Master of Mass Communication (MMC)
Walter Lippmann’s classic work, Public Opinion, crystallized thinking about the dynamic relationship between the press and public opinion, and clarified the role of each in democracy. Evaluations of that book, however, tend to be one-dimensional. Public Opinion captured just one iteration of his thinking on the subject, not his final statement on the matter. A comprehensive survey of his writing reveals Lippmann’s views on the press and public opinion were not static, yet the attention Public Opinion receives continues to overshadow his other works; his evolving views on the press and public opinion are rarely mentioned. Although his views shifted in significant ways over the decades, those changes hewed to a familiar set of issues and oscillated between a fairly narrow set of differences. Lippmann’s primary concern was always the functioning of democracy. He wanted it to work. His views on the press and public opinion revolved around a central tenet of progressive thinking – that an informed public would reach reasoned conclusions. But Lippmann always wrestled with doubts about the capacity of the electorate; his elitist attitudes conflicted with his reformist sympathies. Could the public really govern itself intelligently? How could the press, with its own limitations, facilitate that process? Lippmann puzzled over the answers to those questions throughout his career. Ultimately, his experiences with the manufacture of consent during World War I undermined his confidence in public opinion; his stature as a member of the press coincided with greater hope in that institution.
Document Availability at the Time of Submission
Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.
Whitehead, Amy Solomon, "The Unattainable Ideal: Walter Lippmann and the Limits of the Press and Public Opinion" (2015). LSU Master's Theses. 2282.
Hamilton, John Maxwell