Academic journal article Journalism History

Media Marathon: A Twentieth-Century Memoir

Academic journal article Journalism History

Media Marathon: A Twentieth-Century Memoir

Article excerpt

Barnouw, Erik. Media Marathon: A Twentieth-Century Memoir. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1996. 264 pp. $22.95.

Erik Barnouw writes pleasurable and enlightening histories, as anyone who has read Tube of Plenty or The Sponsor can attest. Media Marathon is no exception. It is media history through the eyes of a longtime participant-observer, and it is well worth reading.

Although Barnouw had

significant roles in the history of broadcasting, from directing the Camel Quarter Hour during the Depression to overseeing the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress from 1978 until 1981, he says little about himself. He stays backstage mostly, leaving the spotlight for notable persons with whom he worked including Pearl S. Buck, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Daniel J. Boorstin. There are nineteen such persons in the book, one per chapter, who both focus each chapter and signify a particular dimension of media history.

The first half of the book offers a lot-it tells about writers, sponsors, actors and unions-but the most memorable material is in the second half. It is here that Barnouw discusses civil rights, Indian and Russian film making, red baiting, and nuclear proliferation. It is here, too, that we meet Bud Leyra and Akira Iwasaki. Leyra provides an engrossing case study of the complex relationship between reality and representation that television cameras can accentuate. In 1958, Barnouw was making a series of films on constitutional law for NET. He decided to produce an episode on Leyra, whose death sentence for killing his mother and father was overturned in 1954 because the police extracted a confession without Leyra's lawyer being present. …

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