W. Joseph Campbell

Launching ‘Getting It Wrong’ at Newseum

In Bay of Pigs, Bra-burning, Cronkite Moment, Debunking, Furnish the war, Jessica Lynch, Media myths, Murrow-McCarthy myth, War of the Worlds, Washington Post, Watergate myth on June 14, 2010 at 6:28 am

My new book, Getting It Wrong, will be launched Saturday, June 19, at an “Inside Media” program at the Newseum, the $450 million museum of news in downtown Washington, D.C.

The program will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Knight TV Studio on the third level and will feature a discussion with the Newseum’s John Maynard, followed by audience Q-and-A.

I’ll be signing copies of Getting It Wrong afterward.

The book addresses, and debunks, 10 prominent media-driven myths–stories about and/or by the news media that are widely believed and often retold but which, on close inspection, proved to be apocryphal or wildly exaggerated.

Here is a brief description about each of the 10 myths:

  1. Remington-Hearst: William Randolph Hearst’s famous vow, “you furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war,” is almost certainly apocryphal.
  2. War of Worlds: The notion that the War of Worlds radio dramatization in 1938 caused nationwide panic and mass hysteria is exaggerated.
  3. Murrow-McCarthy: Edward R. Murrow’s famous See It Now program in March 1954 did not end Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communists-in-government witch-hunt; Murrow in fact was very late to take on McCarthy.

    Murrow in 1954

  4. Bay of Pigs: The New York Times did not suppress its reporting in the run-up to the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961.
  5. Cronkite-Johnson: Walter Cronkite’s special report on Vietnam in February 1968 did not prompt an immediate reassessment of U.S. war policy.
  6. Bra-burning: Humor columnist Art Buchwald helped spread the notion that feminist demonstrators dramatically burned their bras at a Miss America protest in September 1968.
  7. Watergate: The Washington Post’s intrepid reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, did not bring down Richard Nixon’s corrupt presidency. That they did is a trope that knows few bounds.
  8. Crack babies: The much-feared “bio-underclass” of children born to women who smoked crack cocaine during their pregnancies never materialized.
  9. Jessica Lynch: The Washington Post’s erroneous reporting about Jessica Lynch early in the Iraq War gave rise to several myths about her capture and rescue.
  10. Hurricane Katrina: News coverage of Katrina’s aftermath in New Orleans in early September 2005 was marred by wild exaggerations of extreme, Mad Max-like violence.

As I write in Getting It Wrong, the myths debunked “are among American journalism’s best-known stories. Most of them are savory tales. And at least some of them seem almost too good to be false.”

I further write that because it “takes on some of the most treasured stories in American journalism,” Getting It Wrong is “a work with a provocative edge. It could not be otherwise.”

WJC

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