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Just the Facts

How "Objectivity" Came to Define American Journalism

David Mindich

If American journalism were a religion, as it has been called, then its supreme deity would be "objectivity." The high priests of the profession worship the concept, while the iconoclasts of advocacy journalism, new journalism, and cyberjournalism consider objectivity a golden calf. Meanwhile, a groundswell of tabloids and talk shows and the increasing infringement of market concerns make a renewed discussion of the validity, possibility, and aim of objectivity a crucial pursuit.

Despite its position as the orbital sun of journalistic ethics, objectivity--until now--has had no historian. David T. Z. Mindich reaches back to the nineteenth century to recover the lost history and meaning of this central tenet of American journalism. His book draws on high profile cases, showing the degree to which journalism and its evolving commitment to objectivity altered-and in some cases limited--the public's understanding of events and issues. Mindich devotes each chapter to a particular component of this ethic-detachment, nonpartisanship, the inverted pyramid style, facticity, and balance. Through this combination of history and cultural criticism, Mindich provides a profound meditation on the structure, promise, and limits of objectivity in the age of cybermedia.

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Kentucky's Rebel Press

Pro-Confederate Media and the Secession Crisis

Berry Craig

Throughout the Civil War, the influence of the popular press and its skillful use of propaganda was extremely significant in Kentucky. Union and Confederate sympathizers were scattered throughout the border slave state, and in 1860, at least twenty-eight of the commonwealth's approximately sixty newspapers were pro-Confederate, making the secessionist cause seem stronger in Kentucky than it was in reality. In addition, the impact of these "rebel presses" reached beyond the region to readers throughout the nation.

In this compelling and timely study, Berry Craig analyzes the media's role in both reflecting and shaping public opinion during a critical time in US history. Craig begins by investigating the 1860 secession crisis, which occurred at a time when most Kentuckians considered themselves ardent Unionists in support of the state's political hero, Henry Clay. But as secessionist arguments were amplified throughout the country, so were the voices of pro-Confederate journalists in the state. By January 1861, the Hickman Courier, Columbus Crescent, and Henderson Reporter steadfastly called for Kentucky to secede from the Union.

Kentucky's Rebel Press in the Secession Crisis of 1860--1861 also showcases journalists who supported the Confederate cause, including editor Walter N. Haldeman, who fled the state after Kentucky's most recognized Confederate paper, the Louisville Daily Courier, was shut down by Union forces. Exploring an intriguing and overlooked part of Civil War history, this book reveals the importance of the partisan press to the Southern cause in Kentucky.

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La quête de sens à l'heure du Web 2.0

Edited by Antoine Char

Réfléchir à la pratique journalistique à l’heure du numérique et de ses défis : tel était le but du colloque soulignant le centième anniversaire du Devoir, tenu le 11 mars 2010 à l’Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). La direction du quotidien, de même que trois de ses journalistes, ont été invités à se prononcer sur la quête de sens du monde médiatique en cette ère de grand bouleversement provoqué par l’évolution rapide des nouvelles technologies. On ne compte plus les ouvrages portant sur ce sujet, mais ceux donnant directement la parole à des « ouvriers de l’information », confrontés tous les jours à cette problématique dans la salle de rédaction, sont peu nombreux sur les rayons. Les observations de ces professionnels jetteront un éclairage différent sur la crise que traversent les médias et sur l’avenir du journalisme au moment où fusent tous les scénarios d’un monde sans journalistes.

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Language, Thought, Art and Existence

Creative Nonfictions

R. Mwanaka

This book comprises 19 creative non-fiction pieces and essays centred around the topics of language, thought, art and existence seen through the prism of practising artist in contemporary Africa. The collection continues with Zimbabwe�s Tendai Mwanaka�s creative non-fiction ideology of presenting non-fiction in a creative, fresh, easy reading, simple language. With most of the essays driven by personal stories, the author ably renders them accessible to a wide spectrum of readers from the scholarly to the journalistic and the general. The pieces are grouped according to the topics, with the language essays starting the book, followed by thought, existential, and art essays. In tune with the adage the personal is political, Mwanaka lets the personal drive these essays as he tries to investigate and conversationally navigate his thoughts, beliefs, feelings and experience on language, existence and art. This is an invaluable contribution to the academic establishment, social theorists, linguists, literary theorists, journalists, activists and the general readership.

