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Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism Paperback – July 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“Persuasive and entertaining.”
(Edward Kosner Wall Street Journal 2010-07-12)

“Toting big guns and an itchy trigger-finger, Campbell flattens established myths that you were brought up to believe were true.”
(Slate Magazine 2010-05-21)

"It may be the best book about journalism in recent memory; it is certainly the most subversive."
(Andrew Ferguson Commentary Magazine 2010-06-01)

“Campbell's Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism is essential reading not just for journalists but all consumers of the news.”
(Nick Gillespie Reason 2012-07-09)

“Exquisitely researched and lively.”
(Denver Post 2010-09-12)

"The value of these studies is . . . in the detailed and illuminating research Campbell has applied to each."
(James Roylan Columbia Journalism Review 2010-05-01)

“Written by a scholar who makes intricate facts clear, employing English, not Scholarspeak, Getting it Wrong is an eye-opener.”
(Marie Shear Freelancer 2010-12-05)

“This well-written and well-researched book will be of interest to historians, journalism scholars, and sociologists.”
(Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib. Library Journal 2010-06-01)

“A useful book . . . which among other things answers the question about the importance of debunking media-driven myths.”
(The Morning News/Identity Theory 2010-08-12)

“A solid resource for those interested in journalism.”
(R. A. Logan Choice 2011-08-01)

From the Inside Flap

“If daily journalism constitutes history's first rough draft, then Getting it Wrong certainly reveals how rough that draft can be. Joseph Campbell is a dogged and first-rate scholar.”—Neil Henry, Dean, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

"Dr. Campbell has done meticulous research that examines ten media myths in context. This book rightfully calls us to rethink some significant errors that have become a part of our history and our collective memories. It is just downright interesting reading."—Wallace B. Eberhard, recipient of the American Journalism Historians Association Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (July 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520262093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520262096
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

W. Joseph Campbell is an American writer, journalist, blogger, and historian. He has written six books, including, most recently, "1995: The Year the Future Began" (University of California Press).
He also has written "Getting It Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism" (2010) and "The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms" (2006).
Dr. Campbell is a professor in the communication studies program at American University's School of Communication. Previously, he was a professional journalist for 20 years.
He writes about media-driven myths and other media issues at his blog, He also blogs at
More information about his latest book may be found at:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Saperstein HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm a news junkie. And, increasingly, a media critic.

Today I read nothing, hear nothing, see nothing from any news outlet that I am not skeptical of.

Objectivity in journalism, if it ever existed, is certainly rare today and many so-called journalists are quite skilled at mixing their personal opinions or editorial outlooks into what are supposedly news stories.

W. Joseph Campbell , a Professor at American University, takes apart "ten of the greatest misreported stories in American journalism" - and he does it wonderfully well.

This is not a dull book. Professor Campbell has a reasonably lively style for an academic.

He has chosen ten stories that have taken on mythical dimensions:

1. Press mogul William Randolph Hearst allegedly fomenting the Spanish-American War.
2. The panic engendered by Orson Welles' "War Of The Worlds" radio broadcast.
3. Murrow and McCarthy
4. The Bay Of Pigs
5. Walter Cronkite on the Vietnam War
6. Bra burning at Atlantic City.
7. Watergate and Woodward/Bernstein.
8. Crack-babies.
9. Creating the Jessica Lynch myth
10. Hurricane Katrina.

Using contemporaneous accounts, Campbell provides a solid basis for his claim that the underlying story was turned into a myth by the media - and, usually, without ever admitting or acknowledging it.

His chapter on the falsity of the Edward R. Murrow myth is particularly good. He demonstrates that Murrow himself and his producer Fred Friendly never claimed that they were the instigators of the downfall of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, whose reputation was already quite a way down the slope. In fact, as Campbell points out, Murrow was relatively late to the McCarthy bashing party.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jim Altfeld on August 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I gave any credence to the press prior to reading this book, it's completely gone now. The Jessica Lynch and Katrina stories alone were enough to make me scream, and I have a degree in Journalism. Not too long after reading this book, I watched ESPN's 30:30 documentary on Michael Jordan playing minor league baseball. I distinctly remember, at the time he was doing that, all I read and heard was what a mistake for him to be doing this and what a failure he was at it. Turns out all of that was untrue. Jordan applied the very same work ethic to baseball that he had applied to basketball and was actually succeeding in minor league baseball at the age of 31. The most disturbing thing about the documentary came when a Sports Illustrated writer said his story, explaining how much Jordan had improved as a ball player and why he may have what it takes to actually play in the Big Leagues was killed by Sports Illustrated because the press overall, wanted Jordan back in basketball. And if you recall, the story we were handed when he came back to Basketball was that he missed the game and that he had finally given up his stupid dream to play baseball. Turns out that wasn't true either. He came back to basketball because of the baseball strike putting him in a position where he would have to cross a picket line and he was not willing to do that. This book is filled with well known, historical events I'd read about and came to believe as fact, when in fact they were either fabricated out of thin air or greatly embellished. It's a book worth reading.
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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful By matt8386 VINE VOICE on January 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Joseph Campbell uses 10 common media myths to show you can't always believe what you hear on TV or read in the papers. Repeated often enough, a story can evolve into a "fact". Some of the myths tackled here are relatively innocent (Orson Wells caused mass panic when he did a version of War of the Worlds on radio) or the Bra Burning in Atlantic City. Some are much more serious - Was mega rich Journalist Hearst responsible for whipping up US masses into a frenzy to go to war with Spain?

Campbell is correct in stating you have to know all of the facts before making a judgment. The media's job is to tell & sell a story. The more lurid, shocking, heroic, (fill in the blank), the more it will sell. Reporters, many times not even on the scene are pressured to say something. That has not changed at all, so these examples are good reminders of the old fashioned advice - consider the source & take it with a grain of salt. Jessica Lynch was rescued during a night raid in Iraq, but was the raid staged?

What didn't I like about this book - it's easier to tear down something than it is to build - in each of the stories there are elements of truth, but by attacking a narrow portion of it, you can 'debunk' the myth. For example - maybe Hearst did not say to his employee "you furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war". OK - myth busted. But it does not answer the larger question - how much of Hearst's yellow journalism contribute to the Spanish American War? Certainly Walter Cronkite does not deserve all of the credit for telling Americans we could not win in Vietnam, but as a most respected journalist, he gets a nod. If the author truly wants to make a point, why not write a book that states what really happened?
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