Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps

Overview

Donald Ritchie here offers a vibrant chronicle of news coverage in our nation's capital, from the early days of radio and print reporting and the heyday of the wire services to the brave new world of the Internet.
Beginning with 1932, when a newly elected FDR energized the sleepy capital, Ritchie highlights the dramatic changes in journalism that have occurred in the last seven decades. We meet legendary columnists—including Walter Lippmann, Joseph Alsop, and Drew Pearson (voted...

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Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps

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Overview

Donald Ritchie here offers a vibrant chronicle of news coverage in our nation's capital, from the early days of radio and print reporting and the heyday of the wire services to the brave new world of the Internet.
Beginning with 1932, when a newly elected FDR energized the sleepy capital, Ritchie highlights the dramatic changes in journalism that have occurred in the last seven decades. We meet legendary columnists—including Walter Lippmann, Joseph Alsop, and Drew Pearson (voted "the best ratcatching reporter in town")—as well as the great investigative reporters, from Paul Y. Anderson (who broke the Teapot Dome scandal) to the two green Washington Post reporters who launched the political story of the decade—Woodward and Bernstein. We read of the rise of radio news—fought tooth and nail by the print barons—and of such pioneers as Edward R. Murrow, H. V. Kaltenborn, and Elmer Davis. Ritchie also offers a vivid history of TV news, from the early days of Meet the Press, to Huntley and Brinkley and Walter Cronkite, to the cable revolution led by C-SPAN and CNN. In addition, he compares political news on the Internet to the alternative press of the '60s and '70s; describes how black reporters slowly broke into the white press corps (helped mightily by FDR's White House); discusses path-breaking woman reporters such as Sarah McClendon and Helen Thomas, and much more.
From Walter Winchell to Matt Drudge, the people who cover Washington politics are among the most colorful and influential in American news. Reporting from Washington offers an unforgettable portrait of these figures as well as of the dramatic changes in American journalism in the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A thoughtful if sometimes ponderous history of the capital's newshounds from the New Deal to the present. A journalist or two probably followed Abe Lincoln around, and we know that ink-stained wretches dogged Jefferson and Adams. But, US Senate associate historian Ritchie writes, the numbers have changed: "More Washingtonians hold press passes than hold office." Given such odds, it's amazing that anyone can keep a secret inside the Beltway, but secrets are kept all the same-in part, one might infer, because even if Washington journalists tend to be liberal, they are also part of a culture that serves them very well, meaning, as Russell Baker observed, "They are, in the pure sense of the word, extremely conservative." Respect for and even deference to authority have never been much of a problem, then, even when politicians do not merit such consideration; as Ritchie notes, the collective DC press gave Joe McCarthy a pass for years, and McCarthy obliged by presenting reporters with cases of Wisconsin beer and wheels of Wisconsin cheese until finally playing out his Red Scare card. Early newsman Arthur Krock, the New York Times's man at the White House, managed to tick off FDR so much that the president fed information to anyone but him. Krock got his revenge by being appointed DC bureau chief and pestering FDR for the remainder of his years in office, but by the time the country got around to Nixon, Woodward and Bernstein had to pound on a lot of desks to get their paper to pay attention to the misdoings on Pennsylvania Avenue. Today, Ritchie suggests, journalists still tend to go easy on politicians. And if in the wake of 9/11, Washington's journalists take themselves more seriously andpush for harder information, many still "discard some of their professional distance to rally around the flag and the president."Academic in tone, though full of good dish about the likes of Lippman and the Alsops. Of much interest to students of national politics and the media.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195178616
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/15/2005
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald Ritchie has been Associate Historian of the United States Senate for almost three decades. A past president of the Oral History Association, he is the author of Doing Oral History, American Journalists: Getting the Story, and Press Gallery: Congress and the Washington Correspondents. He is a popular public speaker and a frequent commentator on C-SPAN.

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