The Stories They Carried

Friday, December 12, 2008


The Federal Writers' Project put thousands of people to work including Zora Neale Hurston, Stetson Kennedy, and John Steinbeck. They recorded oral histories, folkways, music and wrote everything from state guides to children's books. Jerrold Hirsch, author of Portrait of America describes the legacy of "introducing America to Americans," and how the program upended the American story.

Comments [3]

Matt from Arlington, Virginia

I think the problem is much more dire than Mr. Jones describes above. Yes, watchdog journalism has disappeared. Instead all journalism has taken on a watchdog role detached from the inherent responsibility of original journalism. What now passes for journalism is then masqueraded to the public as if it is original journalism. That makes a government-financed journalism in this current media environment far more detrimental to democracy then it would be to journalism and it would be very detrimental to journalism in the short and long run.

Dec. 16 2008 11:22 AM
Sherry from Oregon

The American "newsroom" on MSM was destroyed years ago when journalists became friends with the politicians and the unoffical spokes people of the White House and Big Business. I can think of many other ways my tax dollars could be put to use.

If they are so good and altruistic - why not freelance? I do some oil paintings by commission, but that has stopped due to the economy. Will I be bailed out because it's a "dying" art? Nope.........

Dec. 16 2008 12:21 AM
Brian C. Jones from Newport, RI -- Listener of WRNI

Brooke Gladstone,
I realize your tough questioning of your interviewee about whether a Writers Project would be giving welfare to higher income journalists who are not "working class" was appropriate in terms of the challenge that all journalism requires.

But putting aside the issue of who makes up the deserving unemployed, the real issue underlying your questions is the survival of journalism at all. And it sounded to me like you think the news biz is going through a rough patch only and is not imperiled.

I think the issue far more dire. We are witnessing the destruction of the "American Newsroom," the collective man-and-woman-power of newspaper reporting and editing staffs. Whether or not print is over-the-hill, these giant newsrooms have been the bedrock of original reporting, local and beyond. And when they are gone, there is nothing in the future to say they will be replaced. That means no watchdog reporting, no investigative teams and no day-in and day-out reporting of the activities of government and business that allows a democracy to breath.

I'm not sure government-financed journalism is the answer. But we cannot ignore the fragile state of journalism.

Dec. 14 2008 03:02 PM

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