Why Americans Hate the Media and How It Matters

Princeton University Press
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As recently as the early 1970s, the news media was one of the most respected institutions in the United States. Yet by the 1990s, this trust had all but evaporated. Why has confidence in the press declined so dramatically over the past 40 years? And has this change shaped the public's political behavior? This book examines waning public trust in the institutional news media within the context of the American political system and looks at how this lack of confidence has altered the ways people acquire political information and form electoral preferences.

Jonathan Ladd argues that in the 1950s, '60s, and early '70s, competition in American party politics and the media industry reached historic lows. When competition later intensified in both of these realms, the public's distrust of the institutional media grew, leading the public to resist the mainstream press's information about policy outcomes and turn toward alternative partisan media outlets. As a result, public beliefs and voting behavior are now increasingly shaped by partisan predispositions. Ladd contends that it is not realistic or desirable to suppress party and media competition to the levels of the mid-twentieth century; rather, in the contemporary media environment, new ways to augment the public's knowledgeability and responsiveness must be explored.

Drawing on historical evidence, experiments, and public opinion surveys, this book shows that in a world of endless news sources, citizens' trust in institutional media is more important than ever before.

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About the author

Jonathan M. Ladd is associate professor of government and public policy at Georgetown University. He received his PhD in politics from Princeton University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 5, 2011
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781400840359
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
Political Science / General
Social Science / Media Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Leticia Bode
How the 2016 news media environment allowed Trump to win the presidency

The 2016 presidential election campaign might have seemed to be all about one man. He certainly did everything possible to reinforce that impression. But to an unprecedented degree the campaign also was about the news media and its relationships with the man who won and the woman he defeated.

Words that Matter assesses how the news media covered the extraordinary 2016 election and, more important, what information—true, false, or somewhere in between—actually helped voters make up their minds. Using journalists' real-time tweets and published news coverage of campaign events, along with Gallup polling data measuring how voters perceived that reporting, the book traces the flow of information from candidates and their campaigns to journalists and to the public.

The evidence uncovered shows how Donald Trump's victory, and Hillary Clinton's loss, resulted in large part from how the news media responded to these two unique candidates. Both candidates were unusual in their own ways, and thus presented a long list of possible issues for the media to focus on. Which of these many topics got communicated to voters made a big difference outcome.

What people heard about these two candidates during the campaign was quite different. Coverage of Trump was scattered among many different issues, and while many of those issues were negative, no single negative narrative came to dominate the coverage of the man who would be elected the 45th president of the United States. Clinton, by contrast, faced an almost unrelenting news media focus on one negative issue—her alleged misuse of e-mails—that captured public attention in a way that the more numerous questions about Trump did not.

Some news media coverage of the campaign was insightful and helpful to voters who really wanted serious information to help them make the most important decision a democracy offers. But this book also demonstrates how the modern media environment can exacerbate the kind of pack journalism that leads some issues to dominate the news while others of equal or greater importance get almost no attention, making it hard for voters to make informed choices.

Margot Lee Shetterly
The #1 New York Times bestseller

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

 

Leticia Bode
How the 2016 news media environment allowed Trump to win the presidency

The 2016 presidential election campaign might have seemed to be all about one man. He certainly did everything possible to reinforce that impression. But to an unprecedented degree the campaign also was about the news media and its relationships with the man who won and the woman he defeated.

Words that Matter assesses how the news media covered the extraordinary 2016 election and, more important, what information—true, false, or somewhere in between—actually helped voters make up their minds. Using journalists' real-time tweets and published news coverage of campaign events, along with Gallup polling data measuring how voters perceived that reporting, the book traces the flow of information from candidates and their campaigns to journalists and to the public.

The evidence uncovered shows how Donald Trump's victory, and Hillary Clinton's loss, resulted in large part from how the news media responded to these two unique candidates. Both candidates were unusual in their own ways, and thus presented a long list of possible issues for the media to focus on. Which of these many topics got communicated to voters made a big difference outcome.

What people heard about these two candidates during the campaign was quite different. Coverage of Trump was scattered among many different issues, and while many of those issues were negative, no single negative narrative came to dominate the coverage of the man who would be elected the 45th president of the United States. Clinton, by contrast, faced an almost unrelenting news media focus on one negative issue—her alleged misuse of e-mails—that captured public attention in a way that the more numerous questions about Trump did not.

Some news media coverage of the campaign was insightful and helpful to voters who really wanted serious information to help them make the most important decision a democracy offers. But this book also demonstrates how the modern media environment can exacerbate the kind of pack journalism that leads some issues to dominate the news while others of equal or greater importance get almost no attention, making it hard for voters to make informed choices.

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