Q&A: Purdue prof’s look at the price of cable TV’s ‘24/7 Politics’
Kathryn Brownell’s new book is a dive into how the rise of cable TV turned into political polarization in America, prioritizing personal brands for ratings and profits.
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Q&A: PURDUE PROF’S LOOK AT THE PRICE OF CABLE TV’S ‘24/7 POLITICS’
Write about politics and the fragmented media, and you probably should expect the fragmented media to come calling, if for no other reason than to examine itself.
Ask Kathryn Cramer Brownell, an associate professor of history at Purdue and author of “24/7 Politics: Cable Television & The Fragmenting of America From Watergate to Fox News,” released in August by Princeton University Press to a string of appearances in The Atlantic, public radio’s “1A” and more.
“And who knew there were so many podcasts?” Brownell said during a recent conversation in her basement office at University Hall. “It’s been a been hectic. But that’s a great thing, right?”
That’s a good question, based on her look at how the rise of cable television included an ever-expanding ability to divvy up political narratives and turn them into ratings.
“24/7 Politics” is Brownell’s second book, following “Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life” (University of North Carolina, 2014). She teaches courses on political history, media and popular culture and is a senior editor for Made By History, a column in the Washington Post.
We sat down earlier this month to talk about where it all started and where it could be headed.
Question: You talk about finding out about how there are so many podcasts in the world. Does this book and your research into cable TV just lend itself to the evolution of podcasts and what they’re all about? Maybe we’re already talking about your next project before getting into this one.
Kathryn Cramer Brownell: One of the things that is very different from when I published the first book that came out in 2014 (“Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Political Life”) and now is that our media landscape has just exploded in ways that really built on what cable did. Cable introduced this idea of decentralizing the media landscape, opening it up to new points of view, different types of programming, some that's more personalized to individuals. I think that's what streaming and podcasting is in this digital world that we live in. So, I think I'm benefiting from that in terms of being able to talk to different audiences, but also helping those audiences explain why we have such a fragmented media landscape. There's so many possibilities in terms of consuming news and entertainment and sports.
Question: With that, did you find that cable’s influence has been good? Or bad? Or is it really both?