Ch 3 Modern press

Ernie Pyle, US correspondent in WWII, whose human, patriotic, critical style was widely emulated.

This chapter focuses on the 20th century print media and the 21st century impacts of the digital revolution on print media.

The site includes sub-pages, including a) War and peace in the press; b) Science and environmental journalism; c) Muckraking, gonzo and sports journalism; d) Demise of the newspaper.

Two selections from this chapter are in the Features section:  E.W. Scripps and Science, and Who Killed the American Newspaper?

Discussion questions

  1. An older generation’s voice:  What was Will Irwin on about when he talked about newspapers speaking with the voice of an older generation? Have you heard this sort of criticism about other media in the modern era?
  2. Roosevelt on Muckraking:  Teddy Roosevelt encouraged the muckrakers before he became president, but afterwards warned that they were going too far. Why do you suppose he took that position?
  3. Wartime censorship:  What is the danger of wartime censorship, according to George Seldes?  How was wartime censorship different in WWI than it was in WWII?
  4. Lenin and Gandhi:  How did attitudes towards freedom of speech reflect larger differences between the revolutions in Russia (led by Vladimir Lenin) and India (led by Mohandas Gandhi)?
  5. Three golden ages of journalism are described in this February, 2014 ProPublica article. Do you agree that these are the high points of the profession?
  6. Adversarial press:  Many conservatives think that Richard Nixon was treated unfairly during the Watergate scandal and that the media lost the war in Vietnam.  What evidence can you present on both sides of these arguments?
  7. Digital revolution: How well did American newspapers deal with the advent of computer networks?
  8. Digital revolution:  With increasing problems in the commercial press, will the media revert to a partisan model, or will someone find a way into Lippmann’s proverbial era of “organized intelligence?”  Read the spring, 2014 New York Times “innovation report.” What’s missing?
  9. Arab spring:  Circumventing media has its limits, according to these Washington Post July 2015 articles about the Arab Spring and faded hopes for free press.  What similar moments in history might we recall in trying to make sense of the tragedy?

People & Events

Will Irwin, Richard Harding Davis, Ida B. Wells, Samuel Hopkins Adams, Lincoln Steffens, Cecil Chesterton, Ida Tarell, David Graham Phillips, Upton Sinclair, Bolo Pasha, George Seldes, John Reed, Frederick Douglass, John H. Johnson, Ralph McGill, Homer Bigart, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, John Hershey

Documentary videos

  1. Soldiers without swords — The Black Press (web site)  Excellent and eye-opening PBS documentary series.  YouTube site.
  2. Ida B. Wells: A passion for justice documentary.
  3. Dawn’s Early Light — An insightful documentary about Atlanta Journal editor Ralph McGill and the struggle to report the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s.   The video, produced in the 1970s, is a good companion to the Gene Roberts / Hank Klibanoff book, The Race Beat. A Cspan video of a Gene Roberts discussion about the book is also available.
  4. Journalism :  Burton Holmes Films,  (1940) — A free downloadable film originally made for high school students about the kind of work that journalists do.  Interesting from an historical perspective.
  5. Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty  (2005). News anchors Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite narrate this remarkable documentary that chronicles the deaths of seven journalists, including The Wall Street Journal‘s Daniel Pearl and NBC correspondent David Bloom.
  6. Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) is a somewhat quirky documentary about the Times that faces, as a Washington Post critic says, the cold hard reality of the declining newspaper business.
  7. Black and white and dead all over — A  sad look at the newspaper industry as it struggles to remain financially viable. Featuring Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and David Carr of the New York Times. Lots of fond farewells, little to no creative thinking about new business models or sustaining new forms of journalism.  PBS  2013.
  8. A brief history of the American Press – Center for Foreign Journalists, 1992. Narrated by George Krimsky.

EThics and social responsibility

Hutchins (1947), MacBride (1980), and Miller (2010) Commissions

  1. Hutchins, Robert M. Chair, the Commission on Freedom of the Press. A Free and Responsible Press: A General Report on Mass Communication: Newspapers, Radio, Motion Pictures, Magazines, and Books, University of Chicago, 1947. Full report on the web here.
  2. Hutchins Commission:  Main points
  3.  Realigning Journalism with Democracy: The Hutchins Commission: Its Times and Ours   
  4. E.B. White wrote in 1976 about “sponsored” articles and why they were a bad idea.  He said:   A funded assignment is a tempting dish for a writer, who may pocket a much larger fee than he is accustomed to getting. And sponsorship is attractive to the sponsor himself, who, for one reason or another, feels an urge to penetrate the editorial columns after being so long pent up in the advertising pages. These temptations are real, and if the barriers were to be let down I believe corruption and abuse would soon follow.” This is all the more significant in a digital information environment. 
  5. MacBride Commission, 1980: Many Voices, One World
  6. Miller Commission, March 2010: Old Media, New Media and the Challenge to Democratic Governance
  7. Bill Moyers: Journalism must survive the pressure cooker of plutocracy. Remarks at the Bernstein Awards, May 26, 2015.

 Ethics and new media

  1. Two Visions of Responsibility: How National Commissions Contributed to Journalism Ethics, 1963-1975.” It wasn’t just the work of the Hutchins Commission that changed the way journalists saw the ethical boundaries of their work. There were also a number of commissions on violence in the 1963-75 time frame, and the media responded with revisions of codes of ethics, the creation of news councils and journalism reviews, and increased employment of minorities.
  2. We’re all journalists now. But what about ethics?  By Doug Todd, Vancouver Sun, July 1, 2012.
  3. A growing void where facts were once checked.  Alan Cowell, New York Times, Nov. 19, 2012. Cowell discusses the implications of direct tweeting of the Gaza conflict of 2012.
  4. Many say the press fabricates stories about Trump. What’s going on? Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 26, 2017.