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The People's News

The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism

Joseph E. Uscinski
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 195
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  • Book Info
    The People's News
    Book Description:

    In an ideal world, journalists act selflessly and in the public interest regardless of the financial consequences. However, in reality, news outlets no longer provide the most important and consequential stories to audiences; instead, news producers adjust news content in response to ratings, audience demographics, and opinion polls. While such criticisms of the news media are widely shared, few can agree on the causes of poor news quality.The People's Newsargues that the incentives in the American free market drive news outlets to report news that meets audience demands, rather than democratic ideals.In short, audiences' opinions drive the content that so often passes off as the news.The People's Newslooks at news not as a type of media but instead as a commodity bought and sold on the market, comparing unique measures of news content to survey data from a wide variety of sources. Joseph Uscinski's rigorous analysis shows news firms report certain issues over others - not because audiences need to know them, but rather, because of market demands. Uscinski also demonstrates that the influence of market demands also affects the business of news, prohibiting journalists from exercising independent judgment and determining the structure of entire news markets as well as firm branding.Ultimately, the results of this book indicate profit-motives often trump journalistic and democratic values.The findings also suggest that the media actively responds to audiences, thus giving the public control over their own information environment. Uniting the study of media effects and media content,The People's Newspresents a powerful challenge to our ideas of how free market media outlets meet our standards for impartiality and public service.Joseph Uscinskiis Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6286-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction: Whose News?
    (pp. 1-42)

    After leaving the daily grind of the ABC News Division, veteran anchor Ted Koppel tried his hand as a columnist for theNew York Times. Prior to his retirement in late 2005, Koppel had spent decades in the news business; he covered numerous heads of state, natural disasters, major wars, and momentous elections. Rather than focus on the substance of any of these major stories in his first column, Koppel chose instead to discuss a problem he felt could negatively affect election outcomes, public policy, and democratic procedures. In short, Koppel discussed a problem he felt could damage the very...

  5. 2 Informational Demands for News: Agenda Setting and Audience Influence
    (pp. 43-72)

    What is news? What makes a piece of information newsworthy? Perhaps it is something inherent in a piece of information that sets it apart from millions of pieces of other information—perhaps the peopleneedto know it for society to function properly. Or, perhaps information becomes newsworthy because of the way audience members would individually value that piece of information. In the former instance, information can have inherent value regardless of whether the audience chooses to value it, consume it, or demand it—the information serves a greater good. In the latter, the value of a piece of information...

  6. 3 Demands for Gratification: Competing in the National News Economy
    (pp. 73-108)

    Currently the host of the number one cable news program in the United States,The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly is perhaps the poster child for having a strong point of view. He is a hero to many conservatives, but lambasted by many on the Left. O’Reilly’s career caricatures the recent history of the news industry—he started off as a broadcast journalist for local and national news outlets, and then became more tabloid-ish as the host ofInside Edition. In the mid-1990s he moved into more ideologically driven news with the emergence of the Fox News Channel. He has since...

  7. 4 Perpetual Feedback: Monitoring the New Media Environment
    (pp. 109-136)

    News outlets’ incentives in the free market are clear: appeal to audiences with content that meets demand. If audiences consistently demanded information on critical topics that made them informed citizens, this would be great. News content would consistently meet democratic ideals and improve citizenship. Unfortunately, audience demands are not always so upright. People prefer content deviating greatly from the democratic ideal—and journalists know it. In response to the above remark by Sam Zell, owner of theChicago Tribune, theLos Angeles Times, and several other newspapers, one of his journalists retorted, “But, what readers want are puppy dogs.”


  8. 5 Where Can We Go? Consuming Responsibly
    (pp. 137-162)

    I opened this book with a quotation by a long-time journalist, Ted Koppel. The essay from which the quotation came expressed Koppel’s dire concerns about the influence of the market on news coverage. This closing chapter opens with the above quotation by Nobel Prize winner and world-renowned economist Milton Friedman, who made this remark as a guest on thePhil Donahue Show. As Friedman’s banter with long-time talk show host Phil Donahue indicates, although they both agree that markets drive the media, his vantage point is far different from Koppel’s. Friedman, a strong proponent of free markets, would not be...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 163-166)
    (pp. 167-182)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 183-186)
    (pp. 187-187)