Pop Culture, Politics, and the News

Entertainment Journalism in the Polarized Media Landscape

Joel Penney

Pop Culture, Politics, and the News

Entertainment Journalism in the Polarized Media Landscape

Joel Penney






25 Nov 2022




$59.95 AUD

$69.99 NZD

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In Pop Culture, Politics, and the News, Joel Penney explores how pop culture news has taken on an important role in contemporary political discourse. Through coverage of topics like Hollywood diversity, celebrity controversy, and "cancel culture" backlash, entertainment journalism has emerged as a key source of political information and commentary, providing audiences with an accessible lens into some of the most hot-button issues of our time. Yet due to the "clickbait" economics of the polarized digital news business, the quality of entertainment journalism is often compromised, and consequently, people view pop culture coverage as "soft news" with little substance or public value.

Very little is known about how this journalism is produced and consumed as a component of the digital news ecosystem. Moreover, we lack a measured sense of its potential impact on the political interests and knowledge of its audiences, the politics of the entertainment industry it covers, and the shape of public debate more broadly.

Drawing on interviews with entertainment journalists and testimonials from news audiences who share these stories on social media, Joel Penney argues for the importance of reframing our understanding of impactful journalism and persuasive political communication when culture and identity have moved thoroughly to the center of U.S. public discourse. Moreover, Penney examines how audiences engage with this highly accessible and emotionally resonant form of journalism and use it as a resource for political expression and discussion, raising important questions about how it can serve as a bridge to public issue engagement as well as a potential distraction from on-the-ground political concerns. As a cutting-edge, data-rich analysis of the blurring boundaries between entertainment, politics, social media activism, and partisan journalism, Pop Culture, Politics, and the News makes a major contribution to public scholarship on the shifting digital information landscape.


Dedication Acknowledgements Introduction Chapter 1: Why Pop Culture News Matters: Theorizing and Historicizing Entertainment Journalism as Political Communication Chapter 2: Progressing Hollywood: Left-Wing Entertainment Journalism and the Push for Diversity and Accountability Chapter 3: Pop Culture Warriors: Right-Wing Entertainment Journalism and the Fight Against "Big Hollywood" Chapter 4: Hot Takes and Clickbait: The Impact of Commercialism on the Pop Culture-Politics Beat Chapter 5: Trending Outrage: How Social Media Impacts the Work of Journalists at the Pop Culture-Politics Nexus Chapter 6: Pop Culture News as a Bridge to Politics? Exploring the Audience Perspective Chapter 7: Conclusion: Assessing the Public Value of Journalism at the Pop Culture-Politics Nexus Notes References Index


Joel Penney , Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Media, Montclair State University, UNITED STATES

Joel Penney is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University, specializing in new media, critical/cultural studies, and political communication and theory. His research focuses on the uses of digital media and popular culture for political expression as well as the construction of collective identities. His first book, The Citizen Marketer, is the winner of national book awards from the American Political Science Association and the National Communication Association.


"This book, supported by relevant fieldwork and interviews, is a thoughtful discussion of the role of entertainment journalism in circulating, inspiring, expanding, and sometimes simplifying and sensationalizing political discourses...Penney's insightful dissection of entertainment, politics, and journalism is deeply illuminating." -- Choice

"Students will recognize the journalism and the political landscape described in this book. With discussions and interviews that address #MeToo, #OscarsSoWhite, and other debates that have been brought to the public via entertainment journalism, Pop Culture, Politics, and the News will remind readers that entertainment journalism is politically significant and that representation matters. I can't wait to use this book in journalism and media studies classes." -- Lynn Schofield Clark, Director of the Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media, University of Denver

"Are the political battles of the twenty-first century being won on the playing fields of popular culture? That certainly seems to be a credible claim in our era of polarized social media in which public attention seems monopolized by the weapons of mass distraction. Entertainment journalism as a shaper and reflection of contemporary life receives a long overdue examination in this theoretically nuanced and empirically grounded study." -- Larry Gross, Professor of Communication, University of Southern California

"In this engagingly written and insightful book, Joel Penney addresses a dire need in the field by making a compelling case for the centrality of entertainment journalism as part of today's political communication landscape. Integrating the viewpoints of entertainment journalists from both left and right and the audiences who actively engage with their content, this book is a must-read for those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the nexus of popular culture and politics today." -- Neta Kligler-Vilenchik, Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

"Joel Penney offers compelling arguments for why 'soft news' should not be written off as frivolous or as having little public value, while also illuminating the potential dangers of conveying heated political issues via for-profit, click-bait-oriented entertainment journalism. Based on interviews with journalists and audiences, this insightful book will inspire lively class discussions about the colliding political and cultural spheres of our contemporary news media environment." -- Regina Marchi, Associate Professor of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University