Stephanie Craft, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“News comes from a distance; it comes helter-skelter in inconceivable confusion; it deals with matters that are not easily understood; it arrives and is assimilated by busy and tired people who must take what is given to them.”1
Nearly 100 years ago, when Walter Lippmann published his accounts of the immense difficulties of reconciling “the world outside and the pictures in our heads,” most news came “from a distance” via newspapers and magazines.
And yet, even with this limited range and number of news purveyors, in Liberty and the News and, later, the highly influential Public Opinion, Lippmann describes “inconceivable confusion” among the busy and tired people who had to make sense of it. Lippmann’s earlier career included a stint as a propagandist (and a very successful one) for the Creel Committee during the First World War, so he knew something about the construction of messages and the many forces along the path from sender to receiver that could shape their meaning, rendering the world outside opaque and unknowable. How was democracy going to work, Lippmann wondered, if people were incapable of being adequately informed about important issues?…