When the News Broke: Chicago 1968 and the Polarizing of America

Univ. of Chicago. Dec. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780226768526. $30. HIST
Hendershot (film and media studies, MIT; Open to Debate: How William F. Buckley Put Liberal America on the Firing Line) paints a dissonant picture through storytelling and black-and-white photos of the August 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention, which upset the political and broadcasting landscape for a lack of freedom of the press, police brutality, and the crony tactics of Mayor Richard Daley. These accusations feel familiar and unsurprising, but in an era when the three major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) presented political coverage as evenhanded, this was a watershed moment. The eventual explosive confrontation between police and demonstrators is remembered as “The Battle of Michigan Avenue.” The violence leaked onto the convention floor with reporters Dan Rather and Mike Wallace assaulted by security forces, seemingly just for reporting. The entire debacle triggered convention reform, ending brokered conventions in favor of the current primaries. Sadly, the case is made for a lack of societal progress and an utter devolvement of news coverage from a respected community institution to a fractured, deceitful vehicle. This is a scathing indictment of Daley’s narrative manipulation, which will feel contemporaneous to readers.
VERDICT A disturbing clarity into the current biased news coverage is revealed through analysis of past industry reporting standards.
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