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When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina

When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina

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Published by University of Chicago Press an imprint of UChicagoPress
A sobering look at the intimate relationship between political power and the news media, When the Press Fails argues the dependence of reporters on official sources disastrously thwarts coverage of dissenting voices from outside the Beltway.   The result is both an indictment of official spin and an urgent call to action that questions why the mainstream press failed to challenge the Bush administration’s arguments for an invasion of Iraq or to illuminate administration policies underlying the Abu Ghraib controversy. Drawing on revealing interviews with Washington insiders and analysis of content from major news outlets, the authors illustrate the media’s unilateral surrender to White House spin whenever oppositional voices elsewhere in government fall silent.  Contrasting these grave failures with the refreshingly critical reporting on Hurricane Katrina—a rare event that caught officials off guard, enabling journalists to enter a no-spin zone—When the Press Fails concludes by proposing new practices to reduce reporters’ dependence on power.
 
“The hand-in-glove relationship of the U.S. media with the White House is mercilessly exposed in this determined and disheartening study that repeatedly reveals how the press has toed the official line at those moments when its independence was most needed.”—George Pendle, Financial Times
 
“Bennett, Lawrence, and Livingston are indisputably right about the news media’s dereliction in covering the administration’s campaign to take the nation to war against Iraq.”—Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune   “[This] analysis of the weaknesses of Washington journalism deserves close attention.”—Russell Baker, New York Review of Books
A sobering look at the intimate relationship between political power and the news media, When the Press Fails argues the dependence of reporters on official sources disastrously thwarts coverage of dissenting voices from outside the Beltway.   The result is both an indictment of official spin and an urgent call to action that questions why the mainstream press failed to challenge the Bush administration’s arguments for an invasion of Iraq or to illuminate administration policies underlying the Abu Ghraib controversy. Drawing on revealing interviews with Washington insiders and analysis of content from major news outlets, the authors illustrate the media’s unilateral surrender to White House spin whenever oppositional voices elsewhere in government fall silent.  Contrasting these grave failures with the refreshingly critical reporting on Hurricane Katrina—a rare event that caught officials off guard, enabling journalists to enter a no-spin zone—When the Press Fails concludes by proposing new practices to reduce reporters’ dependence on power.
 
“The hand-in-glove relationship of the U.S. media with the White House is mercilessly exposed in this determined and disheartening study that repeatedly reveals how the press has toed the official line at those moments when its independence was most needed.”—George Pendle, Financial Times
 
“Bennett, Lawrence, and Livingston are indisputably right about the news media’s dereliction in covering the administration’s campaign to take the nation to war against Iraq.”—Don Wycliff, Chicago Tribune   “[This] analysis of the weaknesses of Washington journalism deserves close attention.”—Russell Baker, New York Review of Books

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Publish date: Sep 15, 2008
Added to Scribd: Nov 19, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reservedISBN:9780226042862
List Price: $15.00

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9780226042862

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abuannie reviewed this
Critical, important examination of how the journalistic tradition of objectivity became confused (if not synonymous), in recent decades, with deference to authority and power. "The confusion about standards of political accountability starts with the implicit journalistic shortcut that assumes reporting to the citizenry what those at the center of power are doing is the most reasonable and unassailable thing to do ... setting the news agenda independently, while producing a refreshing diversity of information, would also bring noisy criticisms of bias and crusading -- from the same public officials [not to mention citizenry] who have come to depend on the current news system as a tool of public relations and governance. The confusion of objectivity with power is so profound that journalists who depart from narratives reported by the rest of the press pack are typically challenged by their editors for not getting the story right. [p. 178] ... news organizations repeatedly decided to apply the unwritten rule that without some government mechanism such as a congressional hearing ... [or] opposition from opponents deemed capable of actually influencing or defeating them", contrary views are seldom given attention in the mainstream press. [p. 35, 179] "n news about most government policy issues, the absence of credible and potentially decisive opposition from inside government itself leaves the mainstream press generally unable to build and sustain counterstories. This is true even when credible sources outside government can offer evidence to the contrary, and for the most part, even if opposition exists from domestic public opinion or foreign governments. This process is so regular that it has been referred to by one of the authors as 'indexing' the range of news content to the degree of institutional conflict (as noted by the journalists themselves)." [p. 36]
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