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The People's News

Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism

Joseph E. Uscinski

Publication Year: 2014

In an ideal world, journalists act selflessly and in the public interest regardless of the financial consequences. However, in reality, news outlets no longer provide the most important and consequential stories to audiences; instead, news producers adjust news content in response to ratings, audience demographics, and opinion polls. While such criticisms of the news media are widely shared, few can agree on the causes of poor news quality. The People’s News argues that the incentives in the American free market drive news outlets to report news that meets audience demands, rather than democratic ideals.In short, audiences’ opinions drive the content that so often passes off as “the news.”
The People’s News looks at news not as a type of media but instead as a commodity bought and sold on the market, comparing unique measures of news content to survey data from a wide variety of sources. Joseph Uscinski’s rigorous analysis shows news firms report certain issues over others – not because audiences need to know them, but rather, because of market demands. Uscinski also demonstrates that the influence of market demands also affects the business of news, prohibiting journalists from exercising independent judgment and determining the structure of entire news markets as well as firm branding.
Ultimately, the results of this book indicate profit-motives often trump journalistic and democratic values.The findings also suggest that the media actively responds to audiences, thus giving the public control over their own information environment. Uniting the study of media effects and media content, The People’s News presents a powerful challenge to our ideas of how free market media outlets meet our standards for impartiality and public service.
Joseph Uscinski is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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1. Introduction: Whose News?

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pp. 1-42

After leaving the daily grind of the ABC News Division, veteran anchor Ted Koppel tried his hand as a columnist for the New York Times. Prior to his retirement in late 2005, Koppel had spent decades in the news business; he covered numerous heads of state, natural disasters, major wars, and momentous elections. Rather than focus on the substance of any...

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2. Informational Demands for News: Agenda Setting and Audience Influence

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pp. 43-72

What is news? What makes a piece of information newsworthy? Perhaps it is something inherent in a piece of information that sets it apart from millions of pieces of other information—perhaps the people need to know it for society to function properly. Or, perhaps information becomes newsworthy because of the way audience members would...

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3. Demands for Gratification: Competing in the National News Economy

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pp. 73-108

Currently the host of the number one cable news program in the United States, The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly is perhaps the poster child for having a strong point of view. He is a hero to many conservatives, but lambasted by many on the Left. O’Reilly’s career caricatures the recent history of the news industry—he started off as a broadcast journalist for...

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4. Perpetual Feedback: Monitoring the New Media Environment

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pp. 109-136

News outlets’ incentives in the free market are clear: appeal to audiences with content that meets demand. If audiences consistently demanded information on critical topics that made them informed citizens, this would be great. News content would consistently meet democratic ideals and improve citizenship. Unfortunately, audience demands are not...

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5. Where Can We Go? Consuming Responsibly

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pp. 137-162

I opened this book with a quotation by a long-time journalist, Ted Koppel. The essay from which the quotation came expressed Koppel’s dire concerns about the influence of the market on news coverage. This closing chapter opens with the above quotation by Nobel Prize winner and world-renowned economist Milton Friedman, who made this remark as...


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pp. 163-166


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pp. 167-182


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pp. 183-186

About the Author

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p. 187-187

E-ISBN-13: 9780814762875
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814760338
Print-ISBN-10: 0814760333

Page Count: 204
Publication Year: 2014