Attacks on the American Press: A Documentary and Reference Guide

Greenwood Jul. 2021. 385p. ISBN 9781440872563. $111. REF
Assaults on the media are nothing new, Roberts (communication studies, Catholic Univ. of Portugal) and Maksl (journalism and media, Indiana Univ. Southeast) ably argue in this volume that collects 66 primary source documents. The documents chronicle more than two centuries of attacks on the American press, from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the 2018 murder of five Capital Gazette journalists in Maryland. Roberts and Maksl examine threats to the press during times of war; criticisms about sensationalism in news media; legal, physical, and political attacks on journalists; perceived media biases; suggestions aimed at improving the media; and attacks on journalists specifically in the era of social media. Included are accounts of and responses to attacks, news reports, interviews, public statements, and tweets. In the entry for each document, the authors include a full citation, the document’s significance, analysis, and a list of further readings. For the most part, the book spans the entire history of the United States, although the last chapter, about social media, includes only documents published since 2016. Not surprisingly, Donald Trump’s opinion of journalists and his charge of “fake news” are represented here. The work also explores a wide range of viewpoints, from James Fenimore Cooper’s 1838 complaint about the tyranny of the press, to Barack Obama’s 2016 remarks about the polarization of the media.
VERDICT A well-curated compilation of important primary documents representing more than 200 years of American aggression toward the media. General readers and students of journalism, communications, history, and political science will find this work useful.
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