History of the Mass Media in the United States

Article excerpt

Blanchard, Margaret A. History of the Mass Media in the United States. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn,1998. 752 pp. $125.

One might worry about the timing of Margaret Blanchard's mammoth new encyclopedia, History of the Mass Media in the United States. More and more, printed encyclopedias gather dust in the shadow of the Internet, the surrogate encyclopedia for a growing number of researchers. But this edited volume plays John Henry to the Internet's steam drill: unlike the Web, which contains much that is unreliable, Blanchard has put together the definitive encyclopedia of U.S. media history.

The strength of the book lies in the selection of the authors. For this, the book can be compared to the old Dictionary of American Biography, which included articles by top scholars of its day. Half the fun of reading the DAB is trying to figure out the authors' identity by the initials that follow each entry. And the scholars were impressive: W.E.B.D. (Du Bois) on Frederick Douglass and F.M. (Mott) on Benjamin Harris.

Blanchard's book is impressive in this way, too, and years from now twenty-first century scholars will delight in a one-volume collection of the top names in journalism history. Here is just a sample of the experts and their fields: Henry Amana, Chicago Defender; Roy Alden Atwood, Handwritten Newspapers; Maurine H. Beasley, Women in Journalism; Jon Bekken, Newsboys; Bonnie Brennen, Broadcast Blacklisting; Barbara Cloud, Frontier Press; David A. Copeland, Colonial Press; Hazel Dicken-Garcia, Reporters and Reporting in the Nineteenth Century; Kathleen L. Endres, Civil War Press (North); Carolyn Kitch, Magazine Illustrations; John Nerone, Penny Press; David Paul Nord, American Tract Society; Jane Rhodes, Abolitionist Press; Nancy L. Roberts, Peace/Pacifist Press; Michael Schudson, Watergate Scandal; Wm. David Sloan, Journalism History; Rodger Streitmatter, Gay and Lesbian Press; and Patrick S. Washburn, World War II.

And the list goes on, creating the most substantial collection of latetwentieth century journalism historians published in one volume. …