The Latest Hedgehog Review Focuses on Politics and the Media

Aug. 19, 2008 — Maybe the idea of entertainment in politics isn't such a bad one. Back in America's early days, publications sprang up to present partisan views; politics was public entertainment, before journalism developed the objective stance citizens became accustomed to in the 20th century.

In recent years, the explosion of new media forms has brought "a blurring of the lines between neutral journalism, opinionated journalism and partisan politics," says E.J. Dionne, Washington Post political columnist. Dionne discussed the impact of new technological forms of media in an interview with University of Virginia religious studies professor Charles Mathewes, published in the current issue of the Hedgehog Review.

The online video Web site, YouTube, for example, offered millions of people the chance to listen to presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama's March speech about race, rather than traditional television news flashing a few sound bites onscreen.

"No matter how much I like the new media, I really value the reporting function and think it's extremely important," Dionne said.

The summer issue of the Hedgehog Review, published by U.Va.'s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, presents essays on the relationship between democracy and journalism under the theme, "Politics and the Media." Other articles include: University of Illinois political scientist Doris Graber's "Do the News Media Starve the Civic IQ?" and U.Va. politics professor Paul Freedman's "Thirty-Second Democracy: Campaign Advertising and American Elections." Harvard scholar Kiku Adatto looks at the emergence of the photo-op, and Kristine Ronan, the institute's assistant director of publications, reviews two books about the impact of political cartoons in America.

The Hedgehog Review's editors and other institute scholars choose a unifying theme for each issue and strive to present different ways of considering the theme with essays, interviews, and long and short reviews written in an accessible manner, along with photographs, art and poems. The authors come from universities and think tanks all over the country.

"We're always looking to pick topics that we feel are really important and relevant, and to present them in ways to help people think more deeply about the subject — deeper than sound-bite level," said editor Jennifer Geddes, who has been with the journal for its entire 10-year life. Past themes have included the purpose of the university, religion and violence, the fate of the arts, fear, and celebrity culture.

"We're also working … to break down some of the barriers between academic disciplines. We draw from philosophy for clarity of thought, from history to get the context over time and from literature for attention to the way things are said," said Geddes, research associate professor of religious studies.

Read Q & A with editor Jennifer Geddes, interviewed in May, online at

See the Hedgehog Review Web site for ordering information.