Was the newspaper an instrument of liberation or control? Can any news be trusted? Is the free flow of information essential...

THE INVENTION OF NEWS

HOW THE WORLD CAME TO KNOW ABOUT ITSELF

From imperial messenger and town crier to Citizen Kane: a vigorous history of the rise of the news business.

Who needs news, anyway? Well, writes Pettegree (Modern History/Univ. of St. Andrews; The Book in the Renaissance, 2010, etc.), first there is the potentate, who needs to know the doings in the far corners of the realm. Then there’s the merchant, who needs to know conditions in distant markets, the better to buy low and sell high. The author first examines such fledgling news enterprises as the couriers of European rulers and entrepreneurs, who, it can be surmised, were not always trustworthy, given the advantage they found in controlling what news was released and when. He then turns to such pioneers as the curious (in both senses) Cologne burger Herman Weinsberg, who kept dossiers on his relatives and neighbors: “It was only after his death that his appalled family members discovered that he had memorialised all their doings in an expansive chronicle of their lives and times.” Weinsberg also gathered accounts of political events, noting the importance of what emerged as a significant theme in Pettegree’s book: the integrity of the teller. The author takes a refreshingly broad view of what constitutes journalism—he includes medieval balladeers in the mix, for “singing ballads was a powerful part of information culture”—and of the genealogy of problems that any old-school newspaperperson will recognize: from the proper balance of ads to editorial copy to making decisions on what to run and what to spike and, as always, reaching audiences whose members might not always have appreciated that they needed the news that was on offer.

Was the newspaper an instrument of liberation or control? Can any news be trusted? Is the free flow of information essential to a democracy? Learned and well-written, Pettegree’s book ventures fruitful answers.

Pub Date: March 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-17908-8

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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