Some say it's simply information, mirroring the world. Others believe it's propaganda, promoting a partisan view. But news, Michael Schudson tells us, is really both and neither; it is a form of culture, complete with its own literary and social conventions and powerful in ways far more subtle and complex than its many critics might suspect. A penetrating look into this culture, The Power of News offers a compelling view of the news media's emergence as a central institution of modern society, a key repository of common knowledge and cultural authority.
One of our foremost writers on journalism and mass communication, Schudson shows us the news evolving in concert with American democracy and industry, subject to the social forces that shape the culture at large. He excavates the origins of contemporary journalistic practices, including the interview, the summary lead, the preoccupation with the presidency, and the ironic and detached stance of the reporter toward the political world. His book explodes certain myths perpetuated by both journalists and critics. The press, for instance, did not bring about the Spanish-American War or bring down Richard Nixon; TV did not decide the Kennedy-Nixon debates or turn the public against the Vietnam War.
Then what does the news do? True to their calling, the media mediate, as Schudson demonstrates. He analyzes how the news, by making knowledge public, actually changes the character of knowledge and allows people to act on that knowledge in new and significant ways. He brings to bear a wealth of historical scholarship and a keen sense for the apt questions about the production, meaning, and reception of news today.
Schudson is at his best when he is examining widely accepted truths, or myths as he calls them, as for instance that the press forced the resignation of Nixon, or that Reagan was a Great Communicator, or that it was television coverage of the Vietnam War that caused the American public to turn against it.
This is a carefully reasoned, well-researched study that will be valuable for readers wishing to understand contemporary media practices and their relationship to the current condition of democracy in America.
[Schudson’s book] presents a fine collection of his essays and research articles… He captures the cultural climate of past ages by describing colorful people and incidents, by citing the wisdom of well known historical figures, and by sensitive philosophizing about what it all means.
The Power of News includes some of Schudson’s best writing on the media and the democratic process. This book should be required reading in America’s newsrooms—and everywhere else.
- 288 pages
- 6 x 9 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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