August 31, 2006
Whitworth Professor's New Book Finds Much to Criticize and Praise
In his new book, Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present, Whitworth Associate Professor of Communication Studies James McPherson, Ph.D., illustrates how the American press has evolved into a conglomeration of entities that today can be described as pervasive, entertaining, and justifiably mistrusted. McPherson also asserts that in some ways today's press offers the best journalism Americans have ever encountered, while in other ways the modern news media fall short of the ideals held by most of those who care about journalism. The media also have not fulfilled the promise they once seemed to offer in terms of helping create an enlightened democracy, according to McPherson.
McPherson's book is the final volume of a seven-part "History of American Journalism" series published by Praeger/Greenwood. The books in the series were written by journalism historians from around the United States, with the final three volumes, which cover the years since 1900, all published this summer.
"Neither a paean to the press nor an exercise in media bashing, McPherson's book finds much to criticize and to praise about recent American journalism, while illustrating that traditional journalistic values have diminished in importance – not just for many of those who control the media, but also for the media consumers who most need good journalism," states the publisher on its website, www.greenwood.com.
Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present addresses topics including social unrest, the influence of entertainment values, technological shifts, media consolidation and corporatization, issues of content versus context, new kinds of news media, and why the 1970s may have been the high point of American journalism. McPherson focuses on events and issues including the rise of television news, the Civil Rights Movement and other race-related issues, the Women's Movement, alternative journalism, the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, investigative journalism, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, the World Trade Center attacks, the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, and elections, civic journalism, and journalism scandals.
"People love to beat up on the news media, and sometimes the media deserve it," McPherson says. "But it can also be argued that we often get the media that we deserve, since the worst aspects of the press are the ones that typically draw the biggest audiences. We seem to like the press best when it's not doing a particularly good job, such as during the beginning of the Iraq War. Then we criticize the media on the relatively rare occasions when they do their most important job, which is serving as a check on institutional power. We cannot govern ourselves without a strong press. However poorly it may function at times, the press does try to protect rights that we all should value – and that I think we'll miss if we continue to let them slip away."
McPherson worked as a newspaper reporter and editor in Idaho and Arizona before earning an interdisciplinary doctorate at Washington State University in communication, history and political science. He began teaching at Whitworth in 2000, and he has published several academic journal articles and book chapters related to journalism history. McPherson is currently on sabbatical writing a book, Getting the News Right: The Resurgence of Conservatism in the Press, scheduled to be published next year by Northwestern University Press.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Whitworth, which has an enrollment of 2,500 students, offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Jim McPherson, associate professor of communication studies, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julie Riddle, public information officer, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or email@example.com.