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The Control Room: How Television Calls the…

The Control Room: How Television Calls the Shots in Presidential Elections

by Martin Plissner

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 068482731X, Hardcover)

Having worked at CBS News for three decades, most recently as executive political director, Martin Plissner has witnessed the behind-the-scenes decisions that determine how the networks cover presidential campaigns. In The Control Room, he suggests that presidential campaigns have, in response to that coverage, become one big staged (or, rather, televised) event in which candidates spend their days flying from place to place shaking hands, attending festivals, and giving speeches--all in the hope that it'll generate a broadcast-worthy image or sound bite.

Having so much control over what most Americans learn about presidential candidates makes TV powerful indeed, but Plissner dismisses the notion that producers and executives have a political agenda: "Their goals are for the most part the largest possible viewership at the lowest possible cost and the gratification that comes from scoring any kind of competitive edge over their television rivals." Exactly right--and increasingly corrosive to the political process. In 1952, when the first political convention was televised nationwide, the party's nominees were still chosen at the conventions; the 1976 conventions were the last at which there was even a hint of mystery over who the nominees would be. With the final selections now obvious months in advance, conventions have lost their news value and become political extravaganza shows. But in trying to tightly script their conventions for the television audience, political operatives have outsmarted themselves: the conventions have become so canned, so staged, and so devoid of any spontaneity that in 2000 it's possible the only live coverage will be of the nominees' acceptance speeches. According to Plissner, that might not be such a bad idea. --Linda Killian

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:48 -0400)

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Traces the evolution of American presidential campaigns from a party-driven process rooted in a leadership elite to one in which the choices are presented to the voters primarily by television.

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