Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

7/1/2008 - 6/30/2009

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

American Media Intellectuals in the Public Sphere, 1993-2002

FAIN: FB-53636-08

Eleanor Townsley
Mount Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA 01075-1461)

I seek funding to complete my book about the space of elite opinion in the contemporary United States. Compared to factual news reporting, media opinion and commentary are rarely studied. My goal is to do just this: to identify those practices which bear directly on the conditions of critical rational communication in the public sphere--what Habermas famously called the "public's use of its reason." I provide a thick description and comparative analysis of the styles of speech and claims to authority made by different kinds of speakers in print and on television, using large archives of newspaper op-eds and television transcripts from 1993-1994 and 2001-2002. Sources include the New York Times, USA Today, Face the Nation (CBS News), Crossfire (CNN), The Lehrer News Hour (PBS) and Hannity & Colmes (Fox News).

Media Coverage

Author finds place for objective journalism (Media Coverage)
Publication: Scott Waldman
Date: 6/9/2011

Where's the next Walter Lippmann? (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Alexander Heffner
Publication: Washington Post
Date: 8/15/2011

At Issue (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Ben Merens
Publication: At Issue with ben Merens (Wisconsin Public Radio)
Date: 3/26/2012
Abstract: Hour long talk radio show on opinion formats and their influence in democracy.

What are you reading? (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Andreas Hess
Publication: Times Higher Education
Date: 3/1/2012

Wanted: Eagle Rockers Who Understand 'The Eagle Rock Effect' (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Ajay Singh
Publication: EagleRockPatch
Date: 4/5/2012

Comedy Gets Serious (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Mieke H. Bomann
Publication: Mount Holyoke Quarterly
Date: 10/19/2011

Associated Products

The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectual and the Public Sphere (Book)
Title: The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectual and the Public Sphere
Author: Ronald N. Jacobs
Author: Eleanor Townsley
Abstract: While the newspaper op-ed page, the Sunday morning political talk shows on television, and the evening cable-news television lineup have an obvious and growing influence in American politics and political communication, social scientists and media scholars tend to be broadly critical of the rise of organized punditry during the 20th century without ever providing a close empirical analysis. What is the nature of the contemporary space of opinion? How has it developed historically? What kinds of people speak in this space? What styles of writing and speech do they use? What types of authority and expertise do they draw on? And what impact do their commentaries have on public debate? To describe and analyze this complex space of news media, Ronald Jacobs and Eleanor Townsley rely on enormous samples of opinion collected from newspapers and television shows during the first years of the last two Presidential administrations.
Year: 2011
Primary URL:
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Multi-author monograph
ISBN: 9780199797929