues, Americans need high-...

From the Jacket

In this penetrating analysis, Robert Entman identifies a 'vicious circle of interdependence' as the key dilemma facing American journalism. He argues that the mass media cannot provide consistently high-quality, independent political journalism, because selling such a product--which might create a sophisticated citizenry--requires an a...

Robert M. Entman is at Northwestern University.

other books by Robert M. Entman

The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America
The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in Am...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 7.99 × 5.31 × 0.55 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019506576X

ISBN - 13:9780195065763

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From Our Editors

In this penetrating analysis, Robert Entman identifies a 'vicious circle of interdependence' as the key dilemma facing American journalism. He argues that the mass media cannot provide consistently high-quality, independent political journalism, because selling such a product--which might create a sophisticated citizenry--requires an audience that is already sophisticated. Entman offers provocative observations on the real biases of the media, presidents' management of news 'spin, ' and much more.

Editorial Reviews

"A deep and profound probe into the heartland of American Journalism. Brilliantly argued, a must read."--Anthony B. Chan, University of Washington