Townsley on Media, Politics, and Democracy

Professor of Sociology Eleanor Townsley says that understanding the media—and knowing who decides what ideas will be produced and discussed—is vital. In the latest addition to the MHC Video Bookshelf, she tells us why and discusses her recently published book on the topic, The Space of Opinion: Media Intellectuals and the Public Sphere.

With coauthor Ronald Jacobs, a sociology professor at the University of Albany, Townsley addresses the growing influence of opinion formats, from newspaper op-eds to political talk shows such as Face the Nation and the Sean Hannity Show. People who have access to speak and write in these different formats are hugely influential, she says.

Though some have questioned whether the rise of such opinion shows are bad for democracy, Townsley argues that despite its flaws, the media improves inclusivity, inviting the public to learn about and discuss civil society, politics, and the state of the nation. There is growing public awareness of the media’s biases, Townsley states, and that is a good thing for democracy.