Republic of Denial

Press, Politics, and Public Life

Michael Janeway

View Inside Price: $24.00


February 8, 2001
224 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300089066
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

This thought-provoking book offers the most insightful critique of the relationship among the press, politics, and public life in decades. Disdain for politics today in the United States is almost universal. Condemnation of the press is rampant as well. Until we understand the modern condition of politics and journalism—and the cultural context in which they interact—says Michael Janeway, there’s small hope of either recovering its standing. Drawing on years of experience at the top levels of the news business and in politics and government, Janeway provides an integrated, insider’s critique of the profound changes in each of these professional worlds, showing how trends in each have contributed to deepening public alienation.

From its confident post-World War Two era of world leadership, the United States entered a difficult period of turbulence and reversals in the 1960s and 1970s. With wit, clarity, and an eye for offbeat cultural indicators, Janeway examines the full complex of forces that have corroded our press, politics, and public life since then. The result, he argues, is a loss of substance and structure in public life as well as citizen connection to it, a vacuum all too easily filled by political entertainers, shallow coverage of “character,” and—engulfing the nation in convulsive crisis for a year of its history—the politics of scandal.

None of today’s proposed remedies for the failings of our press or politcal system is adequate, Janeway argues, for none take full account of the integral relationship between the two spheres. In the absence of recognition of its buried democratic crisis, Janeway concludes, the United States has become a “republic of denial.”

Michael Janeway has been editor of the Boston Globe, executive editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He is a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and director of the National Arts Journalism Program.

“Janeway turns up the high heat on media and on government in this book, and justifiably so. But journalism is where he puts his citizen faith. And as old-fashioned as his tenets are, he has written an utterly persuasive and overdue book championing seriousness of purpose, imagination, professionalism, and optimism. His is such a buoying intelligence at a rather gloomy, flat-footed time.”—Richard Ford

“A deftly argued, more-than-timely, and highly unsettling account of what Michael Janeway describes as America’s looming ‘democratic crisis.’”—Daniel Yergin

"Republic of Denial is the best book I have read on the slovenly cohabitation of journalism and politics, the small-mindedness of both, and what can be done to put it right. This shrewd, witty book is a must-read for anyone who wonders why both journalism and politics went so wrong so quickly."—Ward Just, author of A Dangerous Friend

"[A] thoughtful analysis. . . . Readable and well documented, this work is recommended for public libraries and highly recommended for political science and communication collections in academic libraries."—Library Journal

"Republic of Denial is the most intelligent explanation anyone has yet offered of the painful dilemmas facing the American press in the late twentieth century."—Alan Brinkley, Allan Nevins Professor of History

"Erudite and well-written."—Gregg Easterbrook, Washington Monthly

"Republic of Denial is a fresh and incisive look at a problem that desperately needs a fresh perspective. Michael Janeway's profound insight is that the crisis within the press is deeply imbedded in a larger, more complex societal crisis. His book's great strength is that it sees the situation whole, and it is compelling and shrewd analysis of this tangled picture . . . Michael Janeway comes at the problems of the press with the values and professional standards of journalism at its best. He applies these qualities to the problem at hand, with reporting and—more important—with reflection . . . real thinking. The result is a book that is smart."—Alex S. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning former media reporter for The New York Times, Co-author of The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times, Host and executive editor of PBS's Media Matters

"[Janeway] argues that a confluence of forces in both the news business and politics has plunged America into a dark night of the soul, from which we are unlikely to awaken anytime soon. . . . Those interested in how headlines are made will appreciate his analysis of the crumbling barrier between the newsroom and the boardroom—and the dismaying notion that serious journalism has itself become just one more niche market."—Publishers Weekly

"An unusually thoughtful work of criticism from Michael Janeway. . . . Janeway's prose is tight and engaging, agilely swooping from the broad view to the telling detail."—Nicholas Confessore, Boston Book Review

"There has been a crowd of diagnosticians taking the temperature of journalism and politics, and finding both very ill. Michael Janeway's analysis in Republic of Denial stands out as more coherent and relevant than most."—James Boylan, Columbia Journalism Review

"Janeway clearly has the gift of synthesis: . . . In Republic of Denial, he brings to bear everything from market research to novels in support of his thesis. . . . He can also summarize fundamental questions crisply."—Jeff Greenfield, New York Times Book Review

"Michael Janeway . . . dissects today's distrust of politics and scorn for the media, and examines the many forces that have put them, and held them, in place."—Susan McWilliams, Boston Review

