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Media Coverage of American Politics: A Core Reading List

- December 4, 2007

In the December 1 Wall Street Journal, Tom Brokaw steers readers toward five books that in his view collectively “present a peerless portrait of journalism’s high aims and low comedy”: The Boys on the Bus, by Timothy Crouse; All the President’s Men, by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein; Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh; Murrow, by A.M. Sperber; and Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman.

For conveying an understanding of media coverage of American politics, I hereby second Brokaw’s nominations of The Boys on the Bus and Amusing Ourselves to Death. But Brokaw’s a newsman and I’m not. Instead of the up-close-and-personal journalism thrust of the other three items on his list, I’d replace those selections with a dated but still pertinent journal article and three old-favorite books that just keep on giving: Warren Breed’s “Social Control in the Newroom: A Functional Analysis” (Social Forces, 33 (May 1955), pp. 326-335); The Symbolic Uses of Politics, by Murray Edelman; The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, by Daniel Boorstin; and, inescapably, Understanding Media, by Marshall McLuhan.

My selections may well reflect nothing more than my idiosyncrasies — or, for that matter, my age — so disagreements and alternative suggestions would be more than welcome.