Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412972048 | Print ISBN: 9780761929574 | Online ISBN: 9781412972048| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Patricia F. Phalen
News media are increasingly guided by audience research in making decisions about what stories to cover, to what depth, and in what fashion. Critics argue that “happy talk” infotainment is not really news, but some news executives point to research showing that such programming is exactly what many readers and viewers want. In his famous “Vast Wasteland” speech of 1961, then–Federal Communications Commission Chair Newton Minow chided broadcasters for providing too much programming that catered to the desires of their audiences, and not enough to inspire and inform. Minow wanted broadcasters to offer programs that would help listeners and viewers become more enlightened citizens. The dichotomy he identified exemplifies a central debate in journalism—should news give people what they want, or what they “need”? Those who advocate the “want” approach argue that the audience is supreme, and its preferences should drive the content of print and electronic information. Theirs is ...