Book Reviews -- Cracked Coverage: Television News, the Anti-Cocaine Crusade, and the Reagan Legacy by Jimmie L. Reeves and Richard Campbell
Foust, James C., Journalism History
Reeves, Jimmie L. and Richard Campbell. Cracked Coverage: Television News, the Anti-Cocaine Crusade, and the Reagan Legacy. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994. 330 pp. $19.95.
Jimmie L. Reeves and Richard Campbell assert in Cracked Coverage that the 1980s' so-called "War on Drugs" was based largely on fictional assumptions. As such, they contend that the anti-drug crusade forwarded elements of racism, family values and nostalgia inherent in Ronald Reagan's "New Right" politics. While this idea is not new, the authors' portrayal of the mainstream media as eager participants in the deception makes this a valuable book.
The authors, both assistant professors in Communication and the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, studied television news reports between 1981 and 1988 from the Vanderbilt Archives to construct what they call "the cocaine narrative." In this narrative, they contend, the media took their place alongside the drug control establishment and the New Right in the War on Drugs. In fact, Reeves and Campbell believe the media's cooperation was crucial to forwarding the New Right's social agenda through drug control. Thus, the media portrayed upper-class (and largely white) cocaine users as victims of a disease and lower-class (and largely black) crack users as delinquents and deviants. Anchors and reporters exposed the "moral disgust" of crack as they accompanied law enforcement officers on drug raids, played up the threat to "innocent people" from the crack epidemic, and preached the virtue of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" solution to the problem.
In the first half of the book, Reeves and Campbell lay a thorough and readable groundwork for their study, which they call "an interdisciplinary work aimed at a multidisciplinary audience. …