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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay argues that political journalism more closely resembles a Second Legislature of debaters than a Fourth Estate of onlookers. Here, we examine the scholarly literature on political news, specifically its linguistic qualities, to assert that journalism acts as a legislature in six ways: (1) By being a vessel of accommodation, (2) by prioritizing nativist agendas, (3) by reproducing regnant power dynamics, (4) by emphasizing traditionalist values, (5) by emphasizing proletarian attitudes, and (6) by being presentistic in orientation. Journalists choose the terms of debate—words that can advantage those in power or sometimes those seeking it. If all politics is local, so essentially is news of politics, fashioned by reporters in constituents’ vernacular. Although journalism guards against disorder, giving sway to institutional priorities, it also can be a cultural bellwether, capable of farsightedness and inclusion. In describing reporters as legislators, we bestow one of the highest compliments a democracy can pay its citizens.

Keywords: political news, language, lexicon, journalists, the press, media, politics, metaphor

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