The Troubles of Journalism: A Critical Look at What's Right and Wrong with the Press

By William A. Hachten | Go to book overview
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Preface

The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.

-- Francis Bacon ( 1620)

During the early 1930s when I was a youngster in Huntington Park, California, I could hear the cry of newspaper boys walking through the neighborhood, hawking The Los Angeles Herald Express or The Los Angeles Times calling out "EXTRA! EXTRA!" to announce some breaking news story, such as FDR's first election that required a special edition -- an extra! -- to get the news out faster.

Soon, news announcements made on the radio supplemented and in time replaced the newspaper extra. During World War II, we listened to the radio for breaking news, but with wartime constraints, the time element of major battles and other war-time events was often vague. Newspapers were still important, but so were newsreels, which in the dark of movie theaters provided moving pictures of distant events -- Hitler haranguing Nazi crowds in Germany and the abdication of King Edward VIII for example. The immediacy of the newspaper extra was not there.

During the 1936 presidential campaign my family huddled around the radio, listening to ex-President Herbert Hoover addressing the Republican Convention. We were all Republicans and hoped that the GOP would nominate Hoover to take on FDR again. Forlorn hope. My uncle was an International News Service reporter in Washington, DC, and an admirer of Hoover. I later rejected my uncle's politics but not his work. He was my role model for a career in newspapering.

When I studied journalism at Stanford in 1947, the curriculum required students to learn to set type by hand using the California Job Case. Some weekly papers, despite the widespread use of Linotype machines, were still doing it the old way.

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