"Republic of Denial is not for the faint of heart. Janeway's unflinching analysis is the 'give it to me straight, doc,' version of media criticism. The language is strong, the implications overwhelming, and the prognosis grave. Fast-paced but far-reaching, the book traverses the political, social, and journalistic landscape in 177 bracing pages of text. And its core thesis—that the media and political culture are inextricably intertwined in a downward spiral—challenges tinkerers and tweakers to recognize that the nation is in deeper trouble than they might think."—Mark Jurkowitz, Boston Globe

"[Janeway's] mordant compilation of the significant news of the last three decades launches his essay on what promises to be a great ride. From Vietnam to Watergate to presidential bimbo eruptions, he shows the narrative looping continuously back to themes of disillusion, fragmentation, loss of control over institutions and lack of direction. . . . Delightfully acerbic . . . fun to read and thought provoking."—Warren Sloat, Santa Fe New Mexican

“Janeway reveals the contemporary slough of despond we’ve gotten ourselves into when simplistic images and confrontations replace genuine political debate.”—Sam Coale, Providence Journal-Bulletin

"With eloquence and passion, Michael Janeway presents a grim picture of American public life. Although his readers may be tempted to say, "Aw, c'mon, things aren't really that bad," Janeway makes his case effectively enough to give pause to even the most committed optimist. . . . Janeway's appraisal of the current state of affairs is crisply critical. . . . Janeway's diagnosis of the ills of news coverage is better reasoned and more sophisticated than the work of most press critics."— Philip Seib, H-Net Book Reviews

“Janeway reveals the contemporary slough of despond we’ve gotten ourselves into when simplistic images and confrontations replace genuine political debate.”—Sam Coale, Providence Journal-Bulletin

"The Republic of Denial freshly examines how some journalists have spread 'malaise' by substituting cynicism for criticism."—Tom O'Brien, America

"[Janeway] is a master of subtle distinctions—his nuances have nuances—and his skill in making fine points sets him apart from the usual exegetes of the grand public narrative."—William Powers, Wilson Quarterly

“Janeway draws from his professional and academic experience to provide yet another view of the impact of the press on politics and national life. . . . Janeway’s singular contribution is to consider the sad state of society and the media together, to find interrelationships that have brought media and politics so low in public regard. Good insights here for a variety of readers.”—Choice

“Masterly. . . . [This book] graph[s] the seismic shifts altering the channels through which we are informed about public affairs.”—Tracy Lee Simmons, Washington Post

"Republic of Denial is not for the faint of heart. Janeway's unflinching analysis is the 'give it to me straight, doc,' version of media criticism. The language is strong, the implications overwhelming, and the prognosis grave. Fast-paced but far-reaching, the book traverses the political, social, and journalistic landscape in 177 bracing pages of text. And its core thesis—that the media and political culture are inextricably intertwined in a downward spiral—challenges tinkerers and tweakers to recognize that the nation is in deeper trouble than they might think."—Mark Jurkowitz, Boston Globe

"[Janeway's] mordant compilation of the significant news of the last three decades launches his essay on what promises to be a great ride. From Vietnam to Watergate to presidential bimbo eruptions, he shows the narrative looping continuously back to themes of disillusion, fragmentation, loss of control over institutions and lack of direction. . . . Delightfully acerbic . . . fun to read and thought provoking."—Warren Sloat, Santa Fe New Mexican

"Janeway reveals the contemporary slough of despond we’ve gotten ourselves into when simplistic images and confrontations replace genuine political debate."—Sam Coale, Providence Journal-Bulletin

"With eloquence and passion, Michael Janeway presents a grim picture of American public life. Although his readers may be tempted to say, "Aw, c'mon, things aren't really that bad," Janeway makes his case effectively enough to give pause to even the most committed optimist. . . . Janeway's appraisal of the current state of affairs is crisply critical. . . . Janeway's diagnosis of the ills of news coverage is better reasoned and more sophisticated than the work of most press critics. "— Philip Seib, H-Net Book Reviews

"The Republic of Denial freshly examines how some journalists have spread 'malaise' by substituting cynicism for criticism."—Tom O'Brien, America

"[Janeway] is a master of subtle distinctions—his nuances have nuances—and his skill in making fine points sets him apart from the usual exegetes of the grand public narrative."—William Powers, Wilson Quarterly

"Janeway draws from his professional and academic experience to provide yet another view of the impact of the press on politics and national life. . . . Janeway’s singular contribution is to consider the sad state of society and the media together, to find interrelationships that have brought media and politics so low in public regard. Good insights here for a variety of readers."—Choice

"Masterly. . . . [This book] graph[s] the seismic shifts altering the channels through which we are informed about public affairs."—Tracy Lee Simmons, Washington Post