Media and Religion in American History

By Roberts, Nancy L. | Journalism History, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Media and Religion in American History


Roberts, Nancy L., Journalism History


Sloan, Wm. David, ed. Media and Religion in American History. Northport, Ala.: Vision Press, 2000.293 pp. $24.95.

This is an interesting and useful collection of fourteen original articles as well as four noteworthy previous contributions to the subject of media and religion.

Reprinted are classics such as David Paul Nord's "The Evangelical Origins of Mass Media in America, 1815-1835" Journalism Monographs, 1984) and Stephen J. Whitfield's "The Jewish Contribution to American Journalism" (American Journalism, 1986). The collection covers a largely Christian Protestant range of topics from "Puritans and Freedom of Expression" Julie Hedgepeth Williams) and "Religious Newspapers and Antebellum Reform" (Carol Sue Humphrey) to "The Church and the Debate over Radio" (Robert S. Former) and "Protestant Press Relations" (John P. Ferre).

The sixteen authors include many leading historians of the media, and it is a pleasure to see their work gathered here-for example, David Copeland on "Religion and Colonial Newspapers," Judith Buddenbaum on "The Religious Roots of Sigma Delta Chi," and Marvin Olasky on "Journalists and the Great Monkey Trial."

David Sloan's introduction briefly sketches the evolving relationship between religion and the media. He notes that over time "religion exercised a decreasing influence on the media... From colonial times through the 1800s, religion played a positive and often a strong role in the development and operation of mass communication. Then, mainly in the twentieth century, one will find an increasingly hostile treatment of religion in the media. …

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