Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West

By Vergobbi, David J. | Journalism History, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

Red Blood and Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West


Vergobbi, David J., Journalism History


Dary, David. Red Blood and Black Ink. Joural in the Old West. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. 345 pp. $30.

David Dary, head of the journalism school at the University of Oklahoma and a fourth-generation journalist, offers an entertaining, engaging, informative, and often humorous account of western journalism from 1808 to the 1920s.

In his fifth book about the creating of the west, he seeks to "capture the social memory of newspaper journalism" as well as its "flavor, emotion, and color." While clarifying that this is not a definitive history, he does present it as the story of the role of journalists "in settling and shaping the American West." He accomplishes this goal. But, though his newspaper list and time frame are the most inclusive of western journalism histories, his conclusions are well-covered territory.

Red Blood and Black Ink is accurate and well documented. The short article bibliography, however, exemplifies a scholarly concern: it excludes many significant studies that established the theoretical framework within which Dary operates, such as Oliver Knight's "The Owyhee Avalanche: The Frontier Newspaper as Catalyst in Social Change," Thomas Heuterman's "Assessing the `Press on Wheels': Individualism in Frontier Journalism," William Lyon's "The Significance of Newspapers on the American Frontier," and William Huntzicker's "Historiographical Essay: Historians and the Frontier Press."

Likewise, though Dary's bibliography is strong, it indicates that his scholarly contribution is in corroborating established thinking. In other words, he shows that the theories based upon more time-andspace-limited samples do indeed hold up when expanded to consider newspapers from the Mississippi to the Pacific, Canada to Mexico, from 1808 to 1920. …

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