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Learning to Live with Crime

American Crime Narrative in the Neoconservative Turn

Since the mid-1960s, the war on crime has reshaped public attitudes about state authority, criminal behavior, and the responsibilities of citizenship. But how have American writers grappled with these changes? What happens when a journalist approaches the workings of organized crime not through its legendary Godfathers but through a workaday, low-level figure who informs on his mob? Why is it that interrogation scenes have become so central to prime-time police dramas of late? What is behind writers’ recent fascination with “cold case” homicides, with private security, or with prisons? In Learning to Live with Crime, Christopher P. Wilson examines this war on crime and how it has made its way into cultural representation and public consciousness. Under the sway of neoconservative approaches to criminal justice and public safety, Americans have been urged to see crime as an inevitable risk of modern living and to accept ever more aggressive approaches to policing, private security, and punishment. The idea has been not simply to fight crime but to manage its risks; to inculcate personal vigilance in citizens; and to incorporate criminals’ knowledge through informants and intelligence gathering. At its most scandalous, this study suggests, contemporary law enforcement has even come to mimic crime’s own operations.

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Literary Journalism across the Globe

Journalistic Traditions and Transnational Influences

edited by John S. Bak and Bill Reynolds

At the end of the nineteenth century, several countries were developing journalistic traditions similar to what we identify today as literary reportage or literary journalism. Yet throughout most of the twentieth century, in particular after World War I, that tradition was overshadowed and even marginalized by the general perception among democratic states that journalism ought to be either “objective,” as in the American tradition, or “polemical,” as in the European. Nonetheless, literary journalism would survive and, at times, even thrive. How and why is a story that is unique to each nation. Though largely considered an Anglo-American phenomenon today, literary journalism has had a long and complex international history, one built on a combination of traditions and influences that are sometimes quite specific to a nation and at other times come from the blending of cultures across borders. These essays examine this phenomenon from various international perspectives, documenting literary journalism’s rich and diverse heritage and describing its development within a global context. In addition to the editors, contributors include David Abrahamson, Peiqin Chen, Clazina Dingemanse, William Dow, Rutger de Graaf, John Hartsock, Nikki Hessell, Maria Lassila-Merisalo, Edvaldo Pereira Lima, Willa McDonald, Jenny McKay, Sonja Merljak Zdovc, Sonia Parratt, Norman Sims, Isabel Soares,and Soenke Zehle.

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Literary Journalism and the Aesthetics of Experience

John C. Hartsock

Proponents and practitioners of narrative literary journalism have sought to assert its distinctiveness as both a literary form and a type of journalism. In Literary Journalism and the Aesthetics of Experience, John C. Hartsock argues that this often neglected kind of journalism—exemplified by such renowned works as John Hersey’s Hiroshima, James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem—has emerged as an important genre of its own, not just a hybrid of the techniques of fiction and the conventions of traditional journalism. Hartsock situates narrative literary journalism within the broader histories of the American tradition of “objective” journalism and the standard novel. While all embrace the value of narrative, or storytelling, literary journalism offers a particular “aesthetics of experience” lacking in both the others. Not only does literary journalism disrupt the myths sustained by conventional journalism and the novel, but its rich details and attention to everyday life question readers’ cultural assumptions. Drawing on the critical theories of Nietzsche, Bakhtin, Benjamin, and others, Hartsock argues that the aesthetics of experience challenge the shibboleths that often obscure the realities the other two forms seek to convey. At a time when print media appear in decline, Hartsock offers a thoughtful response to those who ask, “What place if any is there for a narrative literary journalism in a rapidly changing media world?”

