Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
DISCONNECTED: Politics, the Press and the Public
image map with 7 links
Join the dialogue!
Hear our panelists' perspectives, then tell us what you think.

Congressman Barney Frank
Larry Sabato
Joan Blades
Mayor Bill Campbell
Chuck D
What the Public Wants
Have the news media lost their connection with the American people and what the American people really care about? Public opinion polls say that the press is held in lower esteem than most institutions of public life. Yet while the public decries tawdry coverage, it delivers a ratings bonanza when the latest scandal erupts. Is campaign media coverage part of the problem or just a mirror for America's new political realities? What do Americans really want to hear from the media?

For youth perspectives on these issues, visit Teenvoice.com's E-lections site, featuring student discussions, polls, and other resources. Check our list of resources for more organizations and websites that deal with these issues.

realmedia video clipCongressman Barney Frank
"There is a distinction between what people want to read. We all read garbage, but we don't always eat it. And I think that there's that distinction. But I do think if you're talking only about prostitution 20 years ago, with no sign that there was obstruction of justice, and no hypocrisy. And by the way, I think it's okay to be against murder, and be against robbing, and be against mugging...I don't think that's going to be considered an inconsistency. If you were not somebody's sexual morality cop, I don't think it would be a problem. And I think you'd be better off admitting it, and it would go away."


Do you agree that Americans can put past scandals into perspective?
If yes, why?
We're sophisticated
Nobody's perfect
Not interested

If no, why?
Overwhelms other information
People leap to judgement
Knocks candidates out of race
Votes:

realmedia video clipLarry Sabato
"Senator Able has made what is probably one of the most important speeches of his political career. And this issue affects tens of millions of Americans. This is what they're interested in. Did they have some mild interest in an inside baseball argument between campaign aides? Maybe. But they have much greater interest in what's going to happen with their health care. And that's the problem with the press. They've lost their connection with the American people and what the American people really care about."


Do you agree that the press is disconnected from the people?
If yes, why?
The press plays to the press
Press concerned with ratings


If no, why?
Meets public demands
The public is disconnected
Votes:

realmedia video clipJoan Blades
"I want to say a word for the consumer here. You're saying this is what the consumer wants, and I'm saying that I know more and more consumers that aren't consuming. I mean a lot of us have turned off the TV news."


Have you turned off the TV news?
If yes, why?
Bored with coverage
Coverage is superficial
Coverage not about my life

If no, why?
Easily accessible information
Important to be informed
More is better
Votes:

realmedia video clipMayor Bill Campbell
"People say they want substance, but they love the other stuff. That's why when Jerry Springer took off the violence, the ratings went down. People love to see all the violence. They love to see all the conflict. And I'm telling you, it's not an absence of leadership in the American public, it's an absence of followership. People say they want substance, but they love to watch the other stuff."


Do you agree with the Mayor?
If yes, why?
We're lazy low brows
News is entertainment
Scandal sells

If no, why?
Public wants it all
Blame it on media
Public expectations are lower
Votes:

realmedia video clipChuck D
"Well, you got 24 hours to fill. So you know,(LAUGHTER) whereas, on CBS, you know? And Mr. Rather, you're talking about, alright, boom, half an hour. And you're gonna cover the substance and leave all the crap alone. But 24 hours to fill, you got people looking under desks, (LAUGHTER) under tables, diggin' in people's pockets. You know, looking under their tie, you know?"


Is the vast explosion of TV news on cable a good thing?
If yes, why?
Tune in anytime
Can develop richer stories
Half hour of TV news isn't enough

If no, why?
News diluted and trivialized
News sensationalized
News becomes ratings-driven
Votes:


Spotlight on Issues >> Politician's Privacy | What the Public Wants |What Drives Media Coverage
Home | About the Program | The Panelists | The Op-Ed Page | Take Action | Fred Friendly Seminars | Feedback | Resources
A production of Fred Friendly Seminars (www.fredfriendlyseminars.org)