Titanic Legacy: Disaster as Media Event and Myth

Titanic Legacy: Disaster as Media Event and Myth

by Paul Heyer
     
 

This is the first book to deal exclusively with the influence and meaning of what media historian Paul Heyer calls our century's first collective nightmare. Using contemporary as well as archival sources, he explores a series of intriguing questions: Why has the TITANIC disaster affected the way we think about ourselves and our technology? How has the media

Overview

This is the first book to deal exclusively with the influence and meaning of what media historian Paul Heyer calls our century's first collective nightmare. Using contemporary as well as archival sources, he explores a series of intriguing questions: Why has the TITANIC disaster affected the way we think about ourselves and our technology? How has the media made it into a morality play of mythic dimensions? What impact has that story had on the development of 20th-century communications? This timely and compelling book pays homage to the TITANIC's fateful voyage by attempting to explain not why she struck an iceberg on a cold April night in 1912, but what is surely her greatest enigma: the hold the event still has over us.

Heyer assesses the impact of the TITANIC disaster on the 20th century by exploring the relationship between the event and a variety of media from 1912 to the present. The role of the media in the disaster begins with the TITANIC's distress call. Only a partial success, it resulted in a concerted plea for more wireless regulation. Subsequent newspaper coverage called the sinking the story of the century. The mad scramble for information led to the use of every possible journalistic technique, ethical or otherwise. In his analysis, Heyer puts particular emphasis on the New York Times, which became the paper of record and achieved international prominence for its accurate and sometimes controversial reporting. As soon as press coverage subsided, the TITANIC tragedy resurfaced in literature and film. It has gone on to become one of the most enduring myths in 20th century popular culture. Heyer examines this phenomenon, and shows us how and why, following the discovery of the wreck (1985) and the Challenger disaster (1986), our obsession with the TITANIC has been greater than at any other time since 1912. This is a unique and provocative book that will appeal to readers interested in popular history, media studies, and American studies.

Editorial Reviews

Joe Collins
For decades, disaster has been synonymous with the name "Titanic", but by now very few people are left who actually remember the sinking of the "unsinkable" ship. Heyer traces the actual events of the sinking, the event's heroes and villains, and how the disaster was reported in the various media. Although the wireless was relatively new and not in use by the general public, the quick spread of word of the sinking through onboard radios was the most immediate dissemination of the news. The newspapers jumped right in, particularly the Hearst papers, the "New York Sun" leading with the headline "All Saved from Titanic after Collision," when, in truth, more than a thousand lives were lost. Heyer traces "Titanic" tributes in music (including a Leadbelly song) and films, such as "A Night to Remember", and he brings up for discussion the ongoing controversy over whether the doomed ship's orchestra actually played "Nearer My God to Thee" while descending below the waves.
Booknews
Heyer (communication, Simon Fraser U., British Columbia) deals with the influence and meaning of the Titanic disaster and its impact on the development of 20th century communications, exploring the relationship between the event and a variety of media from 1912 to the present. He discusses the New York Times' coverage of the disaster, and versions of the tragedy in literature and film. Contains b&w photos. Of interest to students and general readers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780275953522
Publisher:
Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date:
10/28/1995
Pages:
200
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.54(h) x 0.81(d)
Lexile:
1270L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

PAUL HEYER is Professor of Communication at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia. His previous books include Nature, Human Nature, and Society (Greenwood, 1982) and Communications and History (Greenwood, 1988). He is coeditor of Communication in History: Technology, Culture, and Society.

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