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Newsworkers: Toward a History of the Rank and File

Hanno Hardt
Bonnie Brennen
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt8n4
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  • Book Info
    Newsworkers
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the period from the 1850s through the 1930s, the contributors show how issues of labor and class have been far more important in the formation of media institutions than previous accounts concede. These essays recover the history of ethnic and cultural diversity-including the contributions of women-that have enriched the process of communication. Contributors: Jon Bekken; Elizabeth (Elli) Lester, U of Georgia; Marianne Salcetti, John Carroll U; William S. Solomon, Rutgers U; David R. Spencer, U of Western Ontario; Barbie Zelizer, Temple U.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8695-7
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Hanno Hardt and Bonnie Brennen

    The traditional construction of media history has relied on notions of democracy, progress, and community leadership to produce the image of an institution that has secured the place of journalism in the annals of the United States. Current attempts to modernize the representation of media history through widely used textbooks repeat traditional views of what constitutes a history of the press; they present ideologically predisposed accounts that fail to consider issues of work and class. The result has been a history of institutional power without any consideration of the rank and file and their contribution to the social and political...

  4. 1 Without the Rank and File: Journalism History, Media Workers, and Problems of Representation
    (pp. 1-29)
    Hanno Hardt

    The history of media workers remains obscured by its precarious location among intellectual traditions and academic disciplines. Neither journalism nor mass communication studies in the United States has fully explored the notion of media work and the process of labor, and both have remained on the margins of intellectual developments in historiography that have profoundly affected the thrust and direction of historical explanation for many years. Thus, despite major shifts toward a social or cultural perspective of history that address the links and interactions among structural conditions in contemporary societies, and despite modest reforms in journalism education and the rise...

  5. 2 Discursive Strategies of Exclusion: The Ideological Construction of Newsworkers
    (pp. 30-47)
    Elizabeth (Elli) Lester

    Undergraduate journalism education prepares and socializes prospective journalists to enter the workplace in highly specific ways. Through classroom instruction, choices of textbooks, internship programs, campus newspapers, radio stations, and other outlets, students are instructed in the techniques and practices of journalism and how to think about their future as workers. There is frequently a journalism history course, among required courses in the curriculum, that purports to place journalism and journalists in a broader social, cultural, and historical context.

    This essay examines journalism history textbooks from the point of view of their construction of journalistic workers within the industry. Because this...

  6. 3 The Emergence of the Reporter: Mechanization and the Devaluation of Editorial Workers
    (pp. 48-74)
    Marianne Salcetti

    In his Utopian dream ofLooking Backward, Edward Bellamy (1887) characterized the late nineteenth century as one of “profound pessimism as to the future of humanity,” in which people were bound “from mental and physical absorption in working and scheming for mere bodily necessities” (238). Bellamy and others bemoaned the human cost of the mechanized changes occurring at that time in how work was accomplished, how and where people lived, and, ultimately, how American society was reshaped in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

    Others embraced this era of inventiveness, as ever-increasing types and sizes of machines replaced forms...

  7. 4 Cultural Discourse of Journalists: The Material Conditions of Newsroom Labor
    (pp. 75-109)
    Bonnie Brennen

    This essay attempts to reclaim a portion of the cultural history of media workers and maintains that although a discussion of newsworkers is central to an understanding of the political and economic development of American media, to date, the history of the rank and file has not been written. Specifically, it considers the conditions of labor for American journalists during the interwar years of 1919-38, drawing on novels about newsworkers as primary source material. Incorporating cultural materialism, Raymond Williams’s (1988) theory of the “specificities of material cultural and literary production within historical materialism” (5), this study maintains that newspaper novel...

  8. 5 The Site of Newsroom Labor: The Division of Editorial Practices
    (pp. 110-134)
    William S. Solomon

    Today the United States corporate sector owns most U.S. newspapers, the result of a trend that began early in this century and accelerated during the 1980s (Bagdikian 1992). “The impact of trading newspaper securities on the stock market,” press critic Ben Bagdikian (1979) writes, “has meant that news companies must constantly expand in size and rate of profits in order to maintain their position on stock exchanges” (24). Yet, in today’s structurally based economic downturn, newspapers face considerably lower rates of profit than those of the Reagan administration’s “boom” years. Further, amid a continuing societal shift in “the distributive forms...

  9. 6 Words against Images: Positioning Newswork in the Age of Photography
    (pp. 135-159)
    Barbie Zelizer

    It is a commonly accepted, if little understood, truism that one picture is worth a thousand words. Yet how such a truism came to be incorporated into the practices of those responsible for the discourse surrounding images is a less developed dimension of our understanding. This essay addresses the collective response to photographs among American journalists during a time when photographs were a novel tool for documenting the events of public life. It considers how journalists of the 1930s and 1940s resisted, challenged, and adapted to the photographic image, ultimately accepting photography as an alternative but legitimate mode of newswork....

  10. 7 Alternative Visions: The Intellectual Heritage of Nonconformist Journalists in Canada
    (pp. 160-189)
    David R. Spencer

    In 1853 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, members of the Society of Journeymen Printers withdrew their services from George Brown’s newspaper theGlobe, complaining about working conditions and wages. In many respects, the job action differed little from those that were to follow as Canada, in league with its North American and European counterparts, began the long and torturous march on the road to large-scale industrialization. Yet the position taken by the printers extended beyond the purely economic considerations they presented. The cleavages that distinguish the ruler from the ruled ascended to the surface. In their memorial issued on the eve...

  11. 8 Newsboys The Exploitation of “Little Merchants” by the Newspaper Industry
    (pp. 190-226)
    Jon Bekken

    Distribution is at the nexus of the valorization of capital in the newspaper business, and newsboys have long been key to the distribution process. In 1933, the American Newspaper Publishers Association reported that 500,000 boys worked as newsboys, “far outnumbering all adults connected with the newspaper business” (ANPA Bulletin1933). The Newspaper Association of America estimates that there are a total of 473,367 carriers for U.S. newspapers today, nearly 60 percent of them youths.¹ Yet, despite their central role, newsboys have been studied primarily as a social problem instead of for their role as newspaper workers. Such studies proliferated at...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 227-228)
  13. Index
    (pp. 229-237)