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William O'Rourke's singular view of American life over the past 40 years shines forth in these short essays on subjects personal, political, and literary, which reveal a man of keen intellect and wide-ranging interests. They embrace everything from the state of the nation after 9/11 to the author's encounter with rap, from the masterminds of political makeovers to the rich variety of contemporary American writing. His reviews illuminate both the books themselves and the times in which we live, and his personal reflections engage even the most fearful events with a special humor and gentle pathos. Readers will find this richly rewarding volume difficult to put down.
Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball
A Narrative History of a Nation's Journalism
Today many believe that American journalism is in crisis, with traditional sources of news under siege from a failing business model, a resurgence of partisanship, and a growing expectation that all information ought to be free. In Covering America, Christopher B. Daly places the current crisis within a much broader historical context, showing how it is only the latest in a series of transitions that have required journalists to devise new ways of plying their trade. Drawing on original research and synthesizing the latest scholarship, Daly traces the evolution of journalism in America from the early 1700s to the “digital revolution” of today. Analyzing the news business as a business, he identifies five major periods of journalism history, each marked by a different response to the recurrent conflicts that arise when a vital cultural institution is housed in a major private industry. Throughout his narrative history Daly captures the ethos of journalism with engaging anecdotes, biographical portraits of key figures, and illuminating accounts of the coverage of major news events as well as the mundane realities of day-to-day reporting.
People and Press in Meiji Japan
No institution did more to create a modern citizenry than the newspaper press of the Meiji period (1868-1912). Here was a collection of highly diverse, private voices that provided increasing numbers of readers--many millions by the end of the period--with both its fresh picture of the world and a changing sense of its own place in that world. Creating a Public is the first comprehensive history of Japan's early newspaper press to appear in English in more than half a century. Drawing on decades of research in newspaper articles and editorials, journalists' memoirs and essays, it tells the story of Japan's newspaper press from its elitist beginnings just before the fall of the Tokugawa regime through its years as a shaper of a new political system in the 1880s to its emergence as a nationalistic, often sensational, medium early in the twentieth century.
The Curious History of the Boston Athenaeum
Founded in 1807, the successor to a literary club called the Anthology Society, the Boston Athenaeum occupies an important place in the early history of American intellectual life. At first a repository for books, to which works of art were later added, the Athenaeum attracted over time a following that included such literary luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry James. Yet from the outset, Katherine Wolff shows, the Boston Athenaeum was more than a library; it was also a breeding ground for evolving notions of cultural authority and American identity. Though governed by the Boston elite, who promoted it as a way of strengthening their own clout in the city, the early Athenaeum reflected conflicting and at times contradictory aims and motives on the part of its membership. On the one hand, by drawing on European aesthetic models to reinforce an exalted sense of mission, Athenaeum leaders sought to establish themselves as guardians of a nascent American culture. On the other, they struggled to balance their goals with their concerns about an increasingly democratic urban populace. As the Boston Athenaeum opened its doors to women as well as men outside its inner circle, it eventually began to define itself against a more accessible literary institution, the Boston Public Library. Told through a series of provocative episodes and generously illustrated, Culture Club offers a more complete picture than previously available of the cultural politics behind the making of a quintessentially American institution.
LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics
The grainy black-and-white television ad shows a young girl in a flower-filled meadow, holding a daisy and plucking its petals, which she counts one by one. As the camera slowly zooms in on her eye, a man’s solemn countdown replaces hers. At zero the little girl’s eye is engulfed by an atomic mushroom cloud. As the inferno roils in the background, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s voice intones, “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” In this thought-provoking and highly readable book, Robert Mann provides a concise, engaging study of the “Daisy Girl” ad, widely acknowledged as the most important and memorable political ad in American history. Commissioned by Johnson’s campaign and aired only once during Johnson’s 1964 presidential contest against Barry Goldwater, it remains an iconic piece of electoral propaganda, intertwining cold war fears of nuclear annihilation with the increasingly savvy world of media and advertising. Mann presents a nuanced view of how Johnson’s campaign successfully cast Barry Goldwater as a radical too dangerous to control the nation’s nuclear arsenal, a depiction that sparked immediate controversy across the United States. Repeatedly analyzed in countless books and articles, the spot purportedly destroyed Goldwater’s presidential campaign. Although that degree of impact on the Goldwater campaign is debatable, what is certain is that the ad ushered in a new era of political advertising using emotional appeals as a routine aspect of campaign strategy.
