The winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize in the Academic category is Jonathan Ladd for Why Americans Hate the Media. Ladd argues that in the 1950s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s, competition in American party politics and the media industry reached historic lows. When competition later intensified in both of these realms, the public’s distrust of the institutional media grew, leading the public to resist the mainstream press’s information about policy outcomes and turn toward alternative partisan media outlets. As a result, public beliefs and voting behavior are now increasingly shaped by partisan predispositions.
The Goldsmith Awards Program, launched in 1991, has as its goal the encouragement of a more insightful and spirited public debate about government, politics and the press. The Goldsmith Book Prize is awarded to the trade and academic book published in the United States in the last 24 months that best fulfills the objective of improving democratic governance through an examination of the intersection between the media, politics and public policy.
Remarks by Tom Patterson, the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Kennedy School, during the Goldsmith Awards Ceremony:
"One of the most disturbing media trends of the past half century has been a sharp decline in the public’s confidence in the news media. The media was once one of the nation’s most trusted institutions. They are now one of the least trusted.
In most surveys they are either last or next to last, depending on how we’re feeling at the moment about Congress.What explains the precipitous decline? Through surveys, experiments and other methods, Jon tests a number of hypotheses. One that panned out was the rise in infotainment. However attractive soft news is to the news audience, it has contributed to the undermining of the media’s credibility. Nevertheless, the major factor behind the media’s declining reputation has been a relentless effort by partisan elites, mostly from the right, to weaken the media’s credibility. Under the guise that the news media are politically biased, partisan elites have raged the decades long assault on the media and have succeeded to an astonishing degree.
As Jon shows, it makes little difference whether the media are actually biased. As long as partisan elites say they are many people will believe it’s so.Why does it matter? This is where Jon’s analysis gets really interesting, but where it would take me too long to do justice to his findings. So let me give you just a quick teaser. When people distrust the press they tend to reject its factual claims, relying instead on partisan sources in deciding what’s true and what’s false. As a result Republicans and Democrats increasingly hold different views of reality. Their disagreement over the facts has reached the point where they can barely understand what the other side is saying."
Watch a video of the ceremony at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=DAkDuXP-6bc#t=635