THE GREAT AMERICAN VIDEO GAME: Presidential Politics in the Television Age by Martin Schram

THE GREAT AMERICAN VIDEO GAME: Presidential Politics in the Television Age

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A long, hard look at how the Reagan campaign staff in 1984 manipulated TV people to get coverage of their man on the evening news, mostly through an endless succession of flag-waving and largely meaningless feel-good pictures. Schram, an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, has made a specialty of studying and writing about Presidential campaigns and contributes many useful perceptions concerning the significant changes television has made--and will make--in US political campaigns at all levels. Here, he cites a hard lesson Reagan's handlers gave Lesley Stahl, the CBS White House correspondent, about how cynically they regarded the stories about Reagan that made their way to the small screen. Becoming fed up with the happy pictures that made Reagan look good while not illustrating any worthwhile news, Stahl wrote a sharply worded script pointing out that the pictures often told the opposite of truth--Reagan shown basking in the warmth of good feeling as he dedicated a housing project for senior citizens, when the fact was that he had proposed cutting the budget for housing for the elderly. It was a long piece and Stahl illustrated her tough script with pictures that had been staged solely for the cameras by Reagan's people. Stahl expected trouble from Reagan's advisers, and one phoned as soon as the piece was over. Expecting a loud complaint, Stahl was floored when the man congratulated her on a good story. Stahl sputtered her lack of understanding--after all, she had said many harsh things about the President and his TV people. ""We loved it,"" the adviser said, ""you give us four-and-a-half minutes of great pictures of Ronald Reagan. And that's all the American people see. . .They don't hear what you are saying if the pictures are saying something different."" The anecdote sums up Schram's message: television has changed American politics forever. The great numbers of votes are only on television. An often fascinating look at how politics and television intersect in America today.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1987
Publisher: Morrow