THE UNSEEING EYE: The Myth of Television Power in National Elections by Thomas E. & Robert D. McClure Patterson

THE UNSEEING EYE: The Myth of Television Power in National Elections

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Examining TV coverage of the 1972 Presidential election with a huge, unwieldy array of tables and statistics, two political scientists from Syracuse University tell us some things we all know and some we don't. The evening network broadcasts, Patterson and McClure remind us, reduce elections to ""horse race and hoopla""--empty estimates of delegate strength, endless repetitions of the motorcade-rally ritual. The issues remain buried, the qualifications of the candidates go unexamined. These charges are of course familiar (though it is sadly instructive to see just how few broadcast moments were spent on issues in the closing weeks of the '72 campaign). What is surprising is the assertion that network reporting has virtually no influence on the outcome of elections: the jejune, stylized gestures that pass for news-gathering barely dent the consciousness of either committed or uncommitted voters. In this informational vacuum, the solidest body of fact available over the airwaves is the paid advertising of the campaign committees. Despite the Madison Avenue idiocies of the TV spots, they address themselves more substantially to the issues of the election and the qualifications of the nominees--and the intelligence of the voters--than any of the regular news broadcasts. Although Patterson and McClure handle their evidence with a lot of cumbersome statistical machinery and exasperating oversimplification, their argument is arresting--and, in its portrait of the American voter, encouraging. Certainly they establish a new venue for the ongoing debate over the often imagined, more often real sins of the electronic media.

Pub Date: June 21st, 1976
Publisher: Putnam