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Out of Order: An incisive and boldly original critique of the news media's domination of America's political process Paperback – August 2, 1994


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 2, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679755101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755104
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #445,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Thomas E. Patterson, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, argues that the process of electing presidents to office is "out of order." The culprits include poorly planned performances by the news media in which newscasters speak more than candidates and the numerous primaries that only weaken the parties and create a vacuum of political leadership. Patterson calls for a shortened nominating primary season--just six weeks--and an institutionalized televised forum in which candidates could speak, debate and be questioned. Until this is done, he maintains, American will suffer from a lack of communication of the issues and an incomplete translation of voter feedback, things that smack of the demise of democracy.

From Library Journal

Patterson (political science, Syracuse Univ.) makes his points early and often, contending that the system used to elect our presidents is "out of order" and clearly identifying the reasons: poor and "miscast" performances of the news media, the proliferation of presidential primaries across the United States, and the subsequent decline of the place of political parties in national elections. Patterson's remedy is to shorten the campaign by bunching up the primaries in a six-week period starting in June. He would also provide candidates with "adequate broadcast opportunities to present themselves and their policies as they wished them to be seen." There's nothing really new in any of this, although the author distills his views from nearly every modern source available. For large political science collections.
- Chet Hagan, Berks Cty. P.L. System, Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steve Chien on October 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Thomas Patterson's sweeping indictment of the media is especially relevant this election year. The press is once again fulfilling Patterson's worst predictions of its behavior and making it easy to agree with his thesis that the media is failing its duties and harming our political process.
Patterson makes many points, but his central ones are below, and it's easy to find supporting examples from the 2000 campaign cycle:
1. The press sees the election as a game, not a democratic process. Its news stories are focused on the candidates' strategy, not their views, and makes the candidates look shallow and pandering as a result.
2. The tone of the news is generally negative. Candidates are relentlessly criticized and negative stories are much more frequent than positive ones.
3. The press focuses far too much on gaffes and trivialities. In the 2000 campaign, Bush's RATS ad and Gore's simple misstatements have resulted in feeding frenzies portraying both candidates as untrustworthy.
4. Journalists have become the center of the news. Much of the news has reporters' own interpretations as the main story (In an attempt to bolster his support among elderly voters, Bush/Gore ...), instead of quoting the candidates at length.
The inescapable conclusion is that the media is failing to inform the public of the important issues in a presidential campaign and contributes greatly to our general lack of faith in our political system.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
This book synthesizes a huge amount of information about media bias and presidential election politics and policies, and pinpoints where voters are amidst this whirlwind: unsure if they should be urging on their favorite racehorse/candidate with oats and sugar, or figuring out which candidate would put forth policies that would have a positive impact on their lives and the nation as a whole. I don't know about you, but during the past two presidential campaigns, I couldn't tell the difference between CNN's "Inside Politics" and ESPN. This book explains why, and what we might do about it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
The simple thesis which dominates the book "Out of Order" by Thomas J. Patterson is that the media should not play such a powerful role in electing the leader of the free world. All of the ancillary themes found in the book, and they are multitude, serve to highlight this main thesis and what might arguably best be described as Patterson's conviction. The book provides a litany of examples and studies, all of which indicate support for the basic premise that the media are woefully inadequate at informing the voters of their choices during presidential primaries and that the press' perceptions rarely match the concerns of the voters. Further, Patterson believes that the media, by and large through repeated negative and distorted reporting methods during a campaign, can effectively sabotage a politicians' credibility and erode public confidence to the point were the winner's ability to lead effectively is at the very least compromised. In one passage Patterson exerts: "It was not the public but the press who defined the 1992 Democratic race as a choice among the `seven dwarfs,' `Slick Willy,' an inept president, and a paranoid billionaire." In one section of the book, Patterson describes how the demands of the press as a business, conflict with its political role. The media business forces reporters to think of the election process in terms of a narrative and "game schema." Here he is referring to a concept within the larger communications construct known as "framing," whereby the manner in which a news item is portrayed (the presentational aspects), can be as (or more) important as the facts being reported about the story itself. Patterson includes a chart based on a study to illustrate his point that "...Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Molly in Boston on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is a must-read for any student of the media or politics. Thomas Patterson writes a terrific critique of the role the media has played in corrupting politics - particularly the political election process - arguing persuasively that things are now "out of order." Patterson provides numerous examples of how the media has negatively impacted elections. Some of these are:

1. Articles about campaigns focus on the "horse race," or the constant jockeying between candidates and their campaigns, rather than on the actual platforms of the candidates or the important issues being discussed.

2. Great emphasis is placed on poll results, and on candidates' rise and fall in the polls, rather than on their stated goals or positions on various issues.

3. Reporters travel around with a candidate for months on end (as the candidate travels around the country or state to meet with voters) and as a result start focusing more on internal problems within the campaign (campaign staffers disagreeing with each other, for example) than on the substance of the candidates' speeches. Minor gaffes, such as a candidate tripping, or a candidate's spouse saying something odd, take on much greater importance in the media than they should.

4. Media "talking heads" become celebrities in their own right and dominate news casts. They may show 30 seconds of a candidate's speech and then spend 5 minutes talking about their spin on the speech. This hardly gives the candidate much opportunity to communicate directly with the voter.

We've gotten to the point now where a substantial portion of articles about campaigns tell you everything about the campaigns *except* for the candidates' stances on actual issues.
Read more ›
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