Public demands more from politicians, media

In the future, expect to see more politicians on talk shows like ``Larry King Live.''

A panel of media experts came to this conclusion Saturday at the University's eigth annual Zeidman Memorial Colloquium on Communications.

R.W. Apple, Washington bureau chief for the New York Times, Charlie Rose, University alumnus and host of a public television talk show and Robert Entman, professor of communications studies at Northwestern University, came to the University to discuss ``Election Campaign Coverage: Has the Media's Role Been Changed Forever?''

We are seeing a trend towards the democratization of journalism, Rose said. America is demanding increased access to its politicians due to, among other factors, a concern over the economic recession. As a result, politicians are trying to get more in touch with the people, he said.

Politicians are developing innovative media tactics which allow direct correspondence with the public. A new trend is for politicians to make appearances on call-in shows, and to organize televised ``town meetings'' where audience members participate in question and answer sessions, the panelists said.

``We are changing from a representative democracy into an electronically direct democracy,'' Apple said. Television and radio are functioning more than ever as a direct link between the public and the decision-makers, he said.

Through this type of interaction, the public is finding a new venue for shaping the political agendas of its leaders.

``Politicians are setting their agendas by picking up what they are hearing,'' Rose said.

President Clinton has already demonstrated this, Rose said. Earlier this month, Clinton conducted a town meeting in Detroit that was televised locally and on the CNN and C-Span networks. Participants were given the chance to ask Clinton specific questions about his economic policies, before his proposals were officially announced the following week.

In addition to these innovations, politicians are also answering the public's demand for more simplified information about their policies, Apple said.

Ross Perot and his prime time infomercials exemplified this, Apple said. ``Perot knows how to get basic information about complex questions across to the public,'' he said.

Clinton used a similar tactic earlier this month when he announced his economic plans on national television two days before his State of the Union Address.

This event, in which Clinton even employed Perot-style'' charts and graphs, was planned as a vehicle for Clinton to explain his policies in simpler terms to the American people before hisofficial'' announcement before Congress.

Through techniques like these, Clinton is using the media to promote his presidency, the panelists said.

Clinton is really good,'' Rose said.I have never seen anyone as good with the press.''

Journalists have also changed their methods of political coverage in reaction to the public demand for issue-based reporting.In the 1992 election, news services increased their coverage of policy issues by over 200 percent, Entman said.

``[Public demand] has driven us to be more analytical, more contextual and [to work within] more of a political framework,'' Apple said.


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