The American press has become so enamored of power and politics that it has in recent years failed to maintain its independence and act as a watchdog over the government, lament journalism professors Bennett, Regina Lawrence, and Steven Livingston. They maintain that the failures of the press to scrutinize the Bush administration's preemptive war on Iraq and to question the administration's policy on torture of captives are the most egregious examples of the press taking its cues from government officials. The press is now so accustomed to getting information from government sources that unless someone within the government challenges a view or policy, no other side is heard. Cozy relationships between the press and insider sources have made the press easily manageable. Exploring the refreshing independence the press showed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when the administration was caught off guard and unable to manage the coverage, the authors offer suggestions on how the press can recover its independence on a broader scale. Vanessa Bush
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“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.”
(James Fallows, author of Breaking the News and correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly)
“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.”
(Bob Edwards, host of the Bob Edwards Show and former host of Morning Edition)
“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>
(Marvin Kalb, founding director and senior fellow of the Joan Shorenstein Center)
"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
"Their analysis of the weaknesses of Washington journalism deserves close attention."
(Russell Baker New York Review of Books
"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."
(James Boylan Columbia Journalism Review
"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."
(Jim Boyd Nieman Reports
"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."
(Jonathan McDonald Ladd, Georgetown University Perspectives on Politics
"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."
(Tamir Sheafer Public Opinion Quarterly
“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.”
(Dan Rather, global correspondent, HDNet)
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