MEDIA HISTORY: A SUMMARY GUIDE
by R. Woodruff
Sources: Denis McQuail, Mass Communication Theory.
Frank Luther Mott, American
Journalism. Michael Schudson, Discovering the News: A Social History of
American Newspaper. Erik Barnouw, Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American
Television. Mitchell Stephens, A History of News: from the Drum to the
Satellite. Edwin and Michael Emery, The Press and
This brief history deals with how mass communication evolved, how storytelling by nearly everyone in society specialized into storytelling as a trade and eventually a profession, and how the increasing complexity and specialization of society created a need for information that people were willing to pay for. The focus of this account is the newspaper, a relatively recent medium that nonetheless became the model of media designed for an audience that is more interested in information than entertainment and shaped the newer examples in broadcast and even Web sites. But newspapers had many precursors and the job of "information producer" arrived at its present form through some twists and turns. A look at some of those twists and turns helps us understand why the producer, and the product, behave the way they do today.
THE PROBLEM OF AN AUDIENCE
Mass communication begins with an audience of more than one. The individual "communication model" is the dyad, or two-person exchange. It allows for a kind of intimacy that the mass audience model never approaches, even if the members of the dyad are having a fight.
As soon as anyone begins to address an ``audience” – two or more people listening at the same time – mass communication is born, and the speaker has to choose words, language and structure that will achieve her or his purpose for all listeners.
Why would two or more people hold still to listen to one speaker? Mitchell Stephens suggests that there is a human "thirst to know," but we don’t have to romanticize it. People need information to live: Where is the food? Who is dangerous? What don’t I know that can hurt or help me? People who have that information get listened to – especially, we should note, if those people have reputations for reliable reporting.
preliterate societies the news producer was already special. In some societies
the news producer was a rhapsode or griot or one of a thousand other names
suggesting wisdom, experience and cultural memory. Homer was one of the rhapsodes. Griots memorized, recited and preserved the
12th-century epic of
suggests that the news values in preliterate societies, word of mouth, were
similar to those of today, but when he says they included "proximity"
we might think that’s a stretch. Getting "the local angle" into a
story is the gesture made by a large media organization to assure a part of its
audience that it hasn’t lost touch with the fine details of life in the total
coverage area – The Washington Post
But the most elaborate communication networks in preliterate cultures were arranged to get news from afar. After Shaka Zulu unified the Zulu nation, the news network was quite official. Runners were employed by the king to take news from the throne to the people. "They were rarely channels of dissent," Stephens notes.
And isolated communities thirsted for news from afar, especially if it could affect their safety. During the time of the Great Fear during the 1789 French Revolution, villages sent residents on missions to the nearest city to get news: "Was it true that the king’s forces were indiscriminately slaughtering peasants wherever they went?"
When the written word entered the picture, the nature of the audience shifted slightly. The producer no longer was able to read the faces and body languages of the audience to know how to adjust the discourse. More guesswork was involved in crafting a message that would have maximum impact on a (perhaps) known but unseen group of people.
Early writing as it appeared in ancient Sumer was pictographic and, we find, mostly involved with trade – keeping track of numbers of jars of oil, communicating to a factor on the other end of the caravan route what he might expect to find in the shipment. The audience was narrow.
Where Sumerian writing was ideograms (cunieform), the people who became the Phoenicians created an alphabet in about 1500 B.C.E. and, at about the time 750 years later that the memorized-and-sung epics we call Homer’s were being written down, the Greeks added vowels to the trade alphabet.
But the first identifiable news had to be left to the Romans. They had an empire that was large and lasted (unlike Alexander the Great’s) a long time. Information needed to travel the roads of the empire swiftly, so the mails were an imperial institution.
