Covering America: Journalism from the American Revolution to the Digital Revolution

Chris Daly
Chris Daly
Boston University

A former Washington Post and Associated Press journalist, Chris Daly has been teaching courses in the history and techniques of journalism at Boston University for almost 25 years. He is the author of Covering America: A Narrative History of the Nation’s Journalism, as well as many scholarly and popular articles on the history of news. Professor Daly has appeared as an expert in the PBS American Masters documentary “Joseph Pulitzer: Voice of the People.” He writes at www.journalismprofessor.com and contributes to the Washington Post series “Made by History.”

Overview

By the founding of our country, America’s press had already evolved from a puny, weak, censored offshoot of the printing trade into a robust forum for political debate. Activists on both sides launched new publications at a rapid pace, often hiding behind pseudonyms to launch bitter partisan attacks. That’s the model of news media enshrined in the Constitution.

In this class, Professor Daly will show how those polemical, local, hand-made newspapers and pamphlets evolved again into the profitable powerhouses of mass media in newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. To grow, they needed to appeal to mass audiences. As they grew, they adopted a kind of political camouflage: the doctrine of objectivity.

Then came the internet, which upset the business model and led to the splintering of that big audience. Now, most people can choose precisely the news they like, with the political spin they prefer.

 

Discussion Questions:

 

1. What are the main drivers of change in journalism?

 

2. Are we in a period of decline?

 

3. What is the duty of journalists in wartime?

 

4. What limits — if any — should we accept on press freedom?

 

 

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