From Our Readers
To the Editors of The Crimson:
I am writing in response to Noam S. Cohen's "review" of my recent book entitled Impact: How the Press Affects Federal Policymaking ("Missing the Mark," December 2). There is so much in his essay that misses the mark that I'm not sure where to begin. However, given that I teach at Harvard and that Cohen presumably is a student at the University I think it most important that I set the record straight on the institutional relationships which he mangled so badly, and then mention the explicit purpose of the book which he has misrepresented despite it being made explicit over and over again. (Come on, Noam, did you really read the book?)
I am not, as he says, a "member" (whatever that means) of the new Center of Press, Politics and Public Policy. This book was not intended to be and never has been held out to be a "manifesto" of the new Center, as Cohen alleges. The research was done under a grant given to the Institute of Politics in 1982, long before the Center was anything more than a name on a prospectus. I was flattered that at the opening of the Press Center this fall, Impact was highlighted as the kind of research which the Center could produce.
As to purpose, Cohen complains that the book is not about the press. He's right about that. Wasn't supposed to be. It's about government, how government works, particularly how the federal government is affected by press coverage. It is not a book about good or bad journalists, although that seems to be the book Cohen wished was written; it is a book about good and bad policymaking. There is nothing in the book about a hostile press being "not conducive to good government," but there is plenty of evidence and argument in the book that hostility toward the press on the part of officials does not lead to good decision-making. We researched the impact of the press on policymaking because there has been a lot of good work on how the press covers government, but very little on impact.
Cohen says that I "readily admit" that the book is not for the lay public. When? Where? It's not for Cohen, that's for sure. But then he seems to have such a clear idea about what it ought to have been, maybe he's just too smart for mere reviews. He oughta write a book! Martin Linsky Lecturer in Public Policy