Is American journalism really in peril? A robust, unfettered press, free from government intrusion, has forever been emblematic of our liberties and a vital part of American life. In his fresh narrative, Covering America (University of Massachusetts Press, cloth, $49.95), journalist and professor Christopher B. Daly provides a lively, engaging history of journalism's 300-year evolution in America, offering valuable historical context to today's "journalism is in crisis" meme. The good news: today's surge in partisanship, rise of the blogosphere, and journalism's overall teetering business model are but the latest in a long history of challenges forcing American journalism to find new and better ways to adapt and thrive.
"Too many Americans today believe journalism is falling apart," says Daly, who teaches journalism and history at Boston University, after a career at both the Washington Post and Associated Press. "From colonial times onward, there have always been challenges to the structure and practice of producing the news in America. Today is no different. History provides perspective." Daly's original research and comprehensive synthesis of the latest historical scholarship provides it in spades.
Drawing on a wealth of examples, Daly explains that U.S. journalism went through periods of deep change in the 1830s and again in the 1920s—periods that were just as convulsive as today's. In Covering America, readers will find answers to their questions: Is serious journalism dying? Are the media "fai women's jackets r"? Is ownership too concentrated? Is the FCC too involved in regulating content? Covering America sets the stage for serious analysis—while making enjoyably vivid the often larger-than-life characters who have shaped and defined American journalism through the centuries.
Journalism, in the end, is the story of people. Daly colorfully details and provides insight into the lives of the practitioners of journalism, the men and women, who, through sheer force of their personalities, built and contributed to the institution that runs as a thread through the history of the republic. Covering America presents them all—in an accessible story-telling format that focuses on the visionary innovators, famous and not, who shaped the industry to their times by dint of their often oversized ambition and personalities: Benjamin Franklin, John and Anna Zenger, Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, Nellie Bly, Ida Tarbell, Frederick Douglass, Kay Graham, Arianna Huffington, and more. Daly "adds shape and new understanding to the intriguing stories many of us know as myths of origin," says Douglas Cumming, author of The Southern Press: Literary Legacies and the Challenge of Modernity. The biographical portraits alone make Covering America a joy to read. "This is grand narrative as it should be," says historian Bruce Schulman.
Covering America is the work of an author wearing two hats—that of a veteran newsman and an academic scholar. Daly leverages primary material, including archival material, original documents, and recordings, along with personal experience, to provide brand new arguments on journalism across all of its platforms: newspapers, magazines, photos, radio, TV, and the Web. Whether focusing on media economics, the impact of new technologies, or the sociology and philosophy inherent in the journalistic enterprise, Daly manages a fine balance between scholarship and popular culture. This book will re-shape the discussion over the news media. A lively history of American journalism.
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"Essential reading for anyone who cares about American history, media, or culture. This is a great story about the entire tradition of journalistic storytelling, told smartly and thoroughly."
—Susan Orlean, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Rin, Tin, Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Orchid Thief.
For further information, visit http://www.journalismprofessor.com.
Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation's Journalism
By Christopher B. Daly
University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst and Boston
$49.95 cloth, ISBN 978-1-55849-911-9
Media contact: Victor Gulotta, Gulotta Communications, Inc.
617-630-9286, http://www.booktours.com, victor(at)booktours(dot)com
About the Author
A veteran journalist and historian, Christopher B. Daly teaches journalism and history at Boston University. He is coauthor of Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World, which won the Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association and the Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians. He also blogs about journalism and history at http://journalismprofessor.com. His journalism has appeared in the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other publications.