James Carey: A Critical Reader

By Christians, Clifford | Journalism History, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

James Carey: A Critical Reader


Christians, Clifford, Journalism History


Munson, Eve Stryker, and Catherine Warren, eds. Ja-es Carey: A Critical Reader. Minneapolis: University of Minnessota Press, 1997. 355 pp. $19.95.

If the primary question is the usefulness of this book for historians of mass communication, it scores a five-star rating. James Carey's work helps define the history chronicled here. He has been the leading intellectual in establishing an American cultural studies approach to communication; in broader terms, as Esquire and others have recognized, he is one of the nation's finest cultural historians.

The editors of this volume are students of Carey. With his collaboration, they selected for this book eleven of his studies published on media studies, journalism history, communication technology, the press, and higher education. In their introduction, Professors Munson and Warren situate this material within a larger body of work and overall contribution. And they arranged for each of five sections to be critiqued by Carey's colleagues-three communication historians (John Pauly, Michael Schudson, and Carolyn Marvin) and Jay Rosen and Stuart Adam. Carey builds on this interactive format with an original Afterward, "The Culture in Question,' which by itself is worth the price of the book.

"The Problem of Journalism History" is included in Part II. As nearly all of us remember, this was the first article in the first issue of Journalism History, and its impact has not been equaled. A dozen authors subsequently used it as their major point of departure in Journalism History, and it is widely cited within and outside communication studies. Fortunately, the editors also include as chapter 6 Tom Reilly's interview with Carey, published originally in Journalism History in the Summer 1985 issue. This gives him an opportunity a decade later to elaborate on Whig history, his argument for a cultural turn in the history of reporting, the attempts to "operationalize Carey,' and the uses of history to broaden the study and teaching of journalism. …

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