McCarthyism Aimed at the Press
Dark Days in the Newsroom traces how journalists became radicalized during the Depression era, only to become targets of Senator Joseph McCarthy and like-minded anti-Communist crusaders during the 1950s. Edward Alwood, a former news correspondent describes this remarkable story of conflict, principle, and personal sacrifice with noticeable élan. He shows how McCarthy's minions pried inside newsrooms thought to be sacrosanct under the First Amendment, and details how journalists mounted a heroic defense of freedom of the press while others secretly enlisted in the government's anti-communist crusade.
Relying on previously undisclosed documents from FBI files, along with personal interviews, Alwood provides a richly informed commentary on one of the most significant moments in the history of American journalism. Arguing that the experiences of the McCarthy years profoundly influenced the practice of journalism, he shows how many of the issues faced by journalists in the 1950s prefigure today's conflicts over the right of journalists to protect their sources.
The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter
Elizabeth Thompson’s hearing loss was detected when she was in elementary school, and her hearing continued to deteriorate until she became completely deaf. Like many other hard of hearing and late-deafened individuals, her hearing loss complicated the general challenges of life. She struggled through school, worked as a secretary, married, had a daughter, and then found herself living as a single mother. She remarried, and soon after learned that she had contracted Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Despite these hurdles, Thompson always expressed her determination to enjoy the best life had to offer. Her astonishing exuberance might have gone unnoticed if she hadn’t accepted a new position as a reporter/columnist in 1998 for the Suburban News Publications (SNP). Day by Day: The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter presents a marvelous blend of her experiences and best SNP columns that illustrate how she created her remarkable outlook. In her columns, Thompson presented how she handled her hearing loss as a personal guide for readers. She used every stratagem available to function full-throttle – hearing aids, FM systems, lights for alarms, TTYs, even training her dog Snert. She also gently counseled readers on how to treat deaf and hard of hearing people with practical consideration and respect. Her pursuit of a fully realized life enabled her to do what she loved most, to meet and write about inspiring persons, many of whom are profiled in her memoir. Thompson eventually underwent cochlear implantation that restored 95% of her hearing, an exalting moment for her. Yet, Day by Day celebrates the entire arc of her life, a wonderful testament to her joyous resilience.
The Antebellum Vision of a New South
In the decades preceding the Civil War, the South struggled against widespread negative characterizations of its economy and society as it worked to match the North's infrastructure and level of development. Recognizing the need for regional reform, James Dunwoody Brownson (J. D. B.) De Bow began to publish a monthly journal -- De Bow's Review -- to guide Southerners toward a stronger, more diversified future. His periodical soon became a primary reference for planters and entrepreneurs in the Old South, promoting urban development and industrialization and advocating investment in schools, libraries, and other cultural resources. Later, however, De Bow began to use his journal to manipulate his readers' political views. Through inflammatory articles, he defended proslavery ideology, encouraged Southern nationalism, and promoted anti-Union sentiment, eventually becoming one of the South's most notorious fire-eaters.
In De Bow's Review: The Antebellum Vision of a New South, author John Kvach explores how the editor's antebellum economic and social policies influenced Southern readers and created the framework for a postwar New South movement. By recreating subscription lists and examining the lives and livelihoods of 1,500 Review readers, Kvach demonstrates how De Bow's Review influenced a generation and a half of Southerners. This approach allows modern readers to understand the historical context of De Bow's editorial legacy. Ultimately, De Bow and his antebellum subscribers altered the future of their region by creating the vision of a New South long before the Civil War.
Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting
In 1961, equipped with a master’s degree from famed Columbia Journalism School and letters of introduction to Associated Press bureau chiefs in Asia, twenty-six-year-old Beverly Deepe set off on a trip around the world. Allotting just two weeks to South Vietnam, she was still there seven years later, having then earned the distinction of being the longest-serving American correspondent covering the Vietnam War and garnering a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
In Death Zones and Darling Spies, Beverly Deepe Keever describes what it was like for a farm girl from Nebraska to find herself halfway around the world, trying to make sense of one of the nation’s bloodiest and bitterest wars. She arrived in Saigon as Vietnam’s war entered a new phase and American helicopter units and provincial advisers were unpacking. She tells of traveling from her Saigon apartment to jungles where Wild West–styled forts first dotted Vietnam’s borders and where, seven years later, they fell like dominoes from communist-led attacks. In 1965 she braved elephant grass with American combat units armed with unparalleled technology to observe their valor—and their inability to distinguish friendly farmers from hide-and-seek guerrillas.
Keever’s trove of tissue-thin memos to editors, along with published and unpublished dispatches for New York and London media, provide the reader with you-are-there descriptions of Buddhist demonstrations and turning-point coups as well as phony ones. Two Vietnamese interpreters, self-described as “darling spies,” helped her decode Vietnam’s shadow world and subterranean war. These memoirs, at once personal and panoramic, chronicle the horrors of war and a rise and decline of American power and prestige.