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Comber, Mary Anne and Robert S. Mayne.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986. 178pp, cloth, $22.95, ISBN 0-7710-2239-5. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Caroline Young

Volume 15 Number 1
1987 January

Newspaper, television, and radio are the prime sources of information on political events in Canada. The Newsmongers is intended to be a guide to the way the media report political happenings. Rather than reporting the facts in an unbiased, factual fashion, the authors contend that complex political issues are oversimplified and distorted to fit the format. The media, in an effort to attract audiences increasingly influenced by flashy entertainment shows and glossy magazines, has put the emphasis on fast-paced, highly visual presentations. To prove their point, the authors reveal how the media played an active role in the 1984 federal election campaign. They provide both opinion and fact based on reporting in all forms of media: television, radio, and newspaper.

The book includes a forward by Peter Trueman who says, "This is not another reporter's inside look at the news business. Nor is it a narrow, scholarly dissertation on some particular journalistic failing. It is a critical examination of the news media as a whole by two intelligent readers and viewers who have had wit enough to be upset by some of the 'news' they're being fed, and patience enough to analyze what's wrong with it."

The contents include four sections divided into a total of thirteen chapters. The sections are "Trends," "Agenda Setting," "Mediating the Political Process," and "Better News." Although the notes and bibliography will promote further research, a comprehensive index would also have been appropriate as a research tool. The addition of headings within chapters would have served to break down the information and facilitate understanding and ease of reading. While the authors do achieve their intended goals, students of journalism may not always agree with some of the broad sweeping statements. They might want to pursue further research for the facts on such opinions as "Political news stories in other countries (such as France and the United States), while still usually critical, somehow manage to bestow legitimacy or respectability on political leaders."

The Newsmongers does show the reader how to spot media distortion and exposes how the media hypes and trivializes the political message. Examples of these techniques are generally well documented with specific examples and statistics, indicating both the research and credibility of the authors. This book will prove valuable reading for senior students and adults concerned about the kind of news Canadians deserve and need to receive. All readers should profit from an increased ability to think, listen, and read more critically about issues vital to our country.

Caroline Young, Ministry of Education, Victoria, B.C.
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