W. Joseph Campbell

‘Getting It Wrong’ among 90 titles at NPC Book Fair

In 1897, Cronkite Moment, Debunking, Hurricane Katrina, Media myths, Murrow-McCarthy myth, Newspapers, Washington Post, Watergate myth, Year studies on November 8, 2010 at 11:55 am

I will be among more than 90 authors signing and selling their recent books tomorrow evening at the annual National Press Club Book Fair and Authors’ Night.

My latest book, Getting It Wrong, will be among the titles at the Press Club event.

The book fair this year brings together a variety of authors, including one of my favorite journalism historians, Maurine Beasley of the University of Maryland; Jack Fuller, author of What Is Happening To News, and Chesley (“Sully”) Sullenberger, the pilot who safely landed a stricken passenger airliner on the Hudson River in January 2009.

The Book Fair is a fine occasion. I attended the event in 2006 and had a great time. My book at that event was The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms.

Getting It Wrong, which came out during the summer, addresses and debunks 10 prominent media-driven myths. These are stories about and/or by the news media that widely believed and often retold but which, under scrutiny, dissolve as apocryphal or wildly exaggerated.

I liken them to the “junk food” of journalism–delicious and appealing, perhaps, but not terribly healthy or nutritious.

The myths debunked in Getting It Wrong include some of the most cherished stories American journalism tells about itself, including:

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

I further write that Getting It Wrong “aligns itself with a central objective of newsgathering—that of seeking to get it right, of setting straight the record by offering searching reappraisals of some of the best-known stories journalism tells about itself.

“Given that truth-seeking is such a widely shared and animating value in American journalism,” I add, “it is a bit odd that so little effort has been made over the years to revisit, scrutinize, and verify these stories. But then, journalism seldom is seriously introspective, or very mindful of its history. It usually proceeds with little more than a nod to its past.”

I point out that media myths take hold for a variety of reasons: Because they delicious stories that are almost too good not to be true; because they are reductive in offering simplistic interpretations of complex historical events, and because they are self-flattering in that they place journalists at the decisive center of important developments.

The Book Fair opens at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free for members, and $5 for non-members.

WJC

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