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Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting

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In all of journalism, nowhere are the stakes higher than in foreign news-gathering. For media owners, it is the most difficult type of reporting to finance; for editors, the ... hardest to oversee. Correspondents, roaming large swaths of the planet, must acquire expertise that home-based reporters take for granted. This book provides a sweeping & definitive history of American foreign news reporting from its inception to the present day &chronicles the economic & technological advances that have influenced overseas coverage. Read more Show Less

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Baton Rouge and London 2009 Hardcover First Edition. 672 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Brand new book. JOURNALISM. In all of journalism, nowhere are the stakes higher than ... in foreign news-gathering. For media owners, it is the most difficult type of reporting to finance; for editors, the hardest to oversee. Correspondents, roaming large swaths of the planet, must acquire expertise that home-based reporters take for granted&emdash; facility with the local language, for instance, or an understanding of local cultures. Adding further to the challenges, they must put news of the world in context for an audience with little experience and often limited interest in foreign affairs&emdash; a task made all the more daunting because of the consequence to national security. In Journalism's Roving Eye, John Maxwell Hamilton&emdash; a historian and former foreign correspondent&emdash; provides a sweeping and definitive history of American foreign news reporting from its inception to the present day and chronicles Read more Show Less

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Overview

In all of journalism, nowhere are the stakes higher than in foreign news-gathering. For media owners, it is the most difficult type of reporting to finance; for editors, the hardest to oversee. Correspondents, roaming large swaths of the planet, must acquire expertise that home-based reporters take for granted -- facility with the local language, for instance, or an understanding of local cultures. Adding further to the challenges, they must put news of the world in context for an audience with little experience and often limited interest in foreign affairs -- a task made all the more daunting because of the consequence to national security.

In Journalism's Roving Eye, John Maxwell Hamilton -- a historian and former foreign correspondent -- provides a sweeping and definitive history of American foreign news reporting from its inception to the present day and chronicles the economic and technological advances that have influenced overseas coverage, as well as the cavalcade of colorful personalities who shaped readers' perceptions of the world across two centuries.

From the colonial era -- when newspaper printers hustled down to wharfs to collect mail and periodicals from incoming ships -- to the ongoing multimedia press coverage of the Iraq War, Hamilton explores journalism's constant -- and not always successful -- efforts at "dishing the foreign news," as James Gordon Bennett put it in the mid-nineteenth century to describe his approach in the New York Herald. He details the highly partisan coverage of the French Revolution, the early emergence of "special correspondents" and the challenges of organizing their efforts, the profound impact of the non-yellow press in the run-up to the Spanish-American War, the increasingly sophisticated machinery of propaganda and censorship that surfaced during World War I, and the "golden age" of foreign correspondence during the interwar period, when outlets for foreign news swelled and a large number of experienced, independent journalists circled the globe. From the Nazis' intimidation of reporters to the ways in which American popular opinion shaped coverage of Communist revolution and the Vietnam War, Hamilton covers every aspect of delivering foreign news to American doorsteps.

Along the way, Hamilton singles out a fascinating cast of characters, among them Victor Lawson, the overlooked proprietor of the Chicago Daily News, who pioneered the concept of a foreign news service geared to American interests; Henry Morton Stanley, one of the first reporters to generate news on his own with his 1871 expedition to East Africa to "find Livingstone"; and Jack Belden, a forgotten brooding figure who exemplified the best in combat reporting. Hamilton details the experiences of correspondents, editors, owners, publishers, and network executives, as well as the political leaders who made the news and the technicians who invented ways to transmit it. Their stories bring the narrative to life in arresting detail and make this an indispensable book for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of foreign news-gathering.

Amid the steep drop in the number of correspondents stationed abroad and the recent decline of the newspaper industry, many fear that foreign reporting will soon no longer exist. But as Hamilton shows in this magisterial work, traditional correspondence survives alongside a new type of reporting. Journalism's Roving Eye offers a keen understanding of the vicissitudes in foreign news, an understanding imperative to better seeing what lies ahead.

LSU Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Journalism's Roving Eye is an alluring and enlightening piece of work. Hamilton... spurns plodding narrative in favor of an intelligent tour, full of unexpected pleasures and plums. The book, in its scope, detail, and sheer mastery, is a major achievement. -- James Boylan, Columbia Journalism Review

"Not just for journalism hounds, Journalism's Roving Eye ladles from the last two and a half centuries a detailed history of American reporting from abroad. Hamilton, a former foreign correspondent turned academic, assembles the components of the big foreign-reporting machine -- the editors, publishers, reporters, fixers, and shooters as well as technologies such as transoceanic telegraph cables, television, the geosynchronous satellite, the personal computer, and the Internet -- to produce an authoritative book. There is nothing like it in the library." -- Slate Magazine

"Journalism's Roving Eye is a prodigious account of a specific form of newsgathering--foreign correspondence--that has long been buffeted by pressures to cut costs and waning public interest in what happens abroad, even before the more recent challenges posed by the Internet. Journalism has a raffish and colorful past, but the annals of foreign reporting are particularly suited to the storytelling that Hamilton provides. His book is an expansive narrative that also underscores serious questions about what is happening now." -- Foreign Affairs

"Journalism's Roving Eye is a remarkable achievement and deserves to be ranked as the definitive history of American news coverage of the rest of the world. [It] should remind people of the richness of foreign reporting and the value of such journalism in an era where we are all citizens of the world." -- Dallas Morning News

"This monumental yet eminently readable book starts to fill a major hole in mass communication history literature: the development of foreign correspondence." -- Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication

LSU Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807134740
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/14/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 680
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Maxwell Hamilton, the Hopkins P. Breazeale Foundation Professor of Journalism at Louisiana State University, began his journalism career at the Milwaukee Journal and reported from abroad for the Christian Science Monitor and ABC Radio. His work has appeared in the New York Times, The Nation, Foreign Affairs, and many other newspapers and magazines. He was a longtime commentator on public radio's Marketplace.

Hamilton served in the Agency for International Development during the Carter administration and on the staffs of the House of Representative's Foreign Affairs Committee and the World Bank. He has been a fellow at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy, and was a visiting professor for two years at the Washington Program of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Hamilton is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and on the board of directors of the International Center for Journalists. He is the author or coauthor of five other books, as well as editor of the LSU Press book series, "From Our Own Correspondent." Hamilton was the founding dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University and currently is the university's executive vice chancellor and provost.

LSU Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    If you care about foreign affairs, this book is essential.

    This is THE book to read if you want to know how we have gotten, and how we get today, news from abroad. It's grippingly written too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2010

    2010 Goldstein Award Well Deserved

    The annual Goldstein Award, presented by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, continues its tradition of recognizing the nation's greatest books. Journalism's Roving Eye is a well researched and compelling account of the glory days of foreign news coverage to ideas on how to cover foreign affairs in the future.

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