Cover image for Electronic whistle-stops : the impact of the Internet on American politics
Electronic whistle-stops : the impact of the Internet on American politics
Selnow, Gary W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 1998.
Physical Description:
xxxiii, 221 pages ; 24 cm.
Theory : mass communication and its lessons for the Internet -- Media history and evolution : new formats, new content -- Mainstream candidates on the Internet -- The rank and file : new voices in political campaigns -- Experiments on the web : information innovations -- The use and impact of the Internet on journalism : the reporters' view -- A changing public agenda and audience fragmentation.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
H61.95 .S45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Fifty years ago, the political whistle-stop tour was thus named because trains blew their whistles twice when making unscheduled stops in backwater towns. Like its distant cousin, the electronic whistle-stop brings the candidate's message directly to the people, but with one outstanding difference: the new whistle-stop offers politicians an accuracy, efficiency, and success at voter persuasian unimaginable to by earlier whistle-stoppers such as Harry Truman.

As Selnow shows, American political campaigns have an extraordinary affinity for electronic devices. They have seized upon electronic bulletin boards, home pages, and electronic libraries. Since political campaigns are communication campaigns, Selnow concludes that candidates who successfully inform, persuade, enlighten, and even confuse voters will win votes. Selnow also examines the debate between those who argue that new technologies have improved efficiency and those who believe that the innovations have affected society in other ways. Scholars and students of American political communication must read this book; the lively style will also make it exciting reading for anyone interested in this new political tool.

Author Notes

GARY W. SELNOW is Professor of Communication at San Francisco State University and the develomsr of America's Voice , a nation-wide program using television and the Internet to air the political views of American voters. He is the author or editor of six books, including Society's Impact on Television (Praeger, 1993) and High-Tech Campaigns (Praeger, 1994).

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Since information processing is the "core technology" of politics, changes in this technology are likely to have profound impacts on the processes and performance of political institutions. Recognizing the 1996 campaign as a pale preview of the political power of the Internet, Selnow (communications, San Francisco State Univ.) painstakingly builds the case for the promise and potential pitfalls of this emerging information medium. He strengthens every chapter with very useful summaries of other media milestones and of existing media research. Walking the fine line between cheerleader and naysayer, the analysis goes beyond detailed descriptions of past use to projections of future uses and evaluations of their consequences. The analysis starts from the premise that the Internet is different both in degree (speed, low cost, ability to combine formats) and in kind (interactivity and receiver control). Examples from 1996 offer detailed descriptions of some of the best and the worst applications. The Internet is seen as indirectly affecting the political process because it changes journalists' information collection routines, directly affects the communications options of candidates, and creates new methods of citizen information collection and the mobilization of virtual interest groups. While recognizing the Internet's potential for societal fragmentation, the author opts for a more rosy future in which political leaders receive direct, immediate, and robust access to the people, and in which a wider range of citizens receive low cost information and have the potential to communicate among themselves. Selnow concludes that "We need powerful measures to repair the growing separation between the politicians and the people who put them in office. The Internet comes with a huge risk, but in the end, it may be our greatest, best hope." Recommended for all levels. S. E. Frantzich; United States Naval Academy

Table of Contents

Series Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introductionp. xix
Part I Context: Lessons of the Past--Formats for the Futurep. 1
1 Theory: Mass Communication and Its Lessons for the Internetp. 5
2 Media History and Evolution: New Formats, New Contentp. 39
Part II Political Communication on the Internetp. 71
3 Mainstream Candidates on the Internetp. 75
4 The Rank and File: New Voices in Political Campaignsp. 105
5 Experiments on the Web: Information Innovationsp. 123
Part III The Press, Politics, and the Peoplep. 145
6 The Use and Impact of the Internet on Journalism: The Reporters' Viewp. 151
7 A Changing Public Agenda and Audience Fragmentationp. 185
Appendix The Public's Acceptance of the Internetp. 205
Further Readingp. 211
Indexp. 215