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Getting It Wrong

Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism

W. Joseph Campbell (Author)


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Many of American journalism’s best-known and most cherished stories are exaggerated, dubious, or apocryphal. They are media-driven myths, and they attribute to the news media and their practitioners far more power and influence than they truly exert. In Getting It Wrong, writer and scholar W. Joseph Campbell confronts and dismantles prominent media-driven myths, describing how they can feed stereotypes, distort understanding about the news media, and deflect blame from policymakers. Campbell debunks the notions that the Washington Post’s Watergate reporting brought down Richard M. Nixon’s corrupt presidency, that Walter Cronkite’s characterization of the Vietnam War in 1968 shifted public opinion against the conflict, and that William Randolph Hearst vowed to “furnish the war” against Spain in 1898. This expanded second edition includes a new preface and new chapters about the first Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960, the haunting Napalm Girl photograph of the Vietnam War, and bogus quotations driven by the Internet and social media.
List of Illustrations
Preface to the Second Edition

1. “I’ll Furnish the War”: The Making of a Media Myth
2. Fright beyond Measure? The Myth of The War of the Worlds
3. Murrow vs. McCarthy: Timing Makes the Myth
4. TV Viewers, Radio Listeners, and the Myth of the First Kennedy-Nixon Debate
5. The Bay of Pigs–New York Times Suppression Myth
6. Debunking the “Cronkite Moment”
7. The Nuanced Myth: Bra Burning at Atlantic City
8. Picture Power? Confronting the Myths of the Napalm Girl Photograph
9. It’s All about the Media: Watergate’s Heroic-Journalist Myth
10. The “Fantasy Panic”: The News Media and the “Crack-Baby” Myth
11. “She Was Fighting to the Death”: Mythmaking in Iraq
12. Hurricane Katrina and the Myth of Superlative Reporting
13. Counterfeit Quotations: Swelling with a Digital Tide

Select Bibliography
W. Joseph Campbell, a former newspaper and wire service journalist, is Professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC. He is the author of five other books, including 1995: The Year the Future Began and Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies.
“William Randolph Hearst never said, ‘You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.’ Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds radio broadcast didn’t panic America. Ed Murrow’s See It Now TV show didn’t destroy Sen. Joseph McCarthy. JFK didn’t talk the New York Times into spiking its scoop on the Bay of Pigs invasion. Far from being the first hero of the Iraq War, captured Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch was caught sobbing ‘Oh, God help us’ and never fired a shot. These fables and more are lovingly undressed in W. Joseph Campbell’s persuasive and entertaining Getting It Wrong."—Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal
“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, channeling Jonathan Rauch’s maxim, ‘It is the error we punish, not the errant.’ Of course when you do such a good job punishing the error, as Campbell does, you don’t need to bother with the errant.”—Jack Shafer, Slate
“It may be the best book about journalism in recent memory; it is certainly the most subversive.”—Andrew Ferguson, Commentary Magazine
Getting It Wrong is essential reading not just for journalists but all consumers of the news.”—Nick Gillespie, Reason
“This well-written and well-researched book will be of interest to historians, journalism scholars, and sociologists. Readers concerned about media influence should be relieved, while journalists could be discouraged to learn how little their efforts matter.”—Judy Solberg, Library Journal
“Exquisitely researched and lively.”—Dick Kreck, Denver Post
“The value of these studies is . . . in the detailed and illuminating research Campbell has applied to each.”—James Roylan, Columbia Journalism Review
“Written by a scholar who makes intricate facts clear, employing English, not Scholarspeak, Getting It Wrong is an eye-opener.”—Marie Shear, Freelancer
“The epidemic of crack babies, accurate coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the mass hysteria created by the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds—they’re all debunked by Campbell, who through meticulous research pieced together what really happened with all these stories we hold as shining examples of journalism’s greatness.”—Roxana Hadadi, Express
“Campbell manages to piece together fascinating new details about events of the past, and lays out a convincing case for how we often draw hasty conclusions about significant moments and make heroes and villains out of those who have little to do with their outcome. The myths he identifies are worth revisiting, and not just to set the record straight. Doing so offers important lessons on being discerning consumers of what we read and hear in the news.”—Bob Kustra, Idaho Statesman
“A solid resource for those interested in journalism.”—R. A. Logan, Choice
“A useful book . . . which among other things answers the question about the importance of debunking media-driven myths.”—The Morning News/Identity Theory
“If daily journalism constitutes history’s first rough draft, then Getting it Wrong certainly reveals how rough that draft can be. Campbell is a dogged and first-rate scholar.”—Neil Henry, Dean, University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
“This book rightfully calls us to rethink some significant errors that have become a part of our history and our collective memories. It is just downright interesting reading.”—Wallace B. Eberhard, recipient of the American Journalism Historians Association Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement
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KGNU's Hannah Leigh Myers discusses the state of modern Journalism with award winning author and educator W. Joseph Campbell and Denver Post staff writer and Denver Newpaper Guild member Noelle Phillips.

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