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. Campbell does an excellent job of showing how media myths become canonical truth once the entertainment industry gets hold of them as they did in "Good Night And Good Luck".
He also examines how the media is slow to admit its errors, if it ever does.
Anyone who consumes news will find this book worthwhile. Campbell has done a service to the public, if not journalism itself.