Politics and the Media   /   Summer 2008   /    Interview

Interview with E. J. Dionne, Jr.

Charles Mathewes

In the past several decades, there’s been a remarkable proliferation of media outlets and producers. what do you think have been the good and bad effects of this, especially in terms of the variety of new technological forms of the media—talk radio, cable Tv, the web, and, most recently, blogs and YouTube?


We’ve gone through an extraordinary set of transformations in a very short time. From the Kennedy campaign in 1960 through the ’88 presidential campaign, campaigns reflected the shift away from radio and newspapers that had dominated campaigns in the 1930s and 1940s toward the power of television, reflected largely through the three major networks. For that period, most of what candidates did was designed to play especially on the half-hour news show from 6:30 to 7:00 or 7:00 to 7:30.

Then you went through the revolution of the late eighties and early nineties. Two things happened: the rise of cable television and the 24-hour news cycle, which took power away from the campaigns because it’s much harder to manage a 24-hour news cycle; and then the rise of talk radio, which was in large part conservative talk radio.

We’ve seen a blurring of the lines between neutral journalism, opinionated journalism, and partisan politics, and I think that goes all the way back to chat shows on television where the booking of guests is mixed. You might have a non-partisan journalist, a conservative (or liberal) political consultant, and a liberal (or conservative) columnist. All of these roles have been blurred, and there’s a disadvantage to that because there’s a lot going on that is not fully disclosed. On the other hand, I think at this point people who watch this kind of thing are quite sophisticated and know who is what.

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