That’s the Way it Was

In the “Golden Age” of broadcast television, CBS Evening News Anchor Walter Cronkite was called the most trusted man in America. When he signed off with his signature line “That’s the way it is,” that’s the way it was.

Back then, America got its news from an elite corps of professional journalists who policed the flow of information to the public. Today, however, an ever-evolving new media regime has displaced mainstream media news sources, delivering politically relevant news through varied platforms such as The Daily Show, Wikileaks and social media sources like Twitter.

According to a new book, “After Broadcast News: Media Regimes, Democracy, and the New Information Environment,” the dominance of mainstream news media over non-traditional news sources is declining rapidly. Written by Bruce A. Williams of the University of Virginia and Michael X. Delli Carpini, professor of Communication and Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School at Penn, “After Broadcast News” deconstructs the relationship between media, citizens and political leaders at different moments in history.

The book examines the new media environment and its coverage of breaking news stories such as the death of Osama bin Laden, as well as media-driven scandals such as “Weinergate.” In the first chapter, titled “Is There a Difference Between Tina Fey and Katie Couric?” the authors delve into the recent blurring of what is entertainment and what is news.

“The story of Sarah Palin,” they write, “illustrates the central issue we address in this book: the precipitous decline in the power of journalists to control, for better or worse, the media narrative, an increase, again for better or worse, in the importance of other forms of communication, some new and some old, to influence and/or dictate media coverage of politics.”

Delli Carpini is author or co-author of four other books, including the 2009 text, “Talking Together: Public Deliberation and Political Participation in America.”

Text by Jacquie Posey
Video by Kurtis Sensenig