Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism

Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism

Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism

Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism

Synopsis

Did the Washington Post bring down Richard Nixon by reporting on the Watergate scandal? Did a cryptic remark by Walter Cronkite effectively end the Vietnam War? Did William Randolph Hearst vow to "furnish the war" in the 1898 conflict with Spain? In Getting It Wrong, W. Joseph Campbell addresses and dismantles these and other prominent media-driven myths--stories about or by the news media that are widely believed but which, on close examination, prove apocryphal. In a fascinating exploration of these and other cases--including the supposedly outstanding coverage of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina--Campbell describes how myths like these can feed stereotypes, deflect blame from policymakers, and overstate the power and influence of the news media.

Excerpt

Media myths aren’t harmless. They can scare people,
reinforce their biases and become tools of manipulation.

Rene Denfeld, “Hoodwinked,” Sunday [Portland]
Oregonian (March 10, 2002): E1

The New York Sun was one of the great names in American journalism. It was a newspaper that first appeared in 1833, in the vanguard of dailies that sold for a penny. For many years it was edited by Charles A. Dana, a prickly force in nineteenth-century journalism who taunted rival editors in print while cultivating the Sun’s reputation as a writer’s newspaper.

The Sun’s most notable and lasting contribution was its famous “Is There a Santa Claus?” editorial, a paean to childhood and the Christmas spirit that featured the often-quoted passage, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” The Sun published “Is There a Santa Claus?” in 1897 and it has long since become a classic—the best known and most reprinted editorial in journalism history.

The Sun was never the richest of newspapers and in 1950 it was absorbed by a stronger rival, anticipating the decline and disappearance of many afternoon newspapers in urban America. The Sun was reborn in 2002 as a feisty, literate, conservative daily—the first entry in New York newspaper journalism in many years. The new Sun won a small but loyal readership that allowed it to hold on for six years. But losses of $1 million a month proved crushing, and in September 2008 the Sun folded a second time, anticipating the fate of several big-city newspapers in the hard times of the early twenty-first century.

About two months before it went dark, the Sun offered readers a double dose of media-driven myth, in an article that touched on the influence network television once exerted. To back up that claim, the Sun cited two . . .

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