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«A Dissertation Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of ...»

-- [ Page 14 ] --

In the short term, it makes sense for the press to be “scandal-minded” (Fallows, 1997), to pay heed to claims about official misconduct, no matter how trivial. The question is whether this style of reporting will provide long-term economic sustainability. Over the past decade, the mainstream press has taken major economic hits, forcing newsrooms to cut their professional staff, streamline the production process, and focus on soft news to compete with more entertaining fare and garner younger audience interest (Hamilton, 2004). The hit to the news business is thought to have come from the advent of the Internet and mainstream news organizations’ inability to recognize the power of that new medium. Indeed, news organizations may have sown the seeds of their own destruction when they put free content online during the early days of the Internet. Audiences now expect free content. The 2008 economic recession also hit the news industry hard, creating further cutbacks and layoffs. Thousands of journalism jobs that had existed before the 2008 recession simply were not replaced. Between the Internet and the 2008 recession, mainstream journalism has not recovered its previous vitality.

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advent of the Internet and the 2008 recession. For decades, the American public has been dissatisfied with how the press covers politics and Gallup polling shows a majority of Americans now say they do not trust the mainstream press (Gallup, 2012). The press is routinely one of the most disliked institutions of American society, if not of American government. Why is that so?

One reason may be an increasingly “scandal-minded” press that pays more attention to entertaining political gamesmanship than to policy and substance (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997;

Entman, 2012; Fallows, 1997; Patterson, 1994; Pingree, 2011). Citizens, especially highly interested and aware citizens, want to know about government corruption. They do not want the press to focus on the trivial and sensational at the expense of substance. The press needs the ability to exercise its freedom of speech uninhibited. The press may benefit economically from publishing sensational scandal news in the short term. Yet without paying attention to long-term audience issue interests and democratic benefits, the press risks disaffecting audiences. It risks its bottom line. Most importantly, the press risks its seat at the table of American democracy.

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