THE ROMAN SOLUTION
Roman rulers wanted to preserve at least the illusion of
popular, democratic support and posted what were called the acta
Though none of these documents have survived independently, the portrait of them appearing in other surviving Roman writings show some important advances in the direction of what we call "news.", Though they began as straight propaganda about the wonderful works of the government, the copyists who reproduced and sold them appear to have added human interest stories and outright gossip to make them more salable. We think of hand-copying such documents as the slow, lifetime task of medieval monks but in fact, Stephens relates, Roman copyists working in teams were able to turn out a thousand copies of such a document in a very short time.
early Chinese empires (beginning in the third century B.C.E. and then, after a
hiatus, resuming in the seventh century C.E.) had an equally large territory to
administer and sent out rather similar newsletters from the heart of the empire
to provincial governors to keep them up on events. They included gossip, but do
not seem to have slipped into the private sector as did the Roman acta
latter Tang dynasty some of the ti pao
were actually printed by block printing, rather than copied. But, as Stephens points
out, the ti pao were not for public
consumption, but very much internal communication for the literate civil
service class. Certainly the constraints on public literacy of an ideographic
writing system – which still weighs down literacy in
With the introduction of printing in the West around the 15th century C.E., a more public form of information called the "newsbook" appeared. Unlike newspapers, these pamphlets usually described only one thing – perhaps a king’s triumphal visit to another country – and were usually subsidized by the subject, for whose propaganda benefit it was produced – like today’s political advertising.
Presses, unlike pen and ink, were expensive to own and hard to hide, so the powerful found it easy to control the printed product. Licensing and exclusive printing patents were used to keep the printers following the party line. As the newsbook evolved into pamphlets and "broadsides," the occasional subversive production frequently came from religious dissidents, but seldom more than once.
Newsbooks, pamphlets and the like were one-shot products and often appealed to readers with outlandish reports of wonders – two-headed animals, or people. Early versions of periodicals called corantos evolved along with the newsbooks; they came out more than once but irregularly, and often leaned heavily on commercial news to make themselves salable to those who had money – the merchant class.
The next step was a printed product that came out regularly, so it wouldn’t have to re-introduce itself to an audience every time. That was the newspaper, the medium that built an audience (and vice versa).
THE NEWSPAPER MODEL
The history of news media is basically the history of the development of a public definition of "news". By that we mean that news, unlike literature, has an immediate audience of consumers who believe they know what they want and need. This audience has developed expectations and demands about news to which the news media have had to respond. So the media of mass communication -- as a storeful of products -- have developed in the mirror of what the public wants in its news.
That public definition of news developed, until quite recently, along with the rise of newspapers. Most of our ideas about news (including what is done in radio, television and the emerging electronic infotechnologies) come from the history of newspapers.
newspapers that appeared to be distinct from the commercial newsletters that
preceded them appeared in
Newspapers, like other media of mass communications, have these general components as set out by Denis McQuail: (1) a technology; (2) "the political, social, economic and cultural situation of a society", (3) a set of "activities, functions or needs" and (4) people, especially as they behave in groups.
This completely sociological definition, which could apply just as well to the automobile, nevertheless lets us know that media evolved throughout their part of modern history in order to meet some need, usually connected with other parts of a developing market society. Media provide information about where and how to get things and how to cope with the requirements of life in society. As the society gets more "advanced" they become market tools, informing the public not only on where and how to get things but where and how to get them most cheaply; informing the public on the role of other big institutions, especially including government, in their daily lives.
The first newspapers had as their features regularity, a price on the cover, multiple purposes including information and entertainment, and a "public or open character." Some were independently published and others were published by government and so had an "official word" character as well as the other features mentioned. The London Gazette, founded in 1665 and generally accounted the first British newspaper, was reprinted in the colonies and coffee-houses imported copies of it and kept them on file for their patrons.
The society in which these newspapers evolved was itself evolving: becoming more urbanized (easy distribution for newspapers) and more "commercial" (more goods exchanged for currency rather than made at home or bartered; hence more incentive to have good information on the part of the increasingly specialized producers and sellers, as well as for increasingly sophisticated consumers).
