American Journalism: History, Principles, Practices

Article excerpt

* American Journalism: History, Principles, Practices. W. David Sloan and Lisa Mullikin Parcell, eds. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2002. 378 pp. $39.95 pbk.

This book looks at mainstream American journalism, particularly the print media, from an historical perspective, examining the development of concepts and practices in the field from colonial to contemporary times. Unlike many other historical works, this volume is based on a thematic, not a chronological, approach with each chapter a self-contained discussion of a particular topic. The editors, W. David Sloan, professor of journalism at the University of Alabama, and Lisa Mullikin Parcell, a Ph.D. student at Alabama, have divided the work into thirty-eight chapters written by a total of forty-one authors.

These authors have contributed well-- researched and well-written essays on topics ranging from the philosophical ("The Purposes of Journalism" by Julie Hedgepeth Williams) to the concrete ("Technologies of News Gathering and Transmission" by John Slater, and "Printing Technologies" by Susan Thompson). Other topics covered include: Relationships among the press, politics, partisanship, and government; concepts of news; ethics; press criticism; characteristics and education of journalists; economics; mergers, monopoly, and competition; publishers; freedom of the press; press rights and laws; the press and presidents; news gathering; various types of news coverage; investigative and reform journalism; war and foreign correspondence; objectivity and sensationalism. Additional chapters give the historical context of elements that make up the modern newspaper. These cover news writing structure and style, editorial writing, newspaper design, illustrations, photojournalism, and comics and cartoons. Many of the chapters refer to broadcasting and two pertain solely to it-one on radio journalism and another on television news.

Perhaps because the emphasis is on the evolution of standard practices in journalism, there are no chapters on the minority, ethnic, specialized, or alternative press. Diversity receives little notice. One chapter (on coverage of crime news by Earnest L. Perry) calls attention, however, to African-American concerns over biased reporting. A lively essay on "Press Criticism" by Linda J. Lumsden details critiques of traditional journalism. Carolyn Kitch's chapter on "Women in Journalism" offers an overview of gender concerns. Yet, for the most part the famous white male names of American journalism dominate these pages-Benjamin Harris, James Gordon Bennett, Horace Greeley, Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, E. …