Political Science at Huntingdon College
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PSC 201: American Government

Serow (ed) Lanahan Readings in the American Polity, 4/e

Part 14: Media, Student Outlines

compiled from student contributions (thanks), revised 14 Oct. 2008, by Jeremy Lewis
79: Katherine Graham: From “Personal History”
80: Larry Sabato, "Feeding Frenzy."
81: Bradley Patterson, The White House Staff, Advance Office
82: Martin Wattenberg, "Where Have all the Voters Gone?" [+]
83: Brian Anderson, "South Park Conservatives." [+]
84: Harrison Salisbury, "A Time of Change." discontinued

Katherine Graham: From “Personal History”
By Chrys Lake, Fall 2007


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Sabato, Feeding Frenzy
by Sarah Ward, Fall 2008

- Feeding Frenzy - the press en masse attacks a wounded politician whose record, or more accurately, his or her character has been questioned.
- The wounds may have been self-inflicted, and the politician may richly deserve his or her fate, but the journalists now take center stage in the process, creating the news as much as reporting it, changing both the shape of election-year politics and the contours of government.
- Press invasion of privacy is leading to the gradual erasure of the line protecting a public person’s purely private life which makes the price of public life enormously higher
- According to ABC News Correspondent, Brit Hume, “We don’t see ourselves institutionally or collectively anymore as a bunch of journalists out there faithfully reporting what’s happening day by day…We have a much grander view of ourselves: we are the Horatio at the national bridge. We are the people who want to prevent the bad characters from crossing over into public office.”
- Gossip has always been the drug of choice for journalists as well as the rest of the political community, but as the threshold for publication of information about private lives has been lowered, journalists sometimes cover politics as “Entertainment Tonight” reporters cover Hollywood.
- The sorry standard set on the campaign trail is spilling over into coverage of governmental battles. Ever since Watergate, government scandals have paraded across the television in a roll call so lengthy and numbing that they are inseparable in the public consciousness.
- The sad conclusion is inescapable: The press has become obsessed with gossip rather than governance; it prefers to employ titillation rather than scrutiny; as a result, its political coverage produces trivialization rather than enlightenment. And the dynamic mechanism propelling and demonstrating this decline in news standards is the “Feeding Frenzy”
- The term “frenzy” suggests some kind of disorderly, compulsive, or agitated activity that is muscular and instinctive, not cerebral and thoughtful.
- The similarity of a piranha in the water and press on the campaign trail can be summed up in a shared goal: If it bleeds, try to kill it.
- Feeding frenzy, in the kingdom of politics, is defined as the press coverage attending an political event or circumstance where a critical mass of journalists leap to cover the same embarrassing or scandalous subject and pursue it intensely, often excessively, and sometimes uncontrollably
- Due to advances of media coverage such as satellite broadcasting which allows the media to go live from anywhere, conditions are always ripe for a media feeding frenzy like when Senator Joseph Biden was accused of exaggerating his resume in 1987.
- Watergate shifted the orientation of journalism away from mere description providing an accurate account of happenings and  toward prescription - helping to set the campaign's agendas by focusing attention on the candidate's shortcomings, as well as, certain social problems.
- Presently an individual seeking office must understand that nothing is private anymore. All financial and private records will become public. Every investment made, every affair conducted, every private sin committed from college years to the present may one day wind up in a headline or on television.

80: Larry Sabato, "Feeding Frenzy"
Tiffany Holley, 2002

-Feeding Frenzy - the press en masse attacks a wounded politician whose record, or more accurately, his or her character has been questioned.
-The wounds may have been self-inflicted, and the politician may richly deserve his or her fate, but the journalists now take center stage in the process, creating the news as much as reporting it, changing both the shape of election-year politics and the contours of government.
-Press invasion of privacy is leading to the gradual erasure of the line protecting a public
person's purely private life.
-Gossip has always been the drug of choice for journalists, as well as, the rest of the
political community.
-The press has become obsessed with gossip rather than government; it prefers to employ titillation rather than scrutiny.
    -As a result, its political coverage produces trivialization rather than enlightenment.
-Frenzy- suggests some kind of disorderly, compulsive, or agitated activity that is muscular and instinctive, not cerebral and thoughtful.
-The news cycle without end- creates a voracious news appetite demanding to be fed
constantly, increasing the pressure to include  marginal bits of information and gossip and producing novel, if not distorting, "angels" on the same news to differentiate one report from another.
-Press energies are devoted to finding more variations on a theme, while a mob psychology catches hold that allows little mercy for the frenzy victim.
-Watergate shifted the orientation of journalism away from mere description -providing an accurate account of happenings and  toward prescription - helping to set the campaign's agendas by focusing attention on the candidate's shortcomings, as well as,  certain social problems.
-The price of power has been raised dramatically, far too high for many outstanding potential office holders.

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82: Martin Wattenberg, "Where Have all the Voters Gone?" [+]
notes by Jeremy Lewis, Fall 2007


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84: Harrison Salisbury-A Time of Change -- discontinued
Tiffany Holley, 2002 [Additions by Jeremy Lewis]

  • [Theme: traditional reporting involves an adversarial relationship with those in power.
  • Examples of Salisbury's provoking governments at home and abroad.

  • [1960-63] Kennedy Assassination coverage.
    -Thought there was not much difference between Kennedy's and Nixon's ideologies, but not true
            -Nixon was shabby in character but had a better grasp of the world
            -Kennedy had style, but he was lazy
    -Essence of journalism was reporting and writing
            -Wanted to find things out-particularly things which no one else had managed to dig out
    [Kennedy revealed to Salisbury his distaste for the press -- but unlike Nixon he had the ability to hide it for tactical reasons.]
    -Dallas had seemed like another country, ranting against everybody.
    -Said in the year 2000 the Kennedy assassination would still be a matter of debate.

    -Public felt for a man so noble the cause of death must lie in high conspiracy.
    -yet to this day not one material fact has been added to the New York Times account of the assassination and the events that followed it.
    [Street reporting was excellent; Warren Commission report added no facts -- but people find it difficult to accept that the "Sun King" could be struck down by a madman alone.]
    Democratic convention [Chicago, 1968]
    -Everything was set for the convention to rise and sweep LBJ into the nomination but nothing went according to plan.
            -The secret service couldn't guarantee his safety so he was confined to his Texas ranch.
    -At the Conrad Hilton, police beat and hounded young people from Lincoln park down to Grant park opposite the Hilton.
    -"The police have charged on a lot of innocent people and driven them through the glass window in the Hilton cocktail lounge, following them in and are beating them."
    [NY Times reporters' coverage of the police violence was excellent, though head office moderated their language out of disbelief that Chicago police could have acted so badly.]
    [Conclusions:]
    [Modern news coverage has declined: accountants have replaced courageous editors.]


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