AMERICAN NEWSPAPERS BEFORE AND AFTER THE REVOLUTION
In the colonies, newspapers grew out of newsletters and in
fact the first regularly appearing newspaper, in
According to Edwin and Michael Emery’s The Press and America, the Courant only lasted five years but James Franklin pioneered in an important way – publishing a newspaper that explicitly was not published “by the authority” of any government licensing agency and signaling an independent press.
Newspapers that were not controlled by government developed an independent stance that was often a thorn in the side of officials, and the history of newspapers in many countries was one of hard-won freedom through struggles with censorship. The conflict between commercial and/or popular success and political independence may have caused a temporary sorting-out of roles in the newspaper business that occurred in many countries, including the U.S.-- a division of the business into the political party press, the commercial "penny press," as it was called in this country and the
smaller but still highly important commercial newspapers, of which The Wall Street Journal is a survivor.
the Revolution, the 1734 trial of John Peter Zenger, printer of a
By 1765 most newspapers were printed on larger sheets, 11 by 17 or about the size of tabloids today, and nearly all were published by printers who had many other jobs on their minds and didn't make a lot of their money as newspaper publishers. News was gathered from ship captains and most news stories began by citing the source-- a recently arrived ship-- before going on to the actual point of the story. Thus began the practice of establishing the credibility of information. Today's television news "establishing shot" is the direct descendant. Local news seems to have been downplayed in the colonial press because, as Mott says, "towns were so small that everybody knew what was going on".
The growth of newspapers in the first years of the new nation was heavily on the political or "party press" side. At this time editors became important, because the press had moved beyond the unsystematic printing of whatever came across the printer's desk.
became troops in the political wars of the day. The conflict between Alexander
Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson over the character of the new nation is reflected
in several facts:
effects of the Zenger case, the early republic’s laws included prohibitions
against "seditious libel," meaning writing critically about public
officials and their conduct. Though the pro-government, anti-press law grew out
of English common-law traditions, seditious libel was actually abolished in
AN ERA OF RAPID GROWTH
By 1830 the
sure why newspaper circulation during this period expanded much faster than
population. Increased literacy, new cheaper printing methods and the growth of
commercial advertising all had a part. But whatever the reason, as Schudson points
out, the readership of newspapers during this period expanded outside an
educated, commercial elite: ". . . for the first time, the newspapers
reflected not just politics or commerce but social life." European observers from this point on in the
nineteenth century expressed repeated astonishment at the wide readership and
influence of the press in
Nevertheless the period from Jefferson to Jackson-- about 1800 to 1830-- was called by Mott the "Dark Ages" because of the highly partisan stance of many newspapers, and the unparalleled "scurrility and vulgar attack on personal character" in which they engaged. The editor of a newspaper established specifically to be a pro-Jackson organ "could blister his opponent with a paragraph," said Mott.
PENNY PAPERS AND THE RISE OF THE "BOURGEOIS PRESS"
In 1833 the first successful "penny paper," the
The penny dailies changed the idea of news. News was now local, it was sensational (with a heavy emphasis on crime and police reporting), and it had human interest. National news occasionally took to the fore; war correspondents became heroes during the Mexican War, though they still had to file their dispatches by pony express. Telegraph service began in 1844, two years before the war began, but spread slowly. In 1848 the Associated Press was formed to take advantage of quick transmission and cut deals for lower group telegraph rates.
purely commercial newspapers and the more restrained party press began to
decline, some of the penny papers evolved into what McQuail calls the high
point and model of what we mean by the press, the "19th-century bourgeois
newspaper". An early example was Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, often counted the most important antislavery
voice in the years leading up to and including the Civil War. Other newspapers
followed suit, seeking a "factual" news presentation and stressing
their reliability. Leading the change
was printing technology, which pushed newspapers to excesses of self-congratulation.
Multiple "decks" of headlines, usually praising the daily's speedy
methods of acquiring news, filled up space until "it was only in the last
quarter of the column that the reader began to find the facts of the
story," Mott says. The size of pages, originally increased in
"professionalism" is the theme of Michael Schudson's history of the
Nevertheless it was well-known editors who accomplished the increase in overall influence of the press -- especially the big-city dailies -- after the defining national experience of the Civil War. Charles A. Dana and the New York Sun led the way to a higher profile for both good and ill as the penny press got respectability and readership by adding functions of the commercial and opinion press.