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Literary Journalism on Trial

Masson v. New Yorker and the First Amendment

Kathy Roberts Forde

In November 1984, Jeffrey Masson filed a libel suit against writer Janet Malcolm and the New Yorker, claiming that Malcolm had intentionally misquoted him in a profile she wrote for the magazine about his former career as a Freud scholar and administrator of the Freud archives. Over the next twelve years the case moved up and down the federal judicial ladder, at one point reaching the U.S. Supreme Court, as lawyers and judges wrestled with questions about the representation of “truth” in journalism and, by extension, the limits of First Amendment protections of free speech. Had a successful Freudian scholar actually called himself an “intellectual gigolo” and “the greatest analyst who ever lived”? Or had a respected writer for the New Yorker knowingly placed false, self-damning words in her subject's mouth? In Literary Journalism on Trial, Kathy Roberts Forde explores the implications of Masson v. New Yorker in the context of the history of American journalism. She shows how the case represents a watershed moment in a long debate between the advocates of traditional and literary journalism and explains how it reflects a significant intellectual project of the period: the postmodern critique of objectivity, with its insistence on the instability of language and rejection of unitary truth in human affairs. The case, Forde argues, helped widen the perceived divide between ideas of literary and traditional journalism and forced the resolution of these conflicting conceptions of truth in the constitutional arena of libel law. By embracing traditional journalism's emphasis on fact and objectivity and rejecting a broader understanding of truth, the Supreme Court turned away from the First Amendment theory articulated in previous rulings, opting to value less the free, uninhibited interchange of ideas necessary to democracy and more the “trustworthiness” of public expression. The Court's decision in this case thus had implications that reached beyond the legal realm to the values and norms expressed in the triangular relationship between American democracy, First Amendment principles, and the press.

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Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette

An Oral History

Edited by Roy Reed

With a legendary beginning as a printing press floated up the Arkansas River in 1819, the Arkansas Gazette is inextricably linked with the state’s history, reporting on every major Arkansas event until the paper’s demise in 1991 after a long, bitter, and very public newspaper war. Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette, knowledgeably and intimately edited by longtime Gazette reporter Roy Reed, comprises interviews from over a hundred former Gazette staffers recalling the stories they reported on and the people they worked with from the late forties to the paper’s end. The result is a nostalgic and justifiably admiring look back at a publication known for its progressive stance in a conservative Southern state, a newspaper that, after winning two Pulitzers for its brave rule-of-law stance during the Little Rock Central High Crisis, was considered one of the country’s greatest. The interviews, collected from archives at the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History at the University of Arkansas, provide fascinating details on renowned editors and reporters such as Harry Ashmore, Orville Henry, and Charles Portis, journalists who wrote daily on Arkansas’s always-colorful politicians, its tragic disasters and sensational crimes, its civil rights crises, Bill Clinton, the Razorbacks sports teams, and much more. Full of humor and little-known details, Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette is a fascinating remembrance of a great newspaper.

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The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner

Ron Rapoport

Ring Lardner’s influence on American letters is arguably greater than that of any other American writer in the early part of the twentieth century. Lauded by critics and the public for his groundbreaking short stories, Lardner was also the country’s best-known journalist in the 1920s and early 1930s, when his voice was all but inescapable in American newspapers and magazines. Lardner’s trenchant, observant, sly, and cynical writing style, along with a deep understanding of human foibles, made his articles wonderfully readable and his words resonate to this day.

Ron Rapoport has gathered the best of Lardner’s journalism from his earliest days at the South Bend Times through his years at the Chicago Tribune and his weekly column for the Bell Syndicate, which appeared in 150 newspapers and reached eight million readers. In these columns Lardner not only covered the great sporting events of the era—from Jack Dempsey’s fights to the World Series and even an America’s Cup—he also wrote about politics, war, and Prohibition, as well as parodies, poems, and penetrating observations on American life.

The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner reintroduces this journalistic giant and his work and shows Lardner to be the rarest of writers: a spot-on chronicler of his time and place who remains contemporary to subsequent generations.
 

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