Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Kuypers, Jim A.: Partisan Journalism: A History of Media Bias in the United States

Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Kuypers, Jim A.: Partisan Journalism: A History of Media Bias in the United States

Article excerpt

Kuypers, Jim A. Partisan Journalism: A History of Media Bias in the United States. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014. Pp. xv; 303. ISBN 9781-4422-2593-0 (Cloth) $56.00; 978-1-4422-5207-3 (Paper) $34.00; 978-1-4422-2594-7 (eBook) $32.00.

The Tet Offensive, initiated by the North Vietnamese in 1968, resulted in mass casualties of North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and American soldiers. On February 27, 1968, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite proclaimed, essentially, that the war was unwinnable: "[It] is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."

Reactions to Cronkite's statement have resulted in great debate about its effects on perceptions of U.S. involvement in the war. Jim Kuypers identifies the statement as an example of "snatching defeat form the jaws of victory," a total misreading by the media of U.S. success in response to Tet (p. 79). Across its 12 chapters, the author covers four major periods in American journalism: partisan journalism in the early years of the country, objectivism in the early 20th century, a "conspiracy of shared values" in the 1960s, and the emergence of a competition of partisan viewpoints in the past 35 years. As the author puts it, he "makes an argument" about how liberal bias in the "establishment" media has changed throughout history, "how it transformed itself first from a partisan press to professional, objective, fact-based journalism, then how it changed yet again back into a biased and overwhelmingly liberal press, then again transitioned into a 'partisan' press with new conservative competition" (p. 6).

Kuypers begins with a detailed look at the origins of newspapers in America. He draws from literacy rates, the movement of news inland through the U.S. post office, and the formation of the Democratic Party under Martin Van Buren. Kuypers argues that newspapers existed to be partisan, and their function was to carry highly edited versions of political discourse out of eastern cities. "Thus, rather than reading and analyzing 'news' for themselves, many people absorbed a regurgitated version of publically accepted 'news' that had been edited by literate (and loud) locals" (p. 19). His historical overview continues in Chapters 2 and 3. Here, he takes us through the 19th century and identifies use of the telegraph during the Civil War as a critical incident in the growth of objective news reporting. Telegraphs were used to report facts, and a "new journalism" emerged separating news from editorials. Also arising in this era was advocacy journalism, an attempt to not just report a story, but to act as a force of social good, to become agents of change. The author refers to the "Golden Age of Objective Journalism" as the profession turned toward objectivity at the turn of the 20th century. Kuypers is thorough in his illustrations of publishers' pursuit of ethical standards and fight for respectability among newspapers in the 1960s.

Kuypers weaves together extensive accounts of the Vietnam War provided by historians and journalists at the time (in the chapter "Three Presidents and a War"). The journalistic accounts, he argues, are overwhelmingly left leaning, and often do not reflect favorable public opinion of early involvement in the war. An overriding cause of the accounts is reliance on sources within the U.S. military whose perspectives were at odds with military leaders. Moreover, the press could not possibly have the depth and breadth of sources and knowledge of the North Vietnamese casualties, mistakes, disagreements, and so on in order to provide balanced reporting. Kuypers does take on Watergate for a brief period, arguing that journalists took what he considers routine dirty tricks to extraordinary lengths out of a desire to hurt President Nixon. The chapter is fascinating, and it alone serves as a strong case study of the relationship between organizations (public, corporate, governmental, etc. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.