As the 2000 presidential campaign has once again demonstrated, political journalism is an intrusive and nettlesome trade. More important, it is freighted with power—power to do good and also harm. But how much of power is real, and how much mere perception? Prize-winning reporter Robert Shogan draws on the lessons of seven presidential elections to answer these questions in Bad News. He shows how, amidst the upheavals of the 1960s, the press emerged as what many believed was the new dominant force in presidential politics. But as reporters moved into the power vacuum created by the demise of party vitality and the authority of the political bosses, they soon found themselves serving mainly as the instruments of a new political ruling class. The media, Mr. Shogan argues, now play the role of enablers. Without fully realizing it, they allow and abet the abuse of the political process by the candidates and their handlers. Bad News targets not only the machinations of the competing campaigns but the innate weaknesses and limitations of the press corps, with special attention to the 2000 election. “Too often journalists, myself included,” Mr. Shogan writes, “have been unwilling to learn what they do not know, and to make the information they possess relevant and important to their audiences. Too many of us, eager for attention, have been too willing to create stories that are larger than life and reality, and too impressed with our own importance to benefit from the criticism leveled against our work.” Rejecting conventional non-solutions, leavened by wit, and enriched by firsthand reportage, Bad News pierces the fog of pretense and hypocrisy that clouds the turbulent partnership of press and politicians. It provides voters with what they most need: a manual of self-defense against the excesses and distortions of presidential politics.
Robert Shogan has reported on presidential politics for more than thirty years, first for Newsweek, then as national political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, based in Washington. His work has won the Scribes Book Award and the American Political Science Association prize for distinguished reporting of public affairs. His other books include The Double-Edged Sword, The Fate of the Union, Hard Bargain, and Riddle of Power. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.