In his development of the "human interest" story as the key feature of the Sun, Dana established a fact- or at least reality-based journalism that de-emphasized the importance of "important" people and elevated the everyday lives or ordinary people to near-literary stature. If sometimes this meant realistic storytelling rather than actual facts,
well . . .
Michael Schudson describes the public's need for such a connection in a rapidly urbanizing society in the terms that his fellow sociologists have advanced: community evolving into mass society. In mass society, the individual has more independence but paradoxically feels cut off from the comforting connections of the small town. "People came unstuck from the cake of custom, found chances to form individual personalities, and faced new possibilities of impersonality in the social relations of modern life," says Schudson.
Mitchell Stephens suggests that the elements of news in oral, preliterate societies were similar to those used now in mass media, including "proximity" – the principle that the closer the news comes to home, the more important it was to the audience.
This seems a little bit of stretch for convenience. In preliterate, village societies, most people already knew what was going on locally – the real interest was in getting news from far away that nevertheless might impact the local community. By contrast, today’s big news organizations seek ``the local angle” on the news to reassure the audience that the news organization has not lost touch with the neighborhood. Proximity in news is almost a ritual gesture to validate the distant news organization as relevant to the individual in the audience.
When news breaks down – as it did during the Great Fear in the agricultural provinces of France at the time of the 1789 Revolution – villages chose men to walk to the nearest large town and actively seek news to counter or confirm the rumors of indiscriminate slayings by the army that were convulsing the countryside.
ECONOMIES OF SCALE IN URBAN NEWS
Technology and economics made the mass-produced newspaper the right new form of "making connections" at the right historical time. Urbanization packed the potential audience closely together, making papers easy to distribute. And people packed together created new kinds of stories, with happy and unhappy endings.
in the post-war 19th century developed an establishment acceptance that
resulted from several trends. There was an increasing emphasis on fact and
reliability of news, in the news columns, and an increasing distinction between
news pages and opinion pages. There was also an increase in the economic status
of large newspaper companies and chains, which grew slowly in the late 19th
century and then came to dominate the newspaper industry in the l930s. As
newspapers and their owners became richer, they became more likely to be part
of the establishment. A socialist like
out that the libel laws, usually based in state not federal rulings and varying
from place to place, generally got less restrictive and intimidating as the end
of the 19th century approached. Constraints on the press, especially in smaller
and wilder venues, often harked back to Benjamin Franklin's half-serious
suggestion that offending editors should be beaten up. At its worst, editors
were persecuted and even executed for their ?radical? politics, like the anarchist editors hung in
THE ROOTS OF THE MODERN NEWSPAPER AND THE IDEA OF NEWS
Nearly everything we know or believe about newspapers today
is based in the "high bourgeois" 19th-century newspaper model characterized
by a professional stance and a reverence for facts, objectivity, fairness and
the "public (or national) interest". Most of the internal rules of
broadcast news come from that model also, as does the notion of the journalist
as professional. By 1866, Mott reports,
bylines for reporters were becoming increasingly common. Richard Harding Davis,
who reported for Hearst on the Spanish-American War from
Meanwhile advances in press technology pushed the potential of mass-circulation newspapers. They included Hoe's invention of the one-piece stereotyped printing plate for rotary presses (1861), Ottmar Mergenthaler's pathbreaking
linotype machine, which ended the need to set type by hand, letter by letter (1886) and the replacement of rags by wood pulp as the basis for newsprint and the creation of "web" (continuous rolls) of paper that could print at high speeds on the rotary press (1860s and 1870s).
flourished. Woodcut cartoons by Thomas Nast helped bring down the corrupt
1870 and 1890, circulation of
Newspapers became big. From the pages per edition that characterized the early penny dailies, Pulitzer's New York World was publishing up to 24 pages daily and 48 Sunday in the 1890s. E.W. Scripps pioneered the idea of chain ownership, owning in whole or part 34 papers in 15 states during the 1890-1910 era.
