Synopses & Reviews
Media attention can play a profound role in whether or not officials act on a policy issue, but how policy issues make the news in the first place has remained a puzzle. Why do some issues go viral and then just as quickly fall off the radar? How is it that the media can sustain public interest for months in a complex story like negotiations over Obamacare while ignoring other important issues in favor of stories on andldquo;balloon boy?andrdquo;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
With Making the News, Amber Boydstun offers an eye-opening look at the explosive patterns of media attention that determine which issues are brought before the public. At the heart of her argument is the observation that the media have two modes: an andldquo;alarm modeandrdquo; for breaking stories and a andldquo;patrol modeandrdquo; for covering them in greater depth. While institutional incentives often initiate alarm mode around a story, they also propel news outlets into the watchdog-like patrol mode around its policy implications until the next big news item breaks. What results from this pattern of fixation followed by rapid change is skewed coverage of policy issues, with a few receiving the majority of media attention while others receive none at all. Boydstun documents this systemic explosiveness and skew through analysis of media coverage across policy issues, including in-depth looks at the waxing and waning of coverage around two issues: capital punishment and the andldquo;war on terror.andrdquo;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
Making the News shows how the seemingly unpredictable day-to-day decisions of the newsroom produce distinct patterns of operation with implicationsandmdash;good and badandmdash;for national politics.
and#8220;Making the Newsand#160;sets forth the deceptively simple-sounding argument that the news agenda is not random but 'skewed' so that few issues reach and remain on the front page. By applying new methods to explain these patterns irrefutably and on a broad scale, Amber E. Boydstun makes a valuable contribution to the literature on political communication.and#8221;
andquot;This is a seminal contribution about how the media work and influence democracy. Anyone interested in communication and democracy must read this book.andrdquo;
and#8220;Amber E. Boydstunand#8217;s observation that the mass media processes information disproportionately is important enough, but she gives us much, much more: a theory of the causes of the lack of proportion and extensive empirical analyses of the dynamics of disproportionality based on a decade of stories on the front page of the New York Times
. and#160;The result is a book that fully integrates the media with emerging theories of policy change. It will be widely read among media scholars as well as students of public policy, along with anyone who wants to understand the dynamics of media coverage.and#8221;
and#8220;In Making the News, Amber Boydstun offers a detailed, empirical account of how news is made and, while celebrating the ongoing spirit of the fifth estate, questions the apparently reactive basis on which editorial decisions are made. . . . Boydstunand#8217;s extensive research is collected in pages of data and case studies, including analyses of the ongoing coverage of the and#8216;War on Terrorand#8217; and why, by contrast, smaller news items become front-page stories.and#8221;
and#8220;[Boydstunand#8217;s] thoughtful approach, grounded largely in political science scholarship, will clearly be of interest to scholars working on media coverage of politics. . . . Recommended.and#8221;
and#8220;[An] important book. . . . Boydstun has successfully imported and recalibrated a robust policy-attention model for media coverage; rigorously tested it across a number of issues, timespans, and sources; and, using computer simulation, estimated the precise skew of media attention. . . . [Making the News] is very likely to inspire further research, signaling its importance for political communication scholars, especially for those interested in agenda-setting and framing research.and#8221;
and#8220;Boydstun demonstrates convincingly that existing theories on their own are inadequate to explain the familiar patterns in news coverage, and her book sets out to pull together these various perspectives to create and test a more complete theory of news generation that can account for the periods of explosive change and relative stability. . . . [Making the News] is an important contribution to political communication and a must-read for scholars and others who want to understand the impact of news media on the political system.and#8221;
andldquo;Boydstunandrsquo;s research provides fresh insight into the role of the media as a political institution, especially in the bookandrsquo;s treatment of news attention as a dynamic concept for analyzing coverage over time. As a result, this book holds significance for scholars interested in journalism, media, public policy, political science, and the societal effects of news coverage. Ultimately, Boydstun provides important analysis that helps concisely explain how familiar and perpetual cycles of current events and news coverage shape democratic governance.andrdquo;
After Broadcast News challenges the role of professional journalists as the primary source of politically relevant information.
Most people assume professional journalists are the legitimate source for political information and that the role of "good" citizens is to watch, read, or listen to the news. After Broadcast News shows that this model is only one among several that have existed in the United States; that while it has some valuable aspects, it also has very narrow notions of politically relevant information and the role of citizens; and that the new information environment (from the Internet to The Daily Show) makes these strengths and limitations clear.
The new media environment has challenged the role of professional journalists as the primary source of politically relevant information. After Broadcast News puts this challenge into historical context, arguing that it is the latest of several critical moments, driven by economic, political, cultural, and technological changes, in which the relationship among citizens, political elites, and the media has been contested. Out of these past moments, distinct "media regimes" eventually emerged, each with its own seemingly natural rules and norms, and each the result of political struggle with clear winners and losers. The media regime in place for the latter half of the twentieth century has been dismantled, but a new regime has yet to emerge. Assuring this regime is a democratic one requires serious consideration of what was most beneficial and most problematic about past regimes and what is potentially most beneficial and most problematic about today's new information environment.
About the Author
Bruce A. Williams teaches in the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota and has taught at the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois and the London School of Economics. He has published four books and more than forty scholarly journal articles and book chapters. His book Democracy, Dialogue, and Environmental Disputes: The Contested Languages of Social Regulation (with Albert Matheny) won the Caldwell Prize as best book for 1996 from the Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics section of the American Political Science Association. His textbook, The Play of Power: An Introduction to American Politics (with James Eisenstein, Mark Kessler and Jacqueline Switzer), was selected by the Women's Caucus of the American Political Science Association in 1997 as the political science text that best deals with women's issues and diversity. His most recent book is The New Media Environment: An Introduction (with Andrea L. Press). Also with Andrea Press, he is the editor of The Communication Review. Over the last five years, he has been active in a number of initiatives in the area of media policy and ethics.Michael X. Delli Carpini, Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania (1975) and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (1980). Prior to joining the University of Pennsylvania faculty in July 2003, Professor Delli Carpini was Director of the Public Policy program of the Pew Charitable Trusts (1999-2003) and a member of the Political Science Department at Barnard College and the graduate faculty of Columbia University (1987-2002), serving as chair of the Barnard department from 1995 to 1999. Delli Carpini began his academic career as an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University (1980-1987). His research explores the role of the citizen in American politics, with particular emphasis on the impact of the mass media on public opinion, political knowledge and political participation. He is author of Stability and Change in American Politics: The Coming of Age of the Generation of the 1960s; What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters (winner of the 2008 American Association of Public Opinion Researchers Book Award); A New Engagement? Political Participation, Civic Life and the Changing American Citizen; and Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America. He has also authored or edited numerous articles, essays and edited volumes on political communications, public opinion and political socialization. Professor Delli Carpini was awarded the 2008 Murray Edelman Distinguished Career Award from the Political Communication Division of the American Political Science Association.
Table of Contents
1. Is there a difference between Tina Fey and Katie Couric?: policing the boundaries between news and entertainment; 2. Media regimes and American democracy; 3. And that's the way it (was): the rise and fall of the age of broadcast news; 4. Political reality, political power and political relevance in the changing media environment; 5. Politics in the emerging new media age: hyperreality, multiaxiality, and 'the Clinton scandals'; 6. When the media really matter: coverage of the environment in a changing media environment; 7. 9/11 and its aftermath: constructing a political spectacle in the new media environment; 8. Shaping a new media regime.