The News Media as a Political Institution
Blending original interview material with his own institutional analysis, Sparrow shows how the major U.S. news organizations can act contrary to the interests of the American public and democratic government. Because individual journalists and news organizations face serious and similar uncertainties with respect to their political credibility, access to news sources, and commercial performance, they rely regularly on the same practices to report the news. But these shared practices enable both journalists and politicians to manipulate political communication, government officials to mislead the public, and advertising and other business factors to have significant influence on the news; they also cause journalists to regret the damage done to democratic government. Sparrow investigates important recent examples in foreign policy, economic policy, and health policy in which the news media were unable to serve as guardians of the public interest. He also offers proposals to revitalize the news media to better serve the American public and the cause of representative government.
By providing an in-depth analysis of the news media's role in the American political system, Uncertain Guardians challenges us to re-evaluate much of what we take for granted as news consumers and to think about how to improve political communication.
About the Author
"Sparrow opens this extraordinarily well-written book by examining the role of the news media in American political life, paying particular attention to the constraints under which they operate. In subsequent chapters, he analyzes several of these constraints, including how journalists fail to challenge popular political views, or 'policy monopolies,' and succumb to the economic dictates of advertising sponsors. In a crucially important chapter, Sparrow indicts reporters for failing to offer unbiased coverage of several major stories, including the Persian Gulf War, the crash of Korean Airlines Flight 007, the savings and loan crisis, the AIDS epidemic, and progress in cancer treatment. Sparrow is not without hope; his final chapter proposes practical policy reforms ranging from reducing advertisers' subsidies to fostering a problem-centered 'civic journalism' that engages the local community. Sparrow clearly hopes that these proposals make the Fourth Estate more fully accountable to the American people. Recommended."—Library Journal
"Uncertain Guardians is a comprehensive treatment of the news media as a political institution that approaches the subject both empirically and normatively. Sparrow's book is solidly grounded in the academic literature on the subject and, more broadly, in theoretical approaches to Amercian politics."—Michael Nelson, Rhodes College
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