first decade of the new century, a notable departure was the expansion of an
explicitly African-American press into standard newspaper formats. Early
versions such as Frederick Douglass's North
Star had been advocacy publications. But papers like the Chicago Defender and
COURTS AND THE PRESS
Though the sedition laws and libel concerns dogged the press
slightly throughout the 19th century, it wasn't until World War I that
political divisions within the increasingly diverse
The role of the postal service in delivering newspapers became a constraint on press freedom during the Great War, when German-language and socialist newspapers were denied mailing privileges.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes set the first markers in several decisions (including dissents, when he was on the losing side) of that period. He introduced the ?marketplace of ideas? theory set out earlier by the poet John Milton in
This was the
first high court signal on "prior restraint" of the press -- stopping
publication. The definitive decision came in the case of Jay Near, a publisher
of a weekly newspaper in
THE BABY THAT GREW-- BROADCASTING
Meanwhile, the news medium that would challenge and threaten
newspapers in their dominance of the field made its first baby steps-- one of
the first of them at the instigation of a newspaper. The young genius Marconi
came to the
Great War, U.S. companies struggled to control the technology but the
thousands of amateurs ("ham" operators) talking to each other over
the airwaves and building their own radio sets made it impossible to keep the
possibilities of the new format held closely. One Westinghouse engineer, in his
spare time, began "broadcasting" from his garage in
Barnouw notes in his Tube of Plenty,
the first deliberate broadcast (in Pittsburgh) happened on election night 1920,
ironically providing rapid updates on the contest for president between two
newspaper publishers-- Warren G. Harding and James Cox. It represented the
followed rapidly. The first "commercials" were broadcast in 1922,
marking a decision to support broadcast that way rather than by the British
scheme of publicly owned broadcast stations supported by a special sales tax on
radio (and later TV) sets. By 1925, five million homes had radios, and in 1927
the federal government made the first of its many moves to regulate and control
the profusion of stations on the air. As a result the large companies pushing
broadcast-- Westinghouse, AT&T, RCA and General Electric-- formed the
National Broadcasting Company (NBC) to avoid antitrust prosecution. In 1928 the
first tentative television broadcasts were an
exotic event, and the first "talking" motion picture, The Jazz Singer, was released by
In 1934 the
twenties and thirties were the heyday of
The 1930s and ?40s
were years of the dominance of radio, while television grew its wings. Millions
listened faithfully to radio drama serials, both adults and children, and radio
news flourished, especially during World War II when the public was hungry for
signs of victory and broadcasters like Edward R. Murrow from
Broadcast organizations needed radio profits to support the development of television, so in the mid- and late 1940s radio gradually lost its diversity along with its dramatic-- and news-- programs. Instead, music programs with disc jockeys-- a very cheap form of programming-- took over the radio bands in the late forties and early fifties.
storytelling moved to television and movie attendance dropped like a rock--
down 20 to 40 percent in cities with television stations. From 1952 to 1956 the
number of TV stations climbed from just over 100 to over 500, and
Because television-- and before it, radio-- specialized in telling good dramatic stories, the bias in broadcast news has always leaned in the same direction. Just at the time when newspapers moved away from dramatic presentation (as in the penny press) and stuck to the facts-- sometimes to the edge of being very boring-- broadcast used its unusual advantages and traditions to move in the opposite direction. The tension between these two different ways of communicating has persisted, as we shall see below.
THE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY MATURES AND DWINDLES
Broadcasting had gone from nothing to a giant industry based
on seemingly magic technology in the fifty years since Marconi made his trip to
THE WIRED WORLD
he introduction and amazing growth of the Internet -- which increases in size faster than the rate at which new knowledge is produced, which gives you the idea there is some padding in there -- is the communications phenomenon of the last ten years. At the same time, it is good to remember that access to the 'Net is still limited, that it stratifies sharply along class, race and income lines, and that it represents the cultural mind-set of its creators, European white males. But it must be acknowledged that getting "published" on the Net -- with a potentially massive audience of self-selected information seekers -- represents just about the cheapest access to a truly mass audience that has occurred in the history of mass media.
