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The Politics of Illusion, Tenth Edition

Tenth Edition


The Politics of Illusion, Tenth Edition

Tenth Edition

For over thirty years, News: The Politics of Illusion has not simply reflected the political communication field—it has played a major role in shaping it. Today, the familiar news organizations of the legacy press are operating in a fragmenting and expanding mediaverse that resembles a big bang of proliferating online competitors that are challenging the very definition of news itself. Audience-powered sites such as the Huffington Post and Vox blend conventional political reporting with opinion blogs, celebrity gossip, and other ephemera aimed at getting clicks and shares. At the same time, the rise of serious investigative organizations such as ProPublica presents yet a different challenge to legacy journalism. Lance Bennett’s thoroughly revised tenth edition offers the most up-to-date guide to understanding how and why the media and news landscapes are being transformed. It explains the mix of old and new, and points to possible outcomes. Where areas of change are clearly established, key concepts from earlier editions have been revised. There are new case studies, updates on old favorites, and insightful analyses of how the new media system and novel kinds of information and engagement are affecting our politics. As always, News presents fresh evidence and arguments that invite new ways of thinking about the political information system and its place in democracy.

Read the first chapter.

304 pages | 3 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Media Studies

Political Science: American Government and Politics

Rhetoric and Communication


Praise for the previous edition
“A smart, provocative introduction to media and American politics. Bennett argues that the American political information system—with news at its center—is broken, with serious consequences for democracy. Bennett lays out his case and invites readers to make up their own minds.”

Paul Freedman, University of Virginia

“This book is excellent. It is well-organized, incisively written, and suffused with vivid examples from social science and the news itself to illustrate Bennett’s arguments about the nature–and shortcomings–of the news.”

Danny Hayes, George Washington University

Praise for the previous edition
News is an enduring work in the media studies subfield.”

Journal of Political Science Education

Table of Contents

1. News in a Changing Information System
Why Journalism Matters
Can the News Be Fixed?
The Citizen Gap: Who Follows the News?
Governing with the News
Politicians and the Media: A Symbiotic Relationship
Getting Spun: Indexing the News to Political Power
Case Study: Political Comedy Reveals the “Truthiness” about News
What about the People?
A Definition of News
The Fragile Link between News and Democracy
2. News Stories: Four Information Biases That Matter
Putting Journalistic Bias in Perspective
A Different Kind of Bias
Four Information Biases That Matter: An Overview
Four Information Biases in the News: An In-Depth Look
Case Study: Who Controls the News Narrative?
Bias and the US Political Information System
Reform Anyone?
3. Citizens and the News: Public Opinion and Information Processing
News and the Battle for Public Opinion
Chasing Its Own Tale: How News Formulas Shape Opinion
The Public in the News Drama
Selling the Iraq War
Reaching Inattentive Publics
Case Study: National Attention Deficit Disorder?
Processing the News
News and Public Opinion: The Citizen’s Dilemma
Publics in the Digital Age
4. How Politicians Make the News
Are Social Media Replacing the Role of the Press?
The Politics of Old-Fashioned PR
Case Study: How Global Warming Became a Partisan News Story
Press Politics: Feeding the Beast
News as Strategic Political Communication
The Symbolic Uses of Politics
Symbolic Politics and Strategic Communication
Why the Press Is So Easily Spun
Controlling the Situation: From Pseudo-events to Damage Control
Playing Hardball: The Intimidation of Whistleblowers and Reporters
Government and the Politics of Newsmaking
5. How Journalists Report the News
How Spin Works
Journalistic Routines and Professional Norms
Reporters as a Pack: Pressures to Agree
The Paradox of Organizational Routines
The End of Gatekeeping and the Challenges of Change
The Rise of the New Investigative Journalism
Case Study: Hacktivist Journalism: The New Investigative Reporting in the Digital Age
Democracy with or without Citizens?
6. Inside the Profession: The Objectivity Crisis
The Professional Vocabulary of Objectivity, Fairness, Balance, and Truth
The Curious Origins of Objective Journalism
Putting Professional Norms into Practice
Case Study: False Balance in the News
Objectivity Reconsidered
Journalism and the Crisis of Credibility
7. The Political Economy of News
Case Study: Adapt or Die: The Future of News in Native Digital Media
The Legacy Media Try to Hold On
Ownership Deregulation and the End of Social Responsibility Standards
The Media Monopoly: Four Decades of Change
Big Business versus the Public Interest
The Citizen’s Movement for Media Reform
Technology, Economics, and Democracy
8. The Future of News in a Time of Change
Information Technology and Citizenship: Isolation or Deliberation?
Whither the Public Sphere?
Three American Myths about Freedom of the Press
News and Power in America: Myth versus Reality
Why the Free Press Myth Persists
Proposals for Citizens, Journalists, and Politicians
Time for a Public Discussion about the Role of the Press
Case Study: Innovation and Change in News Formats
In Closing: How to Fight the Information Overload

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