Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media

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9780870784378: Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media

Did the coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal set a new low for American journalism? How has news gathering and reporting changed, and what effects has this had on the political and cultural landscape? In this insightful and thoughtful book, Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, two of America's leading press watchers, explore the new culture of news--what they call the new Mixed Media Culture--and show how it works. Warp Speed describes a world of news in which the speed of delivery is reducing the time for verification, sources are gaining more leverage over the news, and argument is overwhelming reporting. The press, forced to adhere to the demands of the bottom line and keep its audience, is straining more and more to find the Big Story to package as a form of entertainment, turning news stories into TV dramas; and turning history into a kind of Truman Show. As a result, the role of the press in a self-governing society is undermined. Grounded in extensive research, Warp Speed is informed by interviews and testimony from the principal journalists who covered this story and who covered the other great scandals of Washington politics. It offers detailed recommendations on how journalists can right their ship, such as using anonymous sources more responsibly and turning good journalism into good business.

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Review:

In the wake of scandal over Bill Clinton's "inappropriate relationship" with intern Monica Lewinsky, media watchdogs Bill Kovach (the ombudsman for Brill's Content) and Tom Rosenstiel offer a detailed analysis of how the news is made and unmade in the information age. A "journalism of assertion," they pessimistically observe, is starting to eclipse the more traditional "journalism of verification," as media outlets feel compelled to feed "the never-ending news cycle" of 24-hour cable news channels and Internet sites rather than allow reporters the time to pursue tips and fact-check their material. The result is a debased form of journalism in which reporters rely on unnamed sources and often run with stories before finding second sources to back them up. Sources often control the flow and content of news by timing their leaks and striking deals with reporters, while editors increasingly replace expensive reporting with a much cheaper staple of professional debaters and so-called experts who engage in prepackaged conflict. The authors zero in on how the media reported the Monica Lewinsky affair: in its first weeks, they show, a full 41 percent of the media's "reporting" was actually opinion and analysis, rather than hard news. "The study's most important finding," they write, "was the extraordinary degree to which reporting and opinion and speculation were now intermingled with mainstream journalism." Kovach and Rosenstiel perhaps underestimate the liberating potential of the new media--journalism's tired old gatekeepers no longer hold a monopoly over information--but Warp Speed is nevertheless an important contribution to our understanding of what we know and how we know it. --John J. Miller

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The Century Foundation

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Bill Kovach; Tom Rosenstiel
Published by The Century Foundation (1999)
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Kovach, Bill, Rosenstiel, Tom
Published by The Century Foundation (1999)
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