Joseph E. Uscinski
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About Joseph E. Uscinski
Joe Uscinski is associate professor in the University of Miami Political Science Department.
Professor Uscinski originally hails from New Hampshire. He received his B.A. from Plymouth State University and his M.A. from University of New Hampshire. Joe earned his PhD in American politics at the University of Arizona.
Joe teaches courses on and researches conspiracy theories, media bias, public opinion, popular culture, elections, Congress, the Constitution, and the presidency.
Professor Uscinski is the author of The People's News: Media, Politics, and the Demands of Capitalism (New York University Press, 2014) and American Conspiracy Theories with Joseph M. Parent (Oxford University Press, 2014).
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Titles By Joseph E. Uscinski
Though there is significant scholarly literature on the topic in psychology, sociology, philosophy, and more, American Conspiracy Theories is the first to use broad, long-term empirical data to analyze this popular American tendency. Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent draw on three sources of original data: 120,000 letters to the editor of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune from between 1890 and 2010; a two-wave survey from before and after the 2012 presidential election; and discussions of conspiracy theories culled from online news sources, blogs, and other Web sites, also from before and after the election. Through these sources, they are able to address crucial questions, such as similarities and differences in the nature of conspiracy theories over time, the role of the Internet and communications technologies in spreading modern conspiracy theories, and whether politics, economics, media, war, or other factors are most important in popularizing conspiratorial beliefs. Ultimately, they conclude that power asymmetries, both foreign and domestic, are the main drivers behind conspiracy theories, and that those at the bottom of power hierarchies have a strategic interest in blaming those at the top-in other words, "conspiracy theories are for losers." But these "losers" can end up having tremendous influence on the course of history, and American Conspiracy Theories is an unprecedented examination of one of the defining features of American political life.
Uscinski rigorously analyzes the most current arguments and evidence while providing numerous real-world examples so students can contextualize the current debates. Each chapter addresses important current questions, provides conceptual tools, defines important terms, and introduces the appropriate methods of analysis.
Uncovers the surprising cause behind the recent rise of fake news
In an ideal world, journalists act selflessly and in the public interest regardless of the financial consequences. However, in reality, news outlets no longer provide the most important and consequential stories to audiences; instead, news producers adjust news content in response to ratings, audience demographics, and opinion polls. While such criticisms of the news media are widely shared, few can agree on the causes of poor news quality. The People’s News argues that the incentives in the American free market drive news outlets to report news that meets audience demands, rather than democratic ideals. In short, audiences’ opinions drive the content that so often passes off as “the news.”
The People’s News looks at news not as a type of media but instead as a commodity bought and sold on the market, comparing unique measures of news content to survey data from a wide variety of sources. Joseph Uscinski’s rigorous analysis shows news firms report certain issues over others—not because audiences need to know them, but rather, because of market demands. Uscinski also demonstrates that the influence of market demands also affects the business of news, prohibiting journalists from exercising independent judgment and determining the structure of entire news markets as well as firm branding.
Ultimately, the results of this book indicate profit-motives often trump journalistic and democratic values. The findings also suggest that the media actively responds to audiences, thus giving the public control over their own information environment. Uniting the study of media effects and media content, The People’s News presents a powerful challenge to our ideas of how free market media outlets meet our standards for impartiality and public service.