Academic journal article Journalism History

The American Newspaper Columnist

Academic journal article Journalism History

The American Newspaper Columnist

Article excerpt

Riley, Sam G. The American Newspaper Columnist. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1998. 272 pp. $65.

Maybe the book is too small and the topic is too big.

In fact, this is the third book about U. S, newspaper columnists that Sam Riley has written. And as a third of a troica, it might fill the bill. But, standing alone, it is only occasionally engaging.

In 272 pages, Riley, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Virginia Tech, skims over hundreds of columnists, dividing them by time periods, ideologies and intent. He states his intention was to avoid repeating others' attempts to treat "the giants of the craft."

Instead, he says, "this book is an attempt to take a more nearly complete look at this genre's historical development, sacrificing detail for scope."

And, therein lies the problem. This reader felt like a tourist listening to a tour guide drop factoids while the bus roared through the columnist's version of Beverly Hills. The bus rolls more slowly through the early chapters on columnists of the 1800s, including humorists and poetry writers. Perhaps that is because there were fewer columnists in these categories to treat. But when we reach Chapter 4-"The Pundits" -the foot hits the pedal and the names and affiliations begin to fly by. …

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