Cover of the book. Click here for theFULL COVER with description and blurbs.
Revolutions in Communication is all about the printers, reporters, photographers, filmmakers, advertisers, PR practitioners, broadcasters, computer geeks, and all manner of rebels, thinkers and visionaries who were ahead of their times, who led the times, and who created The Times. This critically acclaimed survey of media history is now in a second edition.
The book surveys all major communications disciplines, including journalism, photography, cinema, advertising & public relations, radio, television, computing and networked media.
There is an endless fascination with Johannes Gutenberg, the impact of the printing press, and the town of Mainz, Germany where he grew up and began the world’s first major printing operation in the 1450s. You see it in the crowds making something of a pilgrimage to the Gutenberg Museum there, and you see it in the thriving city itself — the flower stalls, the cathedral, the singing students pedaling the bicycle-powered beer wagons.
Madhvi Ramani of the BBC captures this in a May 8, 2018 article, How a German City Changed How We Read, and quotes from some of the ideas and insights that I’ve been fortunate enough to gather there.
In his book, Revolutions in Communication: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age, Dr Bill Kovarik, professor of communication at Radford University in the US state of Virginia, describes this capacity (for speeding up manuscript copying) in terms of ‘monk power’, where ‘one monk’ equals a day’s work – about one page – for a manuscript copier. Gutenberg’s press amplified the power of a monk by 200 times.
Meet Lilmiquela and the other “fembots” of the web. Amanda Hess and Shane O’Neill of the New York Time Aug. 10, 2018 video show how fembots track along with social anxieties — from women’s suffrage to the housewives revolt to the current wave of feminists. Social media fembots play on the anxiety that, somehow, women are fake.
The Kidnapping of a six year old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, by the Vatican, in 1858. The painting, by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, was made in 1862.
New information has surfaced about the Edgardo Mortara affair of the 19th century, which involved a young Jewish boy who was taken from his parents because he’d been secretly baptized by a servant. Pope Pius IX backed the order to take the child in 1858.
At the time, the press called it an “outrage,” and Henry Raymond of the New York Times wrote that it was a “violation of one of the most sacred natural rights of man.” Had the case occurred in another country, or had a Roman Catholic family been similarly treated in a Jewish or Protestant community, “the voice of civilization would have been just as loud in condemnation” (NY Times, December 4, 1858). Continue reading →
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So, is it time, as some commentators are suggesting, to restore the Fairness Doctrine… ? I would argue that nostalgic calls for the restoration of a golden age of civil political discussion on America’s airwaves mistake what actually happened in those decades…
How was the Holocaust possible? It’s the question often asked when considering genocidal crimes against humanity. Was it something about German people? This was widely believed in the years following WWII, but not so much today. Alternately, do all people have destructive tendencies that may surface anywhere, at any time? If so, what are the conditions that breed genocide?
The usual historical examples note that in Germany in the 1930s, newspapers like Dur Sturmer openly advocated extermination of Jewish people with some of the most virulent hate speech in world history. For this, Dur Sturmer editor Julius Streicher was executed in 1946 under the Nuremberg principle that complicity in a crime against humanity is also a crime. The same principle was applied to film makers like Leni Riefenstahl and Fritz Hippler, who were were imprisoned after the war.
David Brooks has started a series of columns in the New York Times that he called Heroes of Democracy. The columns are biographical but also insights into the ideas that explained and sustained the democratic momentum of the 19th and 20th centuries.
He starts with Thomas Mann, Nobel Prize winning author of “Magic Mountain” and other novels, who fled the Nazis and came to America. As Brooks said:
Democracy begins with one great truth, he argued: the infinite dignity of individual men and women. Man is made in God’s image. Unlike other animals, humans are morally responsible. Yes, humans do beastly things — Mann had just escaped the Nazis — but humans are the only creatures who can understand and seek justice, freedom and truth. This trinity “is a complex of an indivisible kind, freighted with spirituality and elementary dynamic force.”
Second in the series is John Stuart Mill, the 19th century philosopher who argued for freedom of speech in service to democracy. Brooks said that to Mill:
John Stuart Mill
Real citizenship is a life-transforming vocation. It involves, at base, cultivating the ability to discern good from evil, developing the intellectual virtues required to separate the rigorous from the sloppy, living an adventurous life so that you are rooting yourself among and serving those who are completely unlike yourself.
Students of history, and anyone who cares about democracy, may want to stay tuned to David Brooks. We’re taking bets on the rest of the list in history class here at Radford University.
Gene Roberts and crew celebrates one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s many Pulitzer Prizes. (From Nieman via “The Newspaperman” by Roberts.)
