Killing the Messenger: 100 Years of Media Criticism

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Tom Goldstein
Columbia University Press, 1989 - Journalism - 272 pages
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Criticism of the press has flourished at times over the last one hundred years, especially during the first part of this century. For a 1920 issue of the "New Republic," Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz wrote a stunning indictment of the "New York Times" for botching the coverage of the Russian Revolution. The 1980s have been a fallow period for cogent press criticism, but the decade has been characterized by a series of upheavals crying for fuller scrutiny. Janet Cooke, a "Washington Post" reporter, was forced to return the Pulitzer Prize for a fabricated story about an eight-year-old heroin addict; the National News Council collapsed; a blizzard of libel suits covered newspapers, magazines, and networks; and Gary Hart in his bid for the presidency forced an examination of what should be private or public knowledge. "Killing the Messenger" is an anthology of some of the most provocative writing that has been done in this century about the press. It is a seminal collection of neglected pieces linked together to offer different perspectives on many of the issues that are plaguing the press today.

"Killing the Messenger" examines how the concentration of media ownership denies access to the public, how the media inadequately police themselves, how reporters could be better trained, and how the press sensationalizes on the one hand and censors itself on the other. Tom Goldstein has selected five areas of concentration: reporting on private matters, journalists and their biases, the power and limitations of the press, making better reporters, and the techniques journalists use to portray reality. Some of the selections have been taken from books that have been long out of print, orfrom official reports. Others come from magazines of speeches. The contributors include Theodore Roosevelt, Joseph Pulitzer, Upton Sinclair, Louis Brandeis, Spiro Agnew, and John Hersey. The editor has provided brief introductions and headnotes to each section.

Tom Goldstein has chosen these articles to encourage contemporary journalists to look at themselves more closely, to apply the same skepticism to themselves that they readily heap on city councilmen, police chiefs, football coaches, movie directors, and heads of state. According to him, journalists have not shown much appetite for self-analysis during a crucial time when they should welcome, not recoil from, criticism of their own performance.

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Killing the messenger: 100 years of media criticism

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This is a collection of 15 analyses of the mass media. The very long selections are presented with only a few sentences of explanation by the compiler, currently dean of Berkeley's journalism school ... Read full review

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