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Journalists and the Public: Newsroom Culture, Letters to the Editor, and Democracy (Wahl-Jorgensen)

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Code: 1-57273-736-0

Title: Journalists and the Public
Sub-title: Newsroom Culture, Letters to the Editor, and Democracy
Author(s): Karin Wahl-Jorgensen
Publish Date: April 2007
Pages: 212
Format: Cloth
Citizen participation in politics is central to successful democracies. Yet there is increasing concern about the lack of opportunities for and interest in political participation. This book raises questions about the relationship between citizenship, journalism, and democracy by looking at how journalists deal with letters to the editor--an enduring forum for public debate. Based on ethnographic research and in-depth interviews with journalists who work with letters, the book examines how these journalists understand the public, and how they view of newspaper's role in democracy. It looks at how these "gatekeepers" select letters, privileging some voices while silencing others. Journalists want to serve the public and facilitate debate. However, while they love the idea of the public, the constraints and time pressures that shape their work conspire to create a culture that has little time for those members of the public who actually bother to participate.

Contents: INTRODUCTION: JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC. Letters to the Editor and Newsroom Culture. Journalists and the Public: Studying the Journalism Culture of Letters to the Editor. Overview of the Book. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR AND DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY. Deliberative Democratic Theory. Conclusion: Towards Examining Journalistic Practices. A BRIEF HISTORY OF LETTERS TO THE EDITOR. Letters and the Emergence of Newspapers. American Public Sphere: Letters to the Editor and Political Mobilization. U.S. Independence, the Partisan Press, and the Separation of News From Opinion. The Penny Press: Professionalizing News and Marginalizing Opinion. Letter Writing and the Construction of the Public as Consumers: Debates Over Journalism Ethics and Social Issues. Letters to the Editor and Social Movements. Conclusion. THE STUDY: JOURNALISTS AND THE PUBLIC. Searching for the Public. Looking at Letters in Context: Other Forms of Mediated Participation. The Sociology of Journalism: Studying News Production. Studying Letters to the Editor: Methodological Reflections. Conclusion. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR AS A "WIDE OPEN" FORUM. Overview. Letters to the Editor as a Public Forum. Principles of Selection. The "Wide Open" Forum and Free Speech. Letters to the Editor and the Local Community. Anger Management and the Culture of Journalism. Conclusion: Separating the Normative from the Economic. A "LEGITIMATE BEEF" OR "RAW MEAT"? PUBLIC DEBATE AND THE STRUGGLE FOR CIVILITY. Overview. Rationality, Civility, and Public Deliberation. The Tension Between Being Civil and Public Debate. Letters to the Editor and Journalism Ethics: The Ideal of Objectivity. Conclusion: Examining Editors' Practical Theories of Public Debate. EDITORS' EXPRESSION PREFERENCES. THE TENSION BETWEEN RATIONALITY AND EMOTION. Overview. The Preference for Private Individuals: Expression Entitlement and the Suppression of Activist Voices. The Form of Activist Discourse and the Place of Emotion in Politics: On Authority, Authenticity and Relevance. The Trouble with Editors' Expression Preferences: The Privatization of the Public Sphere. On How Editors' Expression Preferences Challenge Deliberative Theories: Emotion, Story-telling, and Solidarity. Conclusion: Public Discourse, Rationality, and the Concrete Other. CONSTRUCTING THE LETTERS SECTION IN NEWSROOM CULTURE: "GETTING THE PAGES OUT." Overview. The Observation Site. The Everyday Life of the Editorial Pages. Editorial Page Staff as Menial Workers: Letters to the Editor and "Getting the Pages Out." Letters to the Editor as a Response Mechanism. Editorial Page Workers as Intellectual Laborers: The Social Construction of the Newsroom Elite. Conclusion: Maintaining the Status Quo. HATING THE PUBLIC: THE IDIOM OF INSANITY AND DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY. Journalists and the Public: A Troubled Marriage. The Idiom of Insanity. On Why Insanity is Destructive to Public Discourse: Irrationality and the Breakdown of Communication. The Trickle-Down Theory of Public Debate. The Anti-Political Nature of Journalism. Conclusion: The Idiom of Insanity as an Anti-Democratic Strategy. CONCLUSION: RECONSTRUCTING THE PUBLIC. Journalists' Visions of Public Life. Newsroom Practices. The Impossibility of Public Debate: The Gap Between "THE PEOPLE" and the people. When Ideals Clash with Practice: Insights and Contradictions. Critiquing Rationality: The Political Possibilities of Story Telling. Media Responsibility, Inequality, and Public Discourse. Where Do We Go From Here? Notes. References. Author Index. Subject Index.

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