Media History

On The Media

Game Changer

Friday, June 12, 2009

25 years ago the Russian computer programmer Alexey Pajitnov created the ur-video game Tetris. Simple to play, hard to win and ubiquitous, the game continues to frustrate and entertain the masses. We speak with Pajitnov about how he started the shapes falling.

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On The Media

Tip Calculator

Friday, May 29, 2009

In a recently published memoir, a New York Times Washington-Bureau editor makes a shocking revelation: the Times had a scoop about the Watergate story months before Woodward and Bernstein. Amazingly, and mysteriously, the Times never followed up on the tip. Robert M. Smith, the Times reporter who received ...

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On The Media

Pulp Fictions

Friday, May 01, 2009

Throughout journalism there have been the inevitable errors of omission, errant mistakes and occasional misstatements of fact. And then there have been the flat-out, large-scale flagrant lies. Eric Burns, author of All The News Unfit to Print, reintroduces us to a number of prominent journalists who, finding the ...

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On The Media

Chain Rule

Friday, April 03, 2009

We all know that Orson Welles drew his inspiration for the film “Citizen Kane” from the life of William Randolph Hearst. But over time, the character called Kane has become so conflated with the man named Hearst that we tend to think of the movie as a biopic. Kenneth Whyte’s ...

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On The Media

Yellow Fever

Friday, April 03, 2009

Last week, Slate’s press critic Jack Shafer wrote in praise of yellow journalism: “At its best it was terrific, at its worst it wasn’t that bad.” So, does the yellow stuff deserve its tawdry reputation? We asked W. Joseph Campbell, author of Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the ...

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On The Media

The Apple, Jacked

Friday, February 27, 2009

Twenty years ago this week 60 Minutes introduced much of the country to Alar, a chemical used to make apples ripen on time. They argued that Alar was also an unregulated carcinogen, after which a panic ensued. Food journalist Michael Pollan argues that the fallout ...

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On The Media

Orwell and the English Language

Friday, December 19, 2008

Best known for his novels 1984 and Animal Farm, George Orwell's mastery of clear language is nowhere more evident than in his essays. New Yorker staff writer George Packer, who has compiled some of these shorter works into two volumes, says Orwell's voice was irascible and ...

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On The Media

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 ...

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On The Media

Writers On the Rolls

Friday, December 12, 2008

Economic misery has spread to journalism and newspeople everywhere are being laid-off. But The New Republic's Mark Pinsky has found hope for reporters in a previous economic downturn. He advocates a resurrection and re-imagining of the Work Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project.

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On The Media

The Dirty South

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lee Atwater became one of the most complicated and successful Republican political operatives in history by employing a triple threat; spin when you can, change the subject when you can’t and if all else fails – mine the voters’ resentment, and fear, usually of blacks. Stefan Forbes, director of

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On The Media

Take It As Red

Friday, January 11, 2008

Founded in 1924, the Daily Worker – which ceased to be a daily 50 years ago – was the de facto house organ of American Communism. Historian Vernon Pedersen says the paper was strident and ideological, yes, but also an important cultural artifact.

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On The Media

Sister Christian

Friday, December 28, 2007

Nearly a century ago, Aimee Semple McPherson became the model of the modern, self-made media sensation. In a biography, Matthew Avery Sutton argues that ‘Sister’ Aimee’s savvy brand of religion brought Christian evangelicalism into the mainstream.

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On The Media

Race Beat

Friday, December 28, 2007

In the 1950s, the mainstream American press had very little experience covering segregation and its impacts. In The Race Beat, Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff tell the story of how the civil rights struggle gradually made its way onto the front pages.

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On The Media

Textbook Tug-of-War

Friday, November 09, 2007

High school history textbooks have long been the subject of controversy both within and between nations. Which is why they’re now the subject of a comparative analysis project by Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. Associate director Daniel Sneider says that we’re creating separate memories ...

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On The Media

Keeping Secrets

Friday, August 10, 2007

New York Times reporter William L. Laurence was a firsthand witness to the development of the atomic bomb, which he agreed to keep secret until Fat Man was deployed over Nagasaki (which he also saw firsthand). Author David Goodman explains that that wasn’t the only secret Laurence kept.

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On The Media

Eating Crow

Friday, April 27, 2007

From Aunt Jemima to the Frito Bandito, there’s a long tradition of racially-fraught spokescharacters in American food marketing. Reporter David Segal says that Uncle Ben is really an Uncle Tom, despite his recent promotion.

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On The Media

Dead Reckoning

Friday, February 16, 2007

For decades, journalists like Jerry Mitchell were the only ones shedding light on cold civil rights-era murder cases . Now the FBI and Congress are taking another look. Mitchell explains why, when it comes to civil rights, the past isn’t past.

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On The Media

The Race Beat

Friday, December 22, 2006

In the 1950s, the mainstream American press had very little experience covering segregation and its impacts. In a new book, The Race Beat, Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff tell the story of how the civil rights struggle gradually made its way onto the front pages.

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On The Media

Operation Colombo

Friday, December 15, 2006

In the wake of Augusto Pinochet’s death, U.S. media are debating how the dictator should be remembered. The National Security Archive’s Peter Kornbluh discusses an especially sinister chapter in Pinochet's dealings with his own country's media.

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On The Media

Black, White & Red All Over

Friday, November 24, 2006

On November 10, 1898, a mob of white supremacists ransacked the city of Wilmington, North Carolina, and toppled its biracial government. 108 years later, The Charolotte Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer are apologizing for their role in fomenting the violence. Duke

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