Academic journal article Journalism History

Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History

Academic journal article Journalism History

Mightier Than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History

Article excerpt

Streitmatter, Rodger. Mightier than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997. 287 pp. $25.

For centuries, great writers have pointed out the importance and power of the Fourth Estate, but nowhere is that significance better illustrated than in this book. Spanning the period from the Revolutionary War to the present day, fourteen chapters provide stunning accounts of the news media's best (abolition and muckraking) and the worst (the Spanish-American war and Rush Limbaugh). Other chapters deal with the nineteenth-century Women's Rights Movement, Boss Tweed, the Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin, "Rosie the Riveter," Joe McCarthy, Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and Watergate. Twenty-seven illustrations accompany the text.

In addition, each chapter concludes with a section which summarizes and analyzes its content. Chapter 15 analyzes the entire book and focuses on the common characteristics of the examples cited; this would be especially helpful to students of journalism history.

The title of the book underlines its purpose. By using examples of American history, Rodger Streitmatter shows how the news media influenced a change in the course of history. The majority of the chapters follow this pattern faithfully. However, three of them seem out of place. The chapter on "Rosie the Riveter" is more of a tribute to public relations and wartime propaganda than to the news media. The anti-Semitic Father Coughlin did not reach many of the potential bigots in this country because the same people who hated Jews also hated Catholics as much or more. …

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