Chapter 10. The late-night TV talk show as a strategic genre in American political campaigning

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This chapter focuses on the functions and properties of the American late-night TV talk show as used during the 2008 presidential campaign. It analyses some interviews with presidential candidates (Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain) broadcast on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman, CNN’s Larry King Live and NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno in order to demonstrate the ways the talk show’s generic conventions tend to be recruited to suit politicians’ aims. This case study illustrates how the semi-institutional nature of the talk show allows candidates to implement such campaigning strategies as the performance of sociability, the management of impressions, the manufacture of authenticity, and the tactical maneuvering between institutional and personal discourse. The study identifies and critiques some discursive practices enabled by the talk show’s generic formula which can be used manipulatively by campaigners.


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