Legendary editor Gene Roberts reflects on a lifetime in journalism in this Nieman Storyboard article May 5, 2017 by Julie Schwietert Collazo.
Some of his observations:
The difference between today and when I was an editor is that today, newspapers have a scary fundamental financial problem. When we turned the Inquirer around, and for Knight Ridder in general, we were financially stable and the company was somewhere around the 20% profit range – of every dollar that came in, they were holding onto 20%. It wasn’t life or death, which in some cases it may be today. If you were being cut, you were being cut to make a short-term profit goal.
… One of the reasons why newspapers are in the fix they’re in today is because they never really had a research-and-development budget in which they worried about the future. And if we had figured out – and the basic technology was there – how to deliver the paper in the home, we might be facing a totally different future….
In practice, telling the truth would mean that British defeats in battle would be reported accurately throughout the war, without exaggeration, says Dr Vike Martina Plock of the department of English at Exeter University.
Plock discovered BBC memos at the archive center in Caversham Park, Reading. “It is fascinating to see how the BBC provided the German public with accurate information during the war and thereby began to re-educate individuals who had been living, willingly or unwillingly, with 12 years of Nazi propaganda,” she told the Guardian. Continue reading →
PBS archives will be opened at the University of Georgia. According to a July, 2018 article in the Red & Black, around 4,000 hours of PBS programs from 1941-1999 will be released. The programs were once submitted for Peabody Awards.
Virtual Realitywill have the same emotional effect on audiences that photography did in the 19th century, says Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson.
Lowell Thomas, a man who helped define print and radio journalism in the early to mid-20th century, is profiled in the Smithsonian Magazine, June, 2017.
Fake news isn't so new after all. In "Techniques of 19th-century fake news reporter," Petra S. McGillen of Dartmouth tells the story of Theodor Fontane, a correspondent for Kreuzzeitung of Berlin, who covered London's Tooley Street Fire of 1861 without leaving Germany.
Clare Hollingworth, the reporter who broke the news about the start of WWII from Poland, is eulogized in this Jan. 2017 obituary.
Ring Lardnera famous sports columnist in the early 20th century, is profiled in a 2017 book by NPR's Ron Rapoport.
TV and US Civil Rights A 17-minute television talk by Medgar Evers on May 20, 1963 -- which led to his assassination -- also resulted in a fight over a TV station license in a case that changed American Television. The NARA and the Zinn project have the story.
Rome, Open City by Roberto Rossollini is celebrated on its 70th anniversary.
The Wipers Times, a humor publication from the least humorous situation ever -- the fighting trenches of WWI. Subject of an excellent movie in 2013.
Ixnay on the Otography-fay Life in the trenches was no laughing matter for most. It was even illegal for soldiers to photograph during World War I, but George Hackney did it anyway. The photos came to light in November, 2014.
Nixon-Kennedy debates in September, 1960 brought the new power of media to bear on the old politics of the presidential campaigns, as this recent Chicago Tribune article reminds us.
Dorothea Lange the amazing Depression-era photographer, is featured in a new PBS documentary in August, 2014.
Too Fast for the Truth? The trans-Atlantic telegraph, first linking the US and the UK in 1858, generated the same kind of reaction and commentary about rapid communication that surrounded the Internet in the 1990s and micro-blogging in the 2000s. Adriene LaFrance reminds us of this in a great July 28, 2014 article in the Atlantic.
¶ Harry McAlpin, the man who integrated the White House press corps, is featured in an Atlantic magazine article May 3.
Pranking is a great media tradition, says Kimbrew McLeod in a new book. (Yes, that's Ben Franklin in clown makeup).
¶ May 5 is the Chicago Defender's anniversary. Founded by Robert S. Abbott in 1905, the Defender has championed the cause of minorities for over a century.
Dr. Zhivago, the famed novel by Boris Pasternak about a Russian doctor in the 1917-1940 revolutionary time period, was banned in Russia. It was first published in Russian by the US Central Intelligence Agency, newly declassified documents reveal. (Guardian, April 9, 2014).
Margaret Fuller biography by Megan Marshall wins a Pulitzer for 2014. Horace Greeley's famed editor was also remembered in a variety of radio programs, as found on Bob Stepno's JHeroes web site.
¶ Ancient books online The Vatican and Oxford's Bodleian libraries began a project in December, 2013 to digitize their collections of ancient books in the interest of democratizing scholarship.
¶ Alan Turing a gay British mathe- matician who helped crack Nazi codes during WWII and who created many of the basic concepts and formulas for the modern functioning computer, was pardoned for his gay behavior, postumously, in Britain just before Christmas, 2013.
