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Breaking The News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy Paperback – January 14, 1997

4.4 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A lot of big-shot journalists didn't like this book, a systematic jeremiad about the current sad state of American political journalism. For instance, both the New York Times op-ed page and the New Yorker took pains to excoriate the book and its author--pretty good hints that Fallows is onto something. His point is that greed and intellectual sloth have fostered a political media elite that increasingly focuses on spin and ignores substance at the very time when solving the country's real problems requires all possible nuance. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Featuring a new afterword, "Fallows's rousing jeremiad is an important beacon for everyone concerned about the news media's poor performance in helping the public make sane choices about the way we live, work and govern," said PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition (January 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679758569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679758563
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on September 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
Few authors are as capable of approaching the unenviable task of explaining the otherwise baffling devolution in both the content and context of the mass media's coverage of the news as brilliantly as is noted journalist James Fallows in this literate, scathing, and thought-provoking broadside against his fellow journalists and the organizations they work for. By illuminating the specific circumstances attending the startling transformation in terms of the way news is viewed and covered by the media, he consistently gives readers reason for concern, and often for alarm. For example, Fallows contends that the viewing public increasingly distrusts the media because the public recognizes they can no longer depend on the media to provide the essential information citizens need to make sense out of current events and the world at large.
In a carefully constructed look at how this has happened, Fallows masterfully describes how several aspects of media's coverage of the news has had the net effect of its become more of an effort to entertain and less an exercise in edifying and informing the public in an objective and disinterested fashion. As a result, the media increasingly presents public life in terms of a "depressing spectacle" rather than in its proper context as one of several vital aspects of a vibrant democratic experiment in progress. By concentrating almost exclusively on those more entertaining elements of the news involves conflict or controversy, the media offers us a glossy, superficial and profoundly inaccurate perspective of the often intricately complicated world outside our doors, and in the process makes the world even less comprehensible to those of us attempting to make sense of it all.
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Appalled at the biases, distortions and omissions in the media, which have been worsening since 9-11, I recently launched on a campaign of study in regard to learning about the deterioration of the media and the influence of corporate control - and what we can do to counter it. This is one of the best, most informative and most readable of the six books on the subject I've read. I can't emphasize enough how important it is, how much our corporate-run media influence political thinking, decisionmaking and voting and influence not only the outcome of elections but the agenda and actions of politicians - and how motivated we need to become in order to counter it, to become informed about political realities rather than propaganda and myth, and as a country, to become more of a democracy and less of a plutocracy. The biggest difficult we face is that the media itself is not likely to publicize its own corruption, and is actively blocking attempts of people concerned with these issues inform the public. I also highly recommend the books on media disinformation and reform by Robert McChesney, including his mini-books Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy and Our Media, Not Theirs.
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Format: Paperback
Fallows does a great job of using simple language to convey the complex issues that introduce themself in political journalism. He is surely looking out for the best interests of the public and the values of American democracy in this text. Reading this book will make you a more conscientious citizen, voter, and newspaper reader. The facts that he reveals about journalism should be known by all, and he writes with genuine concern for the state of a fragile American democracy and tainted political journalism. I would reccomend it for both academic and entertainment purposes.
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Format: Paperback
I first met James Fallows online in the early '90s, and then in person several times. For a Rhodes Scholar and Harvard grad, he was surprisingly in touch with the realities I knew as a moderate Westerner living in the East. He was kind enough to give me a copy of Breaking the News, and I found it to be a great read. It offered new perspectives and excellent explanations on the sorry state of today's journalism, far beyond the traditional but simplistic explanation of "liberal bias." Jim's perspective truly transcends the partisan and raises issues above the divisive fray that almost tragically seems to divide our great country. Although critics may contend that Jim offers a liberal apologist's view that liberal bias is not the primary problem (or even much of a problem at all), even my friends who are staunch conservatives should find little to disagree with and much to learn in "Breaking the News."
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By A Customer on April 24, 1997
Format: Paperback
Have you ever read a newspaper's coverage of an election and momentarily thought you were reading the baseball box scores instead of a serious examination of crucial issues and choices? Have you ever wondered less about how California Governor Pete Wilson's handling of the "immigration issue" affected his Presidential prospects than about just what the "immigration issue" was exactly? Have you ever wondered how you could have watched a zillion hours of network nightly news on the politics of health care during 1993 and 1994 and still have no clue why millions of American children remain uninsured in 1997? In short, do you really care how Newt pays back the darn fine and whether the terms of Dole's loan to him are "commercially reasonable?"
James Fallows's "Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy" is a penetrating, cogent, and persuasive critique of the sorry state of American journalism in the mid-1990s. Fallows makes a convincing case for the proposition that the cynicism and detachment that the mainstream media so pride themselves on have not only devalued the quality of their journalism but have made it more difficult for Americans and their political leaders to deal constructively health care, entitlements, education, and the array of social issues demanding serious attention. In their relentless and superficial approach on the political spin of every issue--instead of its meaning to our lives--the media have actually harmed democracy by alienating the public from habits of democratic participation. Moving beyond mere criticism, Fallows advocates a "civic journalism" in which the media educate the citizenry and promote enthusiasm about involvement in public affairs.
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