Academic journal article Journalism History

Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present

Academic journal article Journalism History

Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present

Article excerpt

McPherson, James Brian. Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2006. 256 pp. $139.95.

Contemporary historians are accustomed to offering the obligatory disclaimer about the work they do. They routinely admit that chronicling the history of their own time presents distinct challenges in the form of objectivity and perspective. In meeting those challenges the historian faces the danger of bending over backwards: presenting a lot of facts with few original insights, providing more of an archive than a meaningful narrative.

Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present by James Brian McPherson is a volume that reflects the struggle of detailing recent history without simply restating the well-known generalizations about the time. The result of this struggle is a work that is chock full of facts and anecdotes but slim on fresh questions and answers.

This volume is number seven in The History of American Journalism Series, which is edited by James D. Startt and Wm. David Sloan and published by Praeger. The credentials of McPherson, and Startt and Sloan in particular, are beyond question, and the research on which this work is based is rigorous. McPherson has mined a wide variety of source material on the years under study. The series' stated goal is "to provide a coherent perspective on a major period, to facilitate further research in the field, and to engage general readers interested in the subject." Doubtless this book will "facilitate further research in the field," but on the other two counts it is likely to be less successful. The coherent perspective, the loss of public trust in societal institutions including the press, is not new, and the dry recitation of mostly commonplace facts about the period is not very involving.

The book's title refers to the headline on a Life editorial in 1941 by publisher Henry Luce, who envisioned a twentieth century dominated by American values and power. The book, however, fails to invoke the meaning of that term or the ways in which such a context shaped American media and their content or played a role in the erosion of trust that marked the period. …

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