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In this pointed examination of how Americans elect their presidents, Patterson—professor of political science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University—faults a system that relies upon the news media as chief intermediary between voter and candidate. Because the values of journalism are at odds with the values of politics, Patterson argues, the press is an unreliable guide for the voters, misleading them about the nature of their choices, and fostering the belief that candidates are manipulative and untrustworthy, and hence unworthy of their support.
Patterson describes the circumstances that led the parties after 1968 to give up control of the election process by default to the press. This development was paralleled, as Patterson shows, by the transformation of election journalism, from an issue-based descriptive method of reporting that focused on the candidates into a game-oriented interpretive style that revolves around reporters and brings to the fore their refracted view of politics. Out of Order offers proposals to reform the system, chiefly by shortening the campaign, which would reduce the disruptive influence of the news media, require candidates to provide constructive leadership, and give the country more time for the business of governing. With a Postscript by the author to the 1994 paperback edition.
"If I were to recommend one book among the dozens on media and U.S. presidential elections that have appeared in recent years, Out of Order would be it."
—Robert Entman, Northwestern University, American Political Science Review
Table of Contents
Prologue: Truth and Falsehood on the Campaign Trail
1. The Miscast Institution
2. Of Schemas--Game and Governing
3. Images of the Game They Play
4. Reporter's Issues versus Candidates' Issues
5. News, Truth, and That State of Nature We Call Election Coverage
6. How to Fix the Campaign: Shorten It
Postscript to the Vintage Edition: Truth and Falsehood on the White House Beat: The First Year of the Clinton Presidency