Book Reviews -- the Significance of the Media in American History Edited by James D. Startt and Wm. David Sloan
Jolliffe, Lee, Journalism History
Startt, James D., and Wm. David Sloan, eds. The Significance of the Media in American History. Northport, AL: Vision Press, 1994. 382 pp. $24.95.
Though many media studies set out to show the impact of the media on American society, the rest of the academy frequently treats journalism merely as a conduit by which the truly significant figures--politicians and business people--can feed information to the public.
James Startt and David Sloan have edited a persuasive volume in which thoughtful media historians have developed studies, built on solid scholarship, testing the media's influence on American society. The book is a worthwhile investment for the introduction alone, where the editors describe clearly and in detail the development of journalism history as a field of study and its current position in the academic community.
The articles include Karen List's essay showing the prescriptive nature of the media's view of "woman's place," using as evidence the women's magazines of the New Republic. James Startt shows how the film news media influenced Americans toward the Allies in World War I, popularizing the war effort but creating an overly idealistic view of its ultimate goal (a "war to end all wars"). The book is wide-ranging, with studies of the diffusion of radio, the "selling" of the American revolution to the colonists, the use of the media to build both geographic and ideological communities, and the use of the media to link science, progress, and democracy as mutually dependent ideals. Perhaps the most entertaining chapter is Bruce Evensen's look at the media and the American character, which he epitomizes in Roaring Twenties newspaper coverage of boxing as a sport. …