Cover of the book. Click here for the full 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.
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 →
Consumer activism against Brietbart and other fake news sites is being organized at a Twitter site called Sleeping Giants, with the idea that most commercial companies are only accidentally placing ads on the sites. According to the site:
We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars. Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them.
Sleeping Giants recommends that a screenshot of a commercial ad placed next to Continue reading →
Comments Off on Fake news and advertising boycotts
On the witness stand in a libel trial, Henry Ford famously said: “History is bunk.” Ford was very good with machinery, but no one ever considered him a well-educated man.
Something rather like the “history is bunk” statement has led to a recent academic dustup among our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic. On May 30, Patrick Johnston, Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, opined: Society doesn’t need a 21-year-old who is a sixth century historian. It needs a 21-year-old who really understands how to analyse things, understands the tenets of leadership and contributing to society, who is a thinker and someone who has the potential to help society drive forward.’
So, what if Johnston is right? After all, what good is history?
According to Jonathan Healy, answering Johnston in June, 2016, history is interesting, important, skill-building stuff, but most of all, the profession that serves as umpires when the politicians go out of bounds.
A new system in China is apparently “game-ifying” citizenship, giving you scores for social media participation and judging you over friendships. According to Extra Credits, an outstanding video game discussion and education forum, this takes Orwellian thought control to a bizarre and potentially horrifying new level.
Protesters bleeding after Bahrain army opened fire, February 2011. (Mohamed CJ, Wikipedia)
The Arab Spring was supposed to usher in an era of greater political inclusion and freedom, including press freedom, writes Dana Priest in the Washington Post July 26. “Instead, in every country but Tunisia, it has led to the opposite: the near-disappearance of independent news and opinion, especially about governments and their security forces.”
The article, and other similar articles in the past few years, shows that circumventing media technologies have limits. They may be technologies of freedom, as Ithiel de Sola Poole once predicted, but they can also be technologies of repression.
“The Internet and social media sites were the Arab Spring’s oxygen. Activists and journalists — often it was hard to tell the difference — used the tools of their generation to get around the forces of the old guard. Their effectiveness stunned the security establishment. But the old guard has caught up technologically…”
World oil reserves were supposedly located mostly in the Middle East (green column). Source: BP, 2002.
But now we know that was only one category of world oil reserve. (BP chart modified with 2000 USGS data).
By Bill Kovarik
One of the more painful lessons of recent history involves the way money and politics can slant scientific information.
Take the curiously sudden abundance of fossil fuels. Where we once had imminent shortages, and the need to go to war to protect the lifeblood of the world’s economy, we now have an abundance of natural gas from fracking, heavy oil from Venezuela and unconventional oil from Canada’s tar sands. And much more to come from the Arctic and coasts of Africa.
How do we explain the sudden abundance of fossil fuels?
“We were wrong on peak oil,” said George Monbiot of the Guardian in July, 2012. “There’s enough to fry us all.” Environmental strategies must change now because “the facts have changed,” he said. Continue reading →
Ambrose Bierce, American journalist and short story writer, is born on this day in 1842. Bierce''s Devil's Dictionary was named as one of "The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature" by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, and his story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge has been described as "one of the most famous and frequently anthologized stories in American literature."
Hopalong Cassidy,a series about a western hero, is first broadcast by NBC on this day in 1949. The character was originally portrayed in novels by Clarence E. Mulford as a rough and roguish type, but he was cleaned up for feature films in the 1930s and 40s. Actor William Boyd believed in his character and bought up the rights to 66 "hoppies" (as they were called) and took the idea into television, where it was an instant hit.
Roth v. United States case decision is handed down on this day in 1957 by the U.S. Supreme Court. While obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment, the court imposes a stricter standard on what can be declared obscene and banned without violating the First Amendment. The Roth test for obscenity is "whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest." Previously, art and literature that had the slightest honest references to sexuality could be banned despite any social, cultural or scientific value.
Tomorrow in media history
First color TV broadcast takes place over CBS on this day in 1951, despite a long-running lawsuit between CBS and NBC. The CBS broadcast was just a musical variety special, Premiere, but it generated interest in the potential and problems of an electronic standard. Black and white TV sets were much cheaper than color for decades, so the nationwide switch to all color television took another 20 years.
Yesterday in media history history
George Orwell, author and journalist, is born on this day in 1903. Orwell's insight into the twisting of the English language for totalitarian purposes in novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm described the terrifying rhetoric of totalitarian government. His 1946 essay, "Politics and the English Language" Orwell described the motives behind totalitarian rhetoric and advised writers to avoid bureaucratic language.
David Ogilvy, a leading advertising executive, is born on this day in 1911.
Alan Turing computer scientist and cryptographer, is born on this day in 1912. Turing conceived of many of the fundamental concepts of computing as part of his work helping to break encrypted Nazi communications during World War II. One of Turing's ideas was that successful artificial intelligence would only be achieved when a reasonably intelligent human could not tell if they were talking with a human or a computer. This is called the "Turing test."
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.