Journalism and politics have existed hand in hand for decades and even centuries, maybe. It is not possible to deny the influence politics has on journalism. It is also very hard to not see the influence media has on the public opinion these days. Journalism has become an influential power capable of shaping an image of politicians and affecting politics in general. Modern life is unimaginable without mass media as well as the political sphere is not possible to imagine without journalists’ influence on every aspect of it. Despite the different purpose, the books Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and Mightier than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History by Rodger Streitmatter provide solid examples of influence media and journalism have had and still have on American life.
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The book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin is about the 2008 presidential election process in the United States. As political journalists, Heilemann and Haplerin, conducted over 300 interviews with people related to the election campaign. The book provided a detailed account of several situations during the campaign that were not presented to the public earlier. Thus, for example, Heilemann and Halperin (2010) disclosed detailed information regarding the meeting between Hillary Clinton and Mark Penn, pollster, during which she criticized Obama regarding unfair methods like import of people to Iowa to increase his chances to succeed there and the overall focus on “race card.”
The authors also provided information of rather provocative nature such as the details of the affair between John Edwards (Democratic Party candidate for president) and Rielle Hunter before the public became aware of it. The book reveals the fact that Edwards rejected the advice of his consultants to make some distance from Hunter in angry form. Another fact was presented, as Heilemann and Haplerin (2010) wrote, about Hillary Clinton and her daughter. Chelsea was against Hillary’s desire to enter the presidential race in 2004. One of the most controversial and high-profile details in the book was the comment made by Bill Clinton in the conversation with Ted Kennedy, who tried to convince Kennedy to leave Obama with no support in this race. Clinton said that Obama could have served them coffee a few years ago (Heilemann & Haplerin, 2010). In general, the book is full of the information claimed by the authors as facts regarding the details of that period in big American politics.
Mightier than the Sword
The book by Rodger Streitmatter is about the history of the news media’s impact on the history of the United States and its political sphere. The author decided to explore the influence of media on history and politics via the examination of sixteen episodes considered the most significant ones in the U.S. history. The book reviews cornerstones of the U.S. history from the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement to the current administration of Barak Obama and relevant issues in the explored sphere. Each chapter is concluded by the role of media in shaping events of that time.
The book is not just a list of events with dates important in the historical context of each episode. It is Streitmatter’s personal reflection on the motives and forms of news presentation in each episode (Streitmatter, 2015). Most of the episodes (fourteen) have a positive evaluation of the media role in terms of their influence on history and politics. However, the author also provides two examples of negative impact on society and historic events to show that journalism can play a positive as well as negative role in the process of not only recording the history of the nation but also shaping it in a rather progressive manner.
Both books explain journalism as the tool of influence on public and history to some extent. They provide information about events and characters in the history of the USA that can be called tremendously significant: the election of the first African- American President and sixteen episodes that literally created modern American society in America. It should be noted that both books offer solid examples of how journalism can affect politics and society. The information from anonymous sources, mostly used in the book of Heilemann and Halperin (2010), could have affected the success or failure of some candidates just by presenting Clinton’s words to the public, for example. People could have changed their attitude towards Edwards had they found out information about his affair earlier as well (Wolfe, 2010). Most of the information in the book written by Heilemann and Halperin is provocative, controversial, sometimes even questionable, but yet so attractive to the public. It is rather clear that the authors tended to be some sort of spies in the world of politics who could nobly reveal the real state of things in this sphere. They succeeded in this venture but have received huge amount of criticism as well (Wolfe, 2010). No one likes to show controversial secrets they have, especially politicians.
Information in the book by Streitmatter (2015) is trustworthy and solid as it is an integral part of the U.S. history already. The facts are referenced and double-checked. It does not contain “hot” unrevealed facts obtained from the anonymous insiders so, in this light, the book is not that interesting to read. However, it is peculiar because of certain bias of the author. He adds emotional tint to the evaluation of different events that took place in each episode. Thus, for example, Streitmatter described the situation regarding President Richard Nixon and his opponents Woodward and Bernstein, who had toppled him, with noticeable satisfaction (Kirkus Review, 2010). In addition, the author was obviously unhappy with the activities of the anti-Semitic radio of Father Coughlin and his broadcasts as well as the initial resistance of media to the movement of women for their rights. Such emotional coloration of the historical events is one of the deficits of Streitmatter’s work, according to Kirkus Review (2010), considering the apparent endearment of the author to the power of media.
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The careful evaluation of the books Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and Mightier than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History by Rodger Streitmatter has showed that they provide solid examples of influence media and journalism in the life of entire American. The authors had different approaches to the implementation of the central concept each book has, but they provided surpassingly similar results to some extent. Both have benefits and drawbacks, but they are similar in one strong statement made by the authors: journalism is a great power, and it can shape history and public opinion successfully.
Heilemann, J., & Halperin, M. (2010). Game change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a lifetime. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Kirkus Review. (2010). Kirkus Reviews. Web.
Streitmatter, R. (2015). Mightier than the sword: How the news media have shaped American history. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Wolfe, A. (2010). Book review of ‘Game Change’ by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. The Washington Post. Web.