Thomas Nast is remembered by Jonathan Yardley at the Washington Post on Feb. 15, 2013. "The best and most widely known journalists of my youth — James Reston, Marquis Childs, Red Smith, even Walter Lippmann — are almost entirely forgotten outside the trade today and only dimly remembered inside it," Yardley says. Yet Nast's cartoons remain.
¶ Medgar Evers is honored by the Zinn project on Martin Luther King day in 2013. Evers was killed 50 years ago after an interview on what was then a virulently racist television station, WLBT, as noted in Revolutions in Communication. The assassination was not directly linked to the TV, but it started a Media Access Project investigation of the TV station's programming, which led to the loss of its license for failing to serve the public interest.
¶ Iranian newspapers in the 1960s were tightly controlled, like many today in China, Russia and the Middle East. That experience, says Karen Henderson in a Dec. 15 2012 Cleveland Plain Dealer column, reminds us of the importance of the press to democracy.
¶ The "Page Three Girl" is 42 years old on Nov. 27, 2012, according to women fighting sexism in the media who are staging protests in London. Their slogan: "Boobs are not news."
¶ Hollywood blacklist started 65 years ago on Nov. 25, 1947, the day after ten writers and directors (the Hollywood Ten) got citations for contempt of Congress. They had refused to name supposed fellow communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and claimed that they had rights under the U.S. Constitution.
¶ One hundred years ago, the Sacramento Bee depicted a prisoner on a pedestal to decry "soft" treatment of prisoners who should be executed. Today the Bee has a very different view.
¶ William Randolph Hearst died Aug. 14, 1951, and this year the San Francisco Chronicle commemorated the event by republishing an interesting poem he wrote. When our life has passed / And the river has run its course / It again goes back / O'er the selfsame track / To the mountain which was its source. Hearst, it seems, was no competition for other journalist / poets of the age, such as Rudyard Kipling or Joel Chandler Harris.
¶ So long to Karl Fleming, a Civil Rights reporter for Newsweek whose book, Son of the Rough South, helped chronicle the era. Fleming died in Los Angeles August 11, 2012. Also passing this summer: Helen Gurley Brown of Cosmopolitan magazine.
¶ Satellite communications turned 50 years old on July 12. The first satellite transmissions took place in 1962 from Maine to Brittany, France. The signal contained images of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower, remarks from President John F. Kennedy, and highlights of a Phillies-Cubs baseball game.
¶ Beginning in late February 2012, the New York Times started to open its enormous photo archive.
¶ Stanford has cracked the door on its collection of Apple computer corporation archives, according to this Associated Press story. But its not enough for some people, who think the university should be doing more to make the archives public.
¶ New digital methods are starting to unlock the "vast collections" of sound recordings. A young Alexander Graham Bell is heard in some of the first Smithsonian releases on Dec. 12, 2011. Also in store -- great performances, speeches by world leaders, anthropological and linguistic studies, and many other voices from the past.
¶ Aug. 25 is the anniversary of the Moon Hoax. Chicago Times columnist John Kass says it's his favorite hoax of all time.
¶ Aug. 24 is Wayzgoose -- a traditional holiday for printers, writers and the publishing industry.
¶ July 22 was the 100th anniversary of Marshall McLuhan's birth, and the communications and technology theorist celebrated by his most fervid admirers as Canada's greatest thinker of all time has emerged from the valley of darkness that closed around him in the last decade of his life. The Globe and Mail, July 15, 2011.
¶ Peter Forsskål's 1759 Thoughts on Civil Liberty was recently published on the web. The Swedish philosopher had a major influence on European thought about freedom of information. The newly translated manuscript begins: "The more a man may live according to his own inclinations, the more he is free. Therefore, next to life itself, nothing could be more dear to man than freedom."
¶ Phil Meyer wonders whether it's already too late for the elite newspaper of the future.
¶ Kay Mills, author of "A Place in the News: From the Women's Pages to the Front Page" (1988), died Jan. 15, 2011.
¶ Fox Propagandists Degrade Journalism - Harold Meyerson, Washington Post. -- Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. "is the most sustained and coordinated dose of right-wing propaganda this country has ever seen. Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace and their ilk were freelancers, much as Limbaugh is today. The choir at Fox News, by contrast, sings from Murdoch's hymnal."
¶ For Sarah Palin and Glen Beck, a McKinley Moment? Dana Milbank, Washington Post -- "One hundred and ten years ago, during another low point in the nation's political discourse, newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst - who was angling for a presidential run in 1904 - published a pair of columns fantasizing about violence against President William McKinley. "
Black Press in the Civil War
Although the Civil War began as a conflict over secession, from the start most blacks saw it as an opportunity to free the enslaved with a Union victory. New York Times, March 13, 2014.