Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps

Overview

"Donald Ritchie here offers a 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 - as well as the great investigative reporters, from Paul Y. Anderson (who broke ...
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Reporting from Washington: The History of the Washington Press Corps

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Overview

"Donald Ritchie here offers a 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 - 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 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.
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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.
From the Publisher
"A superb new history of the Washington press corps."—Frank Rich, New York Times

"A fascinating, meticulously documented look at some of the profession's defining moments and battles. Ritchie, a longtime historian for the U.S. Senate, writes with a journalist's eye for conflict, character and the dramatic details that make larger stories come alive—reviving long-forgotten conflicts, resignations and romances.... Sprinkled throughout is a treasure trove of pithy quotes from some of journalism's most prominent practitioners, praising, explaining and (plus ca change) disparaging their chosen profession and colleagues."—Garance Franke-Ruta, Washington Post Book World

"Engrossing.... Should remind sky-is-falling press critics there is little new in the current trend toward ideological reporting and attack-dog journalism.... Sizzling...a kind of press corps confidential."—Columbia Journalism Review

"A real treat.. Over the course of some 270-some-oddly compelling pages, he proceeds to tell the reader everything one could conceivably want to know about practicing journalism in a city where there are 5 journalists for every elected official. While technically focused on the nation's capitol, his book more broadly tells the evolution of the news industry, including the major newspapers, wire services, the witch hunts, and he masterfully explores the arrival and (very) grudging eventual acceptance of radio, television, women, and minority reporters over many decades."—FishbowlDC

"Thoughtful.... Full of good dish about the likes of Lippman and the Alsops. Of much interest of students of national politics and the media."—Kirkus Reviews

"'Reporting From Washington' makes one thing clear: The glory days of Washington reporting never really existed. There were always journalists who engaged in back-scratching and dubious sourcing. The best of them loomed larger than life, outlasting the presidents they covered."—Jonathan Karl, Wall Street Journal

"Ritchie presents a rich perspective on the people who write the first draft of history, investigating and then breaking the Teapot Dome and Watergate scandals, among others. He also chronicles the changes in the makeup of the press corps and its relationship with Washington power brokers."—Booklist

"Well-researched and equally well-written.... A perceptive and balanced account covering issues ranging from the grudging acceptance of women by the National Press Club to the birth of the Internet and its impact on traditional news coverage.... Plumbs memoirs, oral histories, broadcast archives, interviews and other sources for a rich lode of anecdotes and information."—Sacramento Bee

"Covers almost every issue relevant to the growth and change of American media in the modern era, from FDR's revolutionary use of radio to an analysis of media coverage of 9/11. Drawing on oral histories, broadcast archives, presidential papers, memoirs and interviews, Ritchie describes the rise of the wire services, racial integration of the press corps, the role of foreign correspondents, the rise of opinion columnists, the use of 'leaks,' the growth of television, the challenges of cable news networks and, finally, the impact of the Internet on news reporting."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"This is a finely crafted book by a skilled writer and top-notch historian well qualified to write authoritatively about the Washington press corps. He has been a student of the press and a colleague of working reporters for much of his professional career, and he has successfully mined an incredible array of existing sources and original research to synthesize a coherent, tightly written history that is a delight to read." —Mary Kay Quinlan, former president, National Press Club

"In Reporting from Washington, Donald Ritchie has written a wise and perceptive book filled with insights into the fascinating interaction between politicians and the Washington press corps-and into how that relationship has evolved over the decades." —Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Years of Lyndon Johnson

"No one comes close to Donald Ritchie in command of the literature on the Washington press corps, and in Reporting from Washington he has broken new ground with his awesome research. His chapter on the black press is eye-opening; he is fascinating on correspondents from abroad; and he is able to take an overworked topic such as McCarthyism and present it as though the reader were coming on it for the first time. There is not a dull paragraph in the book." —William Leuchtenburg, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

"Donald A Ritchie's Reporting from Washington is an impressive blend of authority and style, telling the history of the modern Washington press corps with a journalist's knack for the arresting detail and a scholar's concern for context and meaning. It makes a major contribution to our understanding of a central force in American public life, and will prove an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to understand how the United States is governed." —Evan W. Cornog, Publisher, Columbia Journalism Review, and Associate Dean for Planning and Policy, Columbia Journalism School

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195308921
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/27/2006
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 1,565,246
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.20 (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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