SO, HOW DO YOU DO NEWS, REALLY?
Our survey has shown
us that the idea of news and the way to "do" it has developed as an
arrangement between the audience and the providers. The providers, of course,
are businesses in a market society that have owners and workers, so an
arrangement inside the news organizations has arisen as well. Whenever big
changes have taken place (usually slowly) in the way news has been produced)
they have been affected both by the need to turn a profit and the need to
uphold some acknowledged standards for the product. The unusual relationship of
news and information to the role of the citizen in industrial democracies such
"professionalization" trend of the twentieth century has seen
journalistic practice bounce like a pinball among several poles of
significance. The idea of news as public service is a constant, invoked by
journalists as a reason for special privileges or legal protections while
gathering news. The idea of news as independent and iconoclastic appears to
push in a different direction, with the strong suggestion that public institutions
are always in danger from corruption or incompetence and require a very
skeptical press "watchdog". Both those trends had their adherents and
were engraved on various tablets. Journalism schools (the first was started at
Philosophical ideas and fads about the nature of the world around us influenced the news, too, since it was supposed to be a picture of that world. There were several wild swings in the scientific view of the "real world" as orderly and verifiable, or disorderly, subjective and chaotic. Those changes have caused similarly wild swings in the confidence -- of journalists, and sometimes of the public -- in the idea that objectivity is something within human grasp.
THE MANY-VOICED PRESS EXAMINES ITSELF
After World War II, a sense of both optimism and responsibility resulted in the establishment of the Hutchins Commission. This huge group of academics, professional journalists and political figures produced a giant report on the press that stressed the "national and public interest" as the touchstone for effective, truth-telling media. Along with freedom, the press was to exercise responsibility. And the Commission warned against the dangers of chain ownership and monopolies, which caused irritated reaction among those large and influential newspapers that were one or the other.
MODERN LAW AND THE MODERN PRESS
The role of the press as advocate for citizens in the public arena was seemingly anchored by the well-known New York Times vs. Sullivan decision of 1964. The justices said public officials were less protected against incorrect news coverage about their conduct of public duties -- libel -- than private citizens. To ensure "robust, uninhibited and wide-open" debate on public issues, said Justice William Brennan for the court, media have to be allowed to perform their jobs without the threat of ruinous lawsuits hanging over them.
What this settled, of course, was that the press could be excused for getting a fact or two wrong as long as it could show it did its level best to "get it first, but first, get it right," as the wire service motto says. Competitive and deadline pressures cause mistakes, the court recognized implicitly, but the press should never negligently avoid taking every step to get it right -- which Brennan referred to as showing "actual malice."
Subsequent libel decisions have built on this by increasingly requiring media to show they followed a truth-seeking process as well as they could before publishing or broadcasting the story. Public figures like movie stars and others who seek out the limelight have become included in the less-protected sector.
Private citizens, however, are still protected against libel, even accidental. And courts have increasingly recognized a right to personal privacy as including a right against unwanted intrusions by media inquiries into one's private life. Government, including law enforcement, has not been left helpless by the courts, however. Holmes's "clear and present danger" doctrine still has force. When during the Vietnam War the New York Times published the classified Pentagon Papers, the government failed to have the Supreme Court stop publication. But when a left-wing magazine, The Progressive, sought to publish an account of how to make an H-bomb the court ruled against publication -- even though the magazine claimed with some evidence that all the material in the story came from unclassified sources.
Courts have always tried to get reporters to testify to what they know about criminal cases, and many reporters have gone to jail to protect their confidential sources in such cases. The federal government has stayed out of this arena but many states have passed Shield Laws to protect reporters' sources under well-defined circumstances. Under a 1964 decision, however, police may search newsrooms for evidence, and courts have increasingly probed not only the information gathered by media but also the process of newsgathering.
