A Narrative History of a Nation's Journalism
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Preface: A Note on Methods
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A central theme of this book is that in order to understand the news business, it is important to understand the news as a business. I have tried to pay attention, first and foremost, to the economics of this field. The fundamental fact about the news business in America is that it has been conducted, overwhelmingly...
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On an early spring night in 1722, a young man hurried along the narrow streets of Boston, trying not to be seen. He was not a spy or a thief. He only wanted to be a writer. Just sixteen years old, Ben Franklin was hoping to get his writing published for the first time, and he had chosen a risky, roundabout route...
Part I: The Press, 1704–1920
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1. Foundations of the American Press, 1704–1763: Franklin and His Contemporaries
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When young Ben Franklin was learning the printer’s trade in the early eighteenth century, the business of putting out a newspaper was still a new one in North America. As the early settlers along the Atlantic coast started establishing their farms and towns, they brought with them a cultural inheritance...
2. Printers Take Sides, 1763–1832
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The fate of North America and all its peoples—whether they spoke English, French, or Spanish; Mandinka or Yoruba; Navajo or Cherokee; Creole, German, or Russian—was decided on September 13, 1759, when General James Wolfe and his British troops sneaked up the cliffs of Quebec...
3. Putting the News in Newspapers, 1833–1850
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Deep changes were coming. Without any program or ultimate purpose guiding them, a number of people, acting independently during the first decades of the nineteenth century, came up with inventions or made new social arrangements that, taken together, had the effect of setting...
4. Radicals All! 1830–1875 : Covering Slavery and the Civil War
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The prospect of an American army taking the field to do battle is a dreadful one. Even more terrible to contemplate is the prospect of two American armies taking the field, prepared to slaughter each other unceasingly until one can claim ultimate victory. Such was the military face...
5. Crusaders and Conservatives, 1875–1912 : Journalism in Yellow and Gray
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After the great battlefield triumphs by Northern armies at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, the Union’s ultimate victory was practically assured. President Lincoln, however, still faced a pressing problem: his army had suffered so many casualties that summer that he would need many...
6. Professionalizing the News in Peace and War, 1900–1920
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By the time H. L. Mencken pondered that question in his memoir of his early days in the newspaper business, a campaign had long been under way to try to elevate the practice of journalism in America, largely by improving the training of each new crop of reporters...
Part II: The Media, 1920–
7. Jazz Age Journalism, 1920–1929 : Magazines and Radio Challenge the Newspaper
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In the early 1920s, in New York City alone there were seventeen English-language daily newspapers.1 Philadelphia and Chicago each had six. Most cities, and even a lot of small towns, had several, often with more than one edition. The total number of daily newspapers in the country...
8. Hard Times, 1929–1941 : Three Great Columnists, Two Great Reporters, One Horrible Decade
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In the 1930s and early 1940s, the news started off bad and just kept getting worse. Two major stories dominated the coverage. At home, the collapse of the U.S. economy caused misery and dislocation on an unprecedented scale. The New Deal and other attempts by the Roosevelt...
9. The “Good War,” 1941–1945
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In 1941 the Axis powers made two key mistakes. In June, Hitler shredded his treaty with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union, an act of arrogance that essentially doomed the Third Reich. Six months later, Japan attacked the United States Navy. On the morning of December...
10. Creating Big Media, 1945–1963
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From the start, Ed Murrow was skeptical about television news. By the end of World War II, Murrow was the king of news on the radio, and radio was riding high. Over the previous twenty years, radio news had arrived. It now had stature, it had immediacy, and it had sponsors. Radio had become powerful and...
11. Rocking the Establishment, 1962–1972
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In the fall of 1962, a young correspondent arrived in Vietnam to take over the Saigon bureau of the New York Times. The new man was David Halberstam, and he was succeeding a reporter who was a living legend: Homer Bigart. Having covered both World War...
12. The Establishment Holds, 1967–1974
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By 1967 the United States was deeply involved in Vietnam. Since the big buildup of forces ordered by President Johnson in 1965, the number of U.S. combat troops had grown to exceed half a million. No longer just advisers, Americans were now fighting the war themselves, and...
13. Big Media Get Bigger, 1980–1999
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By the end of the twentieth century, the news business was, in economic terms, beyond mature. It was almost senescent, having begun in the fifteenth century and having long ago brought to a point of logical fulfillment a business and professional model that appeared to guarantee...
14. Going Digital, 1995–
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By the 1990s, the news media had entered something like a Late Cretaceous period: enormous dinosaurs, having evolved to unprecedented sizes, roamed the landscape. They had adapted magnificently to their environment, and they appeared to be the crowning achievement of all creation. They filled almost every...
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In recent years, the economic problems facing most of the mainstream news media grew so severe that many people began to ask, Does journalism have a future? Were we seeing the “end of news”?1 Beneath the “froth and scum” of each hour’s headlines about the news...
Appendix : Major Periods in the History of U.S. Journalism
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In a work of this scale, a writer accumulates many debts. My debts are certainly numerous and deep, and I want to acknowledge them. Covering America builds on many preceding studies, and I am the first to recognize that this book rests on decades of previous scholarship...
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Page Count: 576
Publication Year: 2012