Academic journal article Journalism History

The Coming of the Frontier Press: How the West Was Really Won

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Coming of the Frontier Press: How the West Was Really Won

Article excerpt

Cloud, Barbara. The Coming of the Frontier Press: How the West Was Really Won. Evanston, 111.: Northwestern University Press, 2008. 270 pp. $24.95.

Barbara Cloud, a journalism professor emeritus at the University of NevadaLas Vegas, has emerged from a period in UNLVs central administration to reclaim her position among the top historians of the frontier press with her contribution to Northwestern University's series on journalism in American history.

Like other books in the series, The Coming of the Frontier Press provides an overview of the field. Cloud discusses the role of newspapers in stimulating western development, along with other stimulants, such as railroads and mining camps, and also looks at the booster press, manifest destiny, and diversity issues.

Like the "new western historians" whose work began in the 1980s, she emphasizes the continuity between the past and the present and between the East and the West. Unlike them, she defines the frontier as both a place and a process without giving a location or delving into the uniqueness of the West, even as she justifies the region as an area for separate study. Some practitioners of the new western history define their area as the trans-Mississippi West and dismiss the whole idea of a frontier along with Fred- erick Jackson Turner's analysis that said the frontier had closed in 1890 and that it had defined the American character. Instead, beginning with Patricia Nelson Limerick, they defined the frontier - a term they gen- erally dislike - as a legacy of conquest that continues to this day. Cloud mentions both Turner and Limerick, and she rectifies the new western history critique of the frontier thesis with her range of topics, including diversity and manifest destiny, and her analysis of the economic underpinnings of the press.

The "struggle to define frontier continues," Cloud writes. But she questions whether the term applies to newspapers: "some parts of definitions apply - distance from major centers, for example - but others, such as self-sufficiency, do not. …

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