"In the pages that follow, we trace the emergence of a place that looks like a real democracy, and a real country, but is in fact a construct, like reality but not real. It is Virtual America."
The new technologies of the 1990s, Ed Diamond and Robert Silverman argue, have helped create a blowhard culture, a talk-show politics driven by instant news analysis, over-reliance on public-opinion polls and focus groups, the power of Know-Nothing call-in shows, and the unchecked gossip of online computer networks.
White House to Your House is a fast-paced account of contemporary media coverage of national politics during a time when the top two books on the best-seller list were by Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. Included are lively analyses of what's behind the image makers' takeover of the old Washington policy-making machinery, how Bill Clinton prevailed in 1992 only to lose both his good press and his job approval ratings less than two years later, what the rise of right-wing populism from Ross Perot to Newt Gingrich signifies, how the press struggled to identify Hilary Rodham Clinton, why health care reform was defeated on the front pages of America's newspapers without coming to a vote in the Congress, who makes up the audiences for talk radio and why they're angry, and the effects of proliferating television channels on political coverage.
A new epilogue carries the narrative through the 1996 presidential campaign, and the development of on-line Web sites by the candidates, special-interest groups, and news media. The epilogue also assesses the future of both Internet politics and digital journalism.
The Media Show is a lively analysis of one of the underreported major stories of our time: the growing power and influence of the media. In these essays and reports critic Edwin Diamond takes a hard look at the methods of the American media during a period of heightened competition and increased conglomeration, focusing on the way news stories are shaped, and sometimes distorted.
Diamond first considers some of the consequences of the new order created by richer technologies and lowered aspirations. He explores the mixed results of this new system, including marked changes in American broadcasting as the networks downsize their expenditures to news and public affairs coverage. There is, he notes, often a serious conflict within networks between the public good and the bottom line, a conflict that the news media generally chooses not to examine.
Diamond then scrutinizes the role of style and personality on television. Next he turns to specific examples of television coverage of the defining topics of the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the arrival of cable technology and CNN, which changed the way wars and crises are covered; how some members of the media practiced "unsafe journalism" in their reports on AIDS; the role the media assumed as the "moral police" in recent election campaigns; the way race and class influenced crime stories such as the Tawana Brawley and the Central Park jogger cases; how the media has often seemed "married to the mob" in its reporting about reputed godfather John Gotti; and the changes in White House press coverage as Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George Bush. Diamond concludes by proposing several ideas for creating new media structures.
"For now—the 1980s—television is still in its prime time, and hearing the first intimations of mortality." And what will follow TV? More TV, TV that is different and yet not all that different. In this evocative book, Edwin Diamond points out that what we see on television today closely reflects our culture and society and politics and will continue to do so. Because the country is not changing as fast as the technology, Diamond's study of television in its "prime time" is also a glimpse of much of the content of the TV of the future, whether it comes to us over the air, by cable, or by satellite.
Among other topics, Sign Off covers sex on television, the TV preachers of the "electronic church," the way television handled the Iranian hostage crisis, "Full Disclosure" as seen (or not seen) in the media's handling of Nelson Rockefeller s death and Ted Kennedy's reputed "womanizing," "Disco News" and Ted Turner's continuous news, the Three Mile Island reportage, the reign of the young and the white and the male on commercial television, and the twin myths of television's omnipotence and its liberalism.
Although today's network-dominated, "free" television with limited channels will be superseded by cable and satellite transmissions with two-way, viewer-responsive features and add-on computer capabilities that will offer, usually for a fee, 60 to 100 channels precisely aimed at special-interest audiences, the content of TV will not be altered so much as the kinds of in-home services available.
Edwin Diamond relates television to what is happening in other media, as might be expected from a writer who has spent his professional life working on newspapers and magazines in addition to being a commentator on (and about) television.
Good News, Bad News is one of the few recent works of press criticism in which substance and style are fully in harmony. The reader is neither overwhelmed with raw data nor dazzled by flashy opinions unsupported by documentation: the authority of the research that informs Diamond's opinions is always in evidence. Much of the book is based on material compiled by the News Study Group, in the Political Science Department at MIT.
The book's three parts cover the 1976 campaign, changes in television, and changes in print journalism