NEWSPAPERS AND DEMOCRACY: International Essays on a Changing Medium by Anthony--Ed. Smith

NEWSPAPERS AND DEMOCRACY: International Essays on a Changing Medium

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An international report on the uncertain state of newspapers today, authoritatively emceed by the author of Goodbye Gutenberg (p. 766). At the outset, indeed, Smith supplies a condensation of that: landmark study of the technological, economic, and editorial transformation of American newspapers in the 1970s--the shift to computerized printing, monopoly ownership, and individualized information (special supplements, local editions). The technological aspect is amplified by Tetsuro Tomita's analysis--in a Japanese context--of the individualization-potential of various computerized information systems and Pauline Wingate's assessment of the cost and supply problems (not, she maintains, intractable) of the newspaper's traditional medium, newsprint. Succeeding sections focus, variously, on the condition of newspapers outside the U.S. In Scandinavia, public subsidy is preserving local, politically-aligned, ""minority"" newspapers--as a bulwark against ""media imperialism"" in Norway, as a guarantor of ""many and diverse voices"" in Sweden. And with no curtailment of press freedom, claim the contributors. In France, however, ""discreet intervention and generous subsidies"" are said to have dangerously tightened ""the links between government and the press."" Against this background appears the experience of the ""newer democracies"": post-Franco Spain, where the end of official censorship brought chaos, sensationalism, disillusion, and the threat of control by the unofficial powers-that-be; revolutionary Portugal, a case of fevered activity and little political impact; consensual Japan, whose press functions as a discreet, concerted, constructive critic of government; and topsy-turvy Italy, home of journalistic privilege, economic fragility, political dependence, and--still--no mass base. The final section addresses editorial problems directly. ""How accurately,"" Leo Bogart asks, ""do editors perceive readers' interests?"" (Not very, he finds; readers too rank news over entertainment--but fans of one or another special feature are apt to be avid.) David Hart, in turn, highlights the changing relationships between publishers and journalists. And, finally, James Curran and his collaborators decry the division of the British press into ""quality"" and ""popular"" newspapers (not based, they insist, on differing tastes) and, in substantiation thereof, provide a sharp analysis of the seemingly-innocuous, ideologically-loaded human-interest story. Meaty and provocative reading for friends of press freedom.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
Publisher: MIT Press