News and the Culture of Lying: How Journalism Really Works

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9780029340219: News and the Culture of Lying: How Journalism Really Works

Reporters claim to seek and tell the truth in their news stories, but Paul Weaver maintains that news organizations regularly foster a haze of untruth that obscures the meaning of events and distorts our perception of reality. This distortion, which Weaver terms "a culture of lying", is the result of hidden structural relations, such as the media's need to serve the interests of advertising sponsors, and the "addict/codependent" relationship of reporters to their sources. Enlivening his account of how stories are assigned, reported, edited and published, Weaver shows how standard procedures that aim at revealing truth produce the opposite.

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With media companies relentlessly snapping up properties, it's easy to forget that the values of journalism on the one hand, and business (and especially the entertainment business) on the other, are antithetical. The former should be about truth and understanding; the latter is mostly about moving product. Paul Weaver remembers. His argument is that contemporary journalism doesn't so much report on reality as it creates and markets the product called "news," that is, reality strained to the breaking point through a distorting lens of crisis and emergency response. This slant tends to reduce journalism to a handmaiden of such centers of power as activist presidents and public relations-minded corporations. The remedy, concludes Weaver, is for the press to reorient itself toward readers rather than advertisers and to emphasize deliberative stories over crisis-oriented ones.

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