Today’s edition of the venerable Portuguese newspaper Diário de Notícias includes a write up about Getting It Wrong, my new book about prominent media-driven myths–those false, dubious, improbable stories about the news media that masquerade as factual.
With the help of the online translation site Babelfish, I was able to make out a good deal of the Diário review, which says in part:
“W. Joseph Campbell in Getting it Wrong: Ten of the Greatest Misreported Stories in American Journalism, published the University of California Press, [says] these ‘myths can be thought as junk food of jornalismo.’”
The Diário article mentions several media myths addressed and debunked in Getting It Wrong, including those of William Randolph Hearst’s purported vow to “furnish the war” with Spain; the 1938 radio dramatization of the War of the Worlds which supposedly sowed panic across the United States; the notion that Edward R. Murrow’s 1954 See It Now television program abruptly halted Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communists-in-government witch-hunt, and the myth that the New York Times suppressed its coverage of the run-up to the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.
Diário characterizes as one of the book’s “more concrete” examples “the Watergate case,” in which reporters for the Washington Post are credited with having toppled the corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon.
Media myths, the articles notes, are not innocuous; ” they can distort the perception of the power and function of jornalismo” because “they tend to give the media” more power and influence than they rightly deserve. It also says that myths can “minimize the complexity of the historical events for simplistic interpretations.” Both of those are important points raised in Getting It Wrong.
“By no means do the media myths examined on these pages represent a closed universe,” I write in the book’s closing passage. “Others surely will assert themselves. They may tell of great deeds by journalists, or of their woeful failings. They may well hold appeal across the political spectrum, offering something for almost everyone. They may be about war, or politics, or biomedical research.
“Predictably, they will be delicious tales, easy to remember, and perhaps immodest and self-congratulatory. They probably will offer vastly simplified accounts of history, and may be propelled by cinematic treatment. They will be media-driven myths, all rich candidates for debunking.”