Earlier today, Shanto Iyengar, director of the Political Communication Lab at Stanford University was online over at post.com to discuss his new book “Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide,” which deals with the role of media in the political process.
- Liverpool, UK: Do you think spin-doctoring, 24hr news cycles and emphasis on ensuring that all politicians are ‘on message’ is undermining the democratic process? Or, is it making politics more accessible to people?
Shanto Iyengar: Undermining the process for sure. In order to maingtain their popularity, politicians cannot afford to prescribe “bitter medicine.” Policy is adopted not on the merits, but on the basis of “does it sell.” Pandering to public opinion relaces leadership as the modus operandi of government.
Atlanta, Ga.: In your opinion, does the media do enough to help properly inform people of these things? Are they doing anything wrong?
Shanto Iyengar: The media is preoccupied with making a buck. One of the reasons Americans are much less informed about public affairs than citizrens in other countries is the performance of our press.
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Fed up:“Shanto Iyengar: The media is preoccupied with making a buck. One of the reasons Americans are much less informed about public affairs than citizrens in other countries is the performance of our press. ”
I’ve had it with this nonsense.
If you think the media is in it for the money, Mr. Iyengar, you’ve obviously never worked in a newsroom. The journalists I have known throughout my lifetime got into journalism because they wanted to inform people and make a difference. They have worked 12, 14 and 16 hour days trying to do that. And if you look at their paychecks, you know they’re not making any money.
The public kicks the media when things aren’t going right. They kick the media when their world view is challenged. When reporters risk their lives in Iraq, they accuse them of treason. When reporters get killed in Iraq, they shrug.
And they look with long, dewy-eyed stared to the glorious (and obviously superior) British media, which has never, EVER done anything for a profit. Because, you know, Rupert Murdoch is this generation’s Adolph Ochs. And openly partisan reporting, royal scandals and topless women on Page Three are the height of journalistic credibility, right?
Is there room for media criticism? Yes. Is there reason for media criticism. Heck yes. And the fact is, you can get more of it from more different perspectives than you ever could. So drop the barracks mentality when the “MSM” doesn’t quite take your viewpoint in a story. You’ve got more reporting from more areas and more people than ever: Take advantage of it, read critically and accept the fact the media is there to give you information to base your decisions upon, not to make up your mind for you.
Shanto Iyengar: The profit motive is one thing, the rate of pay for journalists quite another. To attribute trends in the news to market pressures is not equivalent to attacking the motives of journalists.
And I take your point that there is plenty of substantive news out there; any citizen who really wants to be informed on the issues can do so quite easily.