MEDIA MARATHON by Erik Barnouw


A Twentieth-Century Memoir
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 A compact companion to his monumental History of Broadcasting in the United States (not reviewed, etc.), Barnouw's spry and episodic selection of personal experiences covers a multimedia career ranging from musical revues and radio shows to TV and books. With almost 70 years in American media behind him, Barnouw retains an outsider's perspective on his experiences. Dropping names with a certain modesty and rescuing relative unknowns from oblivion, he chronicles his creative progress: Princeton collaboration with Josh Logan (later of South Pacific), radio and television adaptations for Thornton Wilder, Lunt and Fontanne, and Tallulah Bankhead, and documentaries--in all media--on such subjects as syphilis, voting rights, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Barnouw's equally broad professional side included work as an instructor in radio writing (with Pearl S. Buck as one student), the broadcast media chief at the Library of Congress, and a radio producer for corporate-sponsored programs such as a cereal company's serial called Bobby Benson of the H-Bar-O Ranch and Du Pont's Cavalcade of America. His experiences with these programs are especially lively, offering a detailed picture of radio's early days and the vagaries of corporate sponsorship (Du Pont censored all gunshots, for example, because the company had been criticized for selling munitions during WW I). Falling below the book's earlier standards of perspicacity, some of the later sections, such as those tackling the Red Scare, provide little insight, but he does better with the debates over public education in broadcasting, sponsorship vs. censorship, and copyright law. If Barnouw's book misses an overall theme or meditation, it is saved by his deep knowledge and intimate, jargon-free style. (30 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8223-1728-1
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1995