Ohio Wesleyan Alumnus, Author Busts Journalism’s Biggest Myths in New Book
March 9 2011
Campbell’s book debunks prominent myths about and by the news media—including the notion that The Washington Post brought down Richard Nixon’s corrupt presidency, that Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now” program ended Joe McCarthy’s communists-in-government witch-hunt, and that William Randolph Hearst vowed to “furnish the war” with Spain at the end of the 19th century.
In all, “Getting It Wrong” confronts 10 media-driven myths, which Campbell defines as “false, dubious, improbable stories about the news media that masquerade as factual.” He likens them to the “junk food of journalism”—alluring and delicious, perhaps, but not especially wholesome or nourishing.
Media-driven myths “aren’t trivial,” said Campbell, who teaches at American University in Washington. “They aren’t innocuous. They tend to distort understanding about the role and function of journalism in American society. And they often confer on the news media far more power and influence than they really possess.”
He adds: “Media myths also minimize the complexity of historical events in favor of simplistic and misleading interpretations.”
“Getting It Wrong” is Campbell’s his fifth book, and the work is dedicated to Ohio Wesleyan emeritus professor Verne E. Edwards Jr.
“Verne Edwards was a vital influence in my career,” says Campbell, who reported for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Hartford Courant, and overseas for the Associated Press. His 20-year career in professional journalism took Campbell across North America to Europe, Asia, and West Africa.
He earned his doctorate in mass communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1997 and soon after joined the American University faculty. He is now a tenured full professor. His other books include the first year-study in journalism research, “The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigm” (2006), and the definitive “Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies” (2001).
“Getting It Wrong” has been favorably received by critics. Commentary magazine said: “It may be the best book about journalism in recent memory; it is certainly the most subversive.”
The Wall Street Journal called the book “persuasive and entertaining” and added: “With old-school academic detachment, Mr. Campbell, a communications professor at American University, shows how the fog of war, the warp of ideology and muffled skepticism can transmute base journalism into golden legend.”
Prominent media critic Jack Shafer wrote in his review at slate.com: “The best tonic for the brain fever caused by media myths is an open mind and a free inquiry. I especially admire the disciplined way Campbell corrects so many flawed records without taking cheap shots at the perpetrators. … Of course when you do such a good job punishing the error, as Campbell does, you don’t need to bother with the errant.”
Campbell majored in journalism and American history at Ohio Wesleyan. He and his wife, Ann-Marie Regan, live in suburban Washington, D.C.
Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities, with more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 Division III varsity sports. Located in Delaware, Ohio, just minutes north of Ohio’s capital and largest city, Columbus, the university combines a globally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that translate classroom theory into real-world practice. OWU’s close-knit community of 1,850 students represents 45 states and 52 countries. Ohio Wesleyan earned a 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in General Community Service, is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” and is included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.
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