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The Media, the War in Vietnam, and Political Support: A Critique of the Thesis of an Oppositional Media

Daniel C. Hallin
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 46, No. 1 (Feb., 1984), pp. 2-24
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2130432
Page Count: 23
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The Media, the War in Vietnam, and Political Support: A Critique of the Thesis of an Oppositional Media
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Abstract

The issue of the relation of the media to political authority has been approached by political scientists mainly in terms of the effects of news content on individual attitudes toward government. This article addresses the institutional side of the question. It offers a critique, based on a case study of television coverage of Vietnam, of the thesis that the media shifted during the 1960s and 1970s toward an oppositional relation to political authority. It concludes that while there was a substantial increase in critical news content during the Vietnam War, changes in the professional norms and practices of journalism, including the norms of "objective journalism" and journalists' relation to official sources, were much less dramatic. A model for explaining changes in the level of critical coverage is offered, emphasizing media response to the degree of consensus or dissensus among political elites.

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