The Politics of Character and the Character of Journalism

By Judith Lichtenberg

A paper by Judith Lichtenberg, visiting assistant professor, spring 1988, asks why “the character question” has assumed such a central role in presidential politics. Lichtenberg analyzes why we place value on and how we measure “moral goodness, strength of will, judgement and leadership.” Concern with these elusive kinds of questions gives the press a special power, argues Lichtenberg: the line between reporting the news and making it becomes increasingly hard to draw. Since reports of perceptions of character are themselves perceptions, the political reporter cannot be entirely divorced from newsmaking, she writes.

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