Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Books -- the Significance of the Media in American History by James D. Startt and William David Sloan

Academic journal article The Journalism Educator

Books -- the Significance of the Media in American History by James D. Startt and William David Sloan

Article excerpt

What impact have the media had on the concept of popular sovereignty in America? How have the media forever impacted our lives through popular culture? How have newspaper publishers influenced community development?

These are just three of 16 controversial topics examined by media historians in The Significance of the Media in American History, a compendium of essays edited by James D. Startt of Valparaiso University and William David Sloan of the University of Alabama.

This book is similar to previous works by these authors; like Perspectives on Mass Communication History, this book is also a collection of essays by leading media historians. Like The Media in America, this book discusses specific periods and people of American journalism history.

Yet where this book departs from the mainstream is in its examination of the different roles the media have played in the development of American history. Rather than looking only at periods or people, the authors examine concepts and themes using specific examples in history. The essays examine the media in history as a part of a larger process, not merely a reporter of the process. Startt and Sloan write that the media in history are more than chroniclers of life--they're key players in it. They suggest that this point is key to a deeper understanding of the media's significance in history. For instance, the authors write that the earliest texts did not "struggle with the question of why (the media) were significant. They simply assumed without a second thought that the media played a central and critical role in the nation's public affairs."

The book begins with a discussion of "The Historical Search for Significance" and examines the long-standing schools of thought and approaches to the study of mass communication history. With the variety of approaches available to study history, the editors note, historians are at a fork in the road. Which approach should researchers use? Startt and Sloan suggest the use of significant issues, adding "significance in history can be a matter of interpretation or at least perception. It is, however, the contention of the editors of this book that it can be demonstrated." They add that they hope the book helps show "the rich diversity that has characterized the important role the media have played in American life."

The 16 essays that follow show the scope of this diversity. …

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