Academic journal article Journalism History

Samuel Hopkins Adams and the Business of Writing

Academic journal article Journalism History

Samuel Hopkins Adams and the Business of Writing

Article excerpt

Kennedy, Samuel V. III. Samuel Hopkins Adams and the Business of Writing. Syracuse, N.Y.:

Syracuse University Press,1999. 414 pp. $39.95.

"Newspaper reporting is a good job for five years, but after that a man should move along."

That was Samuel Hopkins Adams's advice in a 1945 book review, and he tried to follow it as a young journalist. After a stint as a reporter for the New York Sun in the late nineteenth century, Adams (1871-1958) moved on to an amazingly broad career. He was an investigative reporter for national magazines, a writer of detective fiction, a consumer advocate/ columnist who exposed advertising fraud, a novelist whose works included the basis for the movie "It Happened One Night," and a historian for both adult and juvenile audiences.

However, Adams is best remembered for his brief muckraking career. "The Great American Fraud," his series of articles for Collier's magazine exposing the patent medicine industry's widespread quackery, helped lead to the 1906 passage of the federal Pure Food and Drug Act. Many works of journalism lose their impact when read years later because they lack context, but nearly a century after publication, the Collier's series resonates for its simplicity, sense of purpose, and attention to detail. .All investigative journalists should write so well.

Samuel V. Kennedy III tries to expand modern perceptions of Adams with this first full-scale biography, which began as an academic article and a dissertation. An associate professor in the S:I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, Kennedy is handicapped by the acknowledged absence of many primary documents. …

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