Who Deliberates?: Mass Media in Modern Democracy

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This work argues that although public deliberation is essential to democracy, the public can be fooled as well as enlightened. In three case studies of media coverage in the 1990s, Benjamin Page explores the role of the press in structuring political discussion. Page shows how the New York Times presented a restricted set of opinions on whether to go to war with Iraq, shutting out discussion of compromises favoured by many Americans. He then examines the media's negative reaction to the Bush administration's claim that riots in Los Angeles were caused by welfare programmes. Finally, he shows how talk shows overcame the elite media's indifference to widespread concern about Zoe Baird's hiring of illegal aliens. Page's conclusion identifies the conditions under which media outlets become political actors and actively shape and limit the ideas and information available to the public. His argument is that that a diversity of viewpoints is essential to true public deliberation. This book is intended for students of American politics, communications and media studies. Benjamin I. Page is the author, with Robert Y. Shapiro, of The Rational Public: 50 Years of Trends in Americans' Policy Preferences , published by the University of Chicago Press.