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Journalists offer a daily dose of commentary sizing up the president’s successes and failures, profoundly influencing the public’s perceptions of presidential performance. This study shows how leading journalists developed their perceptions of Gerald Ford, the criteria they employed in evaluating his presidency, and the nature and impact of their assessments of his leadership.
In The Press and the Ford Presidency, political scientist Mark J. Rozell uses a qualitative content analysis to investigate the national press coverage of the Ford administration. He explores the complicated relationship between what presidents say and do and how their words and deeds are portrayed in the elite press, demonstrating not only how press valuations vary over time, but also how certain impressions of a president take hold and resist change, even in light of conflicting evidence.
Rozell shows that a president and presidential image-crafters cannot script their own press coverage and expect journalists dutifully to follow the White House plan. Journalists have identifiable expectations of presidential leadership and performance. Indeed, Gerald Ford consistently fell short of these expectations, leading the media and, consequently, the public to resort to humiliating caricature when describing the president and his programs.
The Press and the Ford Presidency will be of special value to schools of the presidency mass media and politics, political communications, and political leadership. In addition, since the author’s research included interviews with numerous numbers of Ford’s White House staff, the book will appeal to scholars interested in oral history and to historians of the Watergate era and the Ford years.
“Mark Rozell has provided a well-researched and clearly written analysis of how the press defined the Ford presidency. He shows that journalists’ perceptions were well-formed and persistent. His interviews with Ford’s communications personnel reveal how press coverage is received and managed in the White House. The Press and the Ford Presidency is an important contribution to our understanding of the role of the media in politics.”
--Charles O. Jones, University of Wisconsin