INFORMATION OR STORY?
Mott and Schudson both make the case that there was a swing from fact-based journalism to interpretation in the 1930's, followed by a swing back. Again in the 1960s, the magazine-style personal journalism of Tom Wolfe and Hunter Thompson, among others, was called (for the umpteenth time) a "New Journalism". Again, public reaction against that antifact, subjective writing style caused a return to "just the facts."
Schudson makes a distinction that not everyone would agree on. For the reporters and editors of the Progressive era (1890-1914, perhaps) the reverence for the "facts" was not the same as the notion of "objectivity" that is held by news professionals today. Progressives, Schudson says, "understood that facts provided moral direction of themselves and [they] prided themselves that their own moral precepts grew naturally out of their association with the real world." As Schudson says convincingly elsewhere, that meant that a reporter of the day would not be self-conscious about inserting opinion or interpretation into a fact-based story. His (or, rarely, her) own sensibility, rooted in the "real world," were not to be doubted.
The modernist idea of objectivity, Schudson argues, is different from this respect for facts in being an "ideology of distrust of the self"-- a much more up-to-date or perhaps postmodern notion. He suggests that in the 1890s journalism split more or less along class lines, with the "information model" appealing to the educated, elite upper class and the "storytelling model" appealing to the middle and working class. The "information model," he suggests, has evolved into the modern professional stance of objectivity, and is first cousin to the scientific method. The storytelling model, on the other hand, still appears in newspapers (in various forms, such as lifestyle features and columns) but has been largely transplanted to the explicitly entertainment media of television and the movies.
But the information vs. storytelling distinction still represents a major tension in journalism. Any writer who has tried to construct a lead in which telling the story did not get in the way of the facts-- or vice versa-- sees that.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Some of the better histories of news are being written right now and printed in -- newspapers. Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post has made a decent reputation as an insider critic of news; he has published several books but his columns in the Post are, you might say, a first rough draft of critique of the first rough draft of history, to improve on a phrase of the Post's old boss, Ben Bradlee.
Another media critic who appears often in the Post is Richard Harwood, an experienced reporter whose critique is focused on news media as businesses and what stresses and problems are caused by the need to make a profit.
Of the sources used in this brief survey, DeMott's book is still the heavyweight conventional history of media and has not been surpassed even though it is old. Schudsen wrote his book as a sociologist of professions (this was his first one, his doctoral dissertation) and went on to become one of the best cultural studies sociologists of the media. Denis McQuail, a European sociologist with a moderate-left perspective, sees news organizations as part of a vast dance of information and audience. Barnouw's very entertaining history of broadcast media (of which Tube of Plenty is a part) is also a leftish critique of the business orientation of broadcast.
Other media critics you will not see in local papers include David Shaw, who used to work at the Los Angeles Times, has written several good books of press criticism including Press Watch (1984). Ben Bagdikian, once the ombudsman or reader representative at the Post, has gone through a half-dozen editions of his classic The Media Monopoly .
Alterman, Eric. Sound & Fury: The
Bagdikian, Ben H. The Media Monopoly . Beacon Press.
Gans, Herbert J. Deciding What's News.
Todd Gitlin, ed. Watching Television: A Pantheon Guide to Popular Culture, 1987.
Gitlin, Todd. Inside Prime Time. Pantheon, 1985.
Hertsgaard, Mark. On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency.
Kurtz, Howard. Media Circus (1993) and Spin Cycle (1997).
Lee, Martin, and Norm Solomon. Unreliable Sources. Lyle Stuart, 1990.
Postman, Neil . Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.
Schudson, Michael. Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers. BasicBooks, 1978.
Shaw, David . Presswatch. McMillan, 1984.
GLOSSARY OF MEDIA TERMS
demographic profiles of audiences
John Peter Zenger*
Fair Use doctrine
Freedom of Information Act
Government in the Sunshine Act
Open Meeting laws
Stanford Daily case (newsroom searches)
NY Times v. Sullivan
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