The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism

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St. Martin's Publishing Group, Jun 20, 2017 - Biography & Autobiography - 336 pages

**WINNER, Sperber Prize 2018, for the best biography of a journalist**

The first and definitive biography of an audacious adventurer—the most famous journalist of his time—who more than anyone invented contemporary journalism.

Tom Brokaw says: "Lowell Thomas so deserves this lively account of his legendary life. He was a man for all seasons."

“Mitchell Stephens’s The Voice of America is a first-rate and much-needed biography of the great Lowell Thomas. Nobody can properly understand broadcast journalism without reading Stephens’s riveting account of this larger-than-life globetrotting radio legend.” —Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of Cronkite

Few Americans today recognize his name, but Lowell Thomas was as well known in his time as any American journalist ever has been. Raised in a Colorado gold-rush town, Thomas covered crimes and scandals for local then Chicago newspapers. He began lecturing on Alaska, after spending eight days in Alaska. Then he assigned himself to report on World War I and returned with an exclusive: the story of “Lawrence of Arabia.”

In 1930, Lowell Thomas began delivering America’s initial radio newscast. His was the trusted voice that kept Americans abreast of world events in turbulent decades – his face familiar, too, as the narrator of the most popular newsreels. His contemporaries were also dazzled by his life. In a prime-time special after Thomas died in 1981, Walter Cronkite said that Thomas had “crammed a couple of centuries worth of living” into his eighty-nine years. Thomas delighted in entering “forbidden” countries—Tibet, for example, where he met the teenaged Dalai Lama. The Explorers Club has named its building, its awards, and its annual dinner after him.

Journalists in the last decades of the twentieth century—including Cronkite and Tom Brokaw—acknowledged a profound debt to Thomas. Though they may not know it, journalists today too are following a path he blazed. In The Voice of America, Mitchell Stephens offers a hugely entertaining, sometimes critical portrait of this larger than life figure.

 

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Contents

The Messenger
1
A Portrait of the Journalist as a Young Cowboy
7
Two Scoops in Chicago
26
See America First
40
Too Good to Be True
58
Something More Colossal Than Anything of Its Kind Ever Tried
82
A BlueEyed Beardless Man in Arab Robes
94
Come with Me to the Land of History Mystery and Romance
108
Having the Ear of America
151
The Voice of God
174
Catching Up with the War
198
The Very Roof of the World
220
An Entirely New Form of Entertainment
240
To Strive To Seek To Find and Not to Yield
256
He Loved the Face of the Earth
280
Index
321

How Dull It Is to Pause
128

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About the author (2017)

Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism in the Carter Institute at New York University, is the author of A History of News, a New York Times “notable book of the year.” Stephens also has written several other books on journalism and media, including Beyond News: The Future of Journalism and the rise of the image the fall of the word. He also published Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World. Stephens was a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He shares Lowell Thomas’ love of travel and had the privilege of following Thomas' tracks through Colorado, Alaska, the Yukon, Europe, Arabia, Sikkim and Tibet.

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