Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 9780226042848 Published May 2007
Paper $15.00 ISBN: 9780226042855 Published September 2008
E-book $7.00 to $15.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226042862 Published September 2008

When the Press Fails

Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina

W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston

W. Lance Bennett, Regina G. Lawrence, and Steven Livingston

278 pages | 3 line drawings, 5 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2007
Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 9780226042848 Published May 2007
Paper $15.00 ISBN: 9780226042855 Published September 2008
E-book $7.00 to $15.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226042862 Published September 2008
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
Dan Rather, global correspondent, HDNet

When the Press Fails confronts some of the most important questions now facing the press, the public, and our shared democracy—and does so with rare precision and insight. This book has the power to ignite a much-needed public discussion about the role of ‘the media’ in public life and it should be required reading in newsrooms across the country.”

James Fallows, author of Breaking the News and correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly

When the Press Fails is a valuable and clarifying book for people in the news media—and perhaps even more for members of the public who feel abused by the press’s failures. Inside and outside the news business, everyone knows that something serious is wrong with the way Americans get and assess information. This book does a very good job of explaining what that something is, and what parts of it can be addressed.”

Bob Edwards, host of the Bob Edwards Show and former host of Morning Edition

“Political partisans have tried for years to discredit journalists, resulting in a press corps now overly conscious of its image. This book illustrates how America gets hurt when journalists are too intimidated to do their jobs.”

Marvin Kalb, founding director and senior fellow of the Joan Shorenstein Center

“Not all Washington journalists will applaud the arrival of When the Press Fails, but they should and probably will read it. It is a stinging critique of media coverage of the Bush administration, especially its policy in Iraq, and it raises serious questions about how the White House has ‘spun’ much of the media into a form of docile dependency on official handouts, leading to an overall failure of accountability. Thus is the public shortchanged.  Between the lines is a cry for the media to wake up to its social and political responsibilities.”<Marvin Kalb, founding director and senior fellow of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University>

George Pendle | Financial Times
"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."
Don Wycliff | Chicago Tribune
"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."
Russell Baker | New York Review of Books
"Their analysis of the weaknesses of Washington journalism deserves close attention."
James Boylan | Columbia Journalism Review
"This is a vigorously researched book, showing how crises, such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, flare up and are swiftly extinguished: 'torture' is diluted to 'abuse,' to 'mistreatment'; culpability is segregated to a few bad apples."
Jim Boyd | Nieman Reports
"The boldest thesis in this book, the one I was most delighted to see—and least able to assert is really true—is that this attitude of timidity and obeisance [by the media] is actually bringing on the decline in readership and viewership that it, in part, seeks to avoid."
Jonathan McDonald Ladd, Georgetown University | Perspectives on Politics

"The breadth is so thorough and the prose so engaging that this book has the potential to become the definitive account of media politics during the Bush years. . . . When the Press Fails is an excellent book. Its positive arguments are a model of good social science research. I suspect that they would also work well in an undergraduate class, as a first exposure to serious media research. Furthermore, the book’s normative assertions are well argued, provocative, and a good place to start a class discussion about the proper role of the media in a democracy. In summary, if you want an introduction to how the media operates in the modern American political system, this is a good place to start."

Tamir Sheafer | Public Opinion Quarterly
"An important book which will become a 'must' read in future analyses that focus on press-government relations. It is well written, in a way that would make it completely comprehensible to nonscholars who care more about press freedom, government spins, and the coverage of the Iraqi war than about political communication theories."
Contents
Preface
Acknowledgments
INTRODUCTION
The Press and Power

1
PRESS POLITICS IN AMERICA
The Case of the Iraq War

2
THE SEMI-INDEPENDENT PRESS
A Theory of News and Democracy

3
NONE DARE CALL IT TORTURE
Abu Ghraib and the Inner Workings of Press Dependence

4
THE NEWS REALITY FILTER
Why It Matters When the Press Fails

5
MANAGING THE NEWS
Spin, Status, and Intimidation in the Washington Political Culture

6
TOWARD AN INDEPENDENT PRESS
A Standard for Public Accountability

APPENDIX A
Evidence Suggesting a Connection
between Abu Ghraib and U.S. Torture Policy

APPENDIX B
Methods for Analyzing the News Framing of Abu Ghraib

APPENDIX C
Further Findings from the Content Analysis

APPENDIX D
Interview Protocol
Notes
References
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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