Red Star Rising: The Coverage of Mikhail Gorbachev by U.S. Network Television, 1984-86
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CitationKnobel, Beth. 1991. Red Star Rising: The Coverage of Mikhail Gorbachev by U.S. Network Television, 1984-86. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractMy dissertation presents a case study of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's coverage by U.S. television news. This work aims to increase the current understanding of both the effect of politicians on the media, and the effect of the press on policy making.
My dissertation addresses three main questions. First, how did Gorbachev cultivate positive media coverage from the American press? Second, what kind of coverage did the American media give Gorbachev? Third, did the press coverage have an effect on U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union? I limited my examination to Gorbachev's first two years in power, when I theorized that the effect of the media would be greatest, and to television news because it is the single largest source of news for the American citizenry. I performed a content analysis of nearly 900 network evening news reports on Gorbachev, 150 of which I viewed on tape, and interviewed journalists, policy makers and academics--both in the United States and Soviet Union-about Gorbachev's tactics and their effect.
I found that Gorbachev used the media strategically to further his policy goals. Even before he assumed the office of General Secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev began a deliberate campaign to solicit positive public opinion at home and in the West. Although Gorbachev was continually introducing new tactics during the time period of this study, not everything that he did was "strategic" in nature -that is to say, not everything Gorbachev did to cultivate press coverage created an effect or impression above and beyond the content of his message. In 1984 and 1985, Gorbachev's cultivation of media coverage was far more strategic than in 1986.
Gorbachev's emphasis on image and his attraction of positive press coverage affected both the style and substance of Soviet-American relations. "It [the press] has an effect on policy," as one Reagan administration official put it·. The Reagan administration responded to Gorbachev by trying to neutralize Gorbachev's popularity. This response included policy actions, such as the renewed effort at arms control negotiations which later led to a treaty on intermediate range nuclear weapons. But the President also sought to match Gorbachev's momentum stylistically in what the networks termed "the battle for world public opinion."
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