Review: “Journalism Today: A Themed History” by Chapman and Nuttall

Journalism Today: A Themed History by Jane L. Chapman and Nick Nuttall. Wiley-Blackwell. 338 pages.

Unless you’re a journalism nut like I am or one of my sad students who will be getting this book as a final exam in a week, you will probably not be reading this book. To be honest, we dug this book up because our department was in need of a book on journalism history, something that apparently is hard to find these days.

There are some very good things and some not so good things to say about this book. First, the good. It isn’t told in a linear format, so if you’re not a history buff and don’t like memorizing names and dates, it’s not that kind of book. It’s thematic. It deals with things like why Yellow Journalism came to be, and how it was tied to the Panic of 1893, how women’s magazines were originally there to affirm the domestic responsibilities of women, and the difference that having a written Bill of Rights had for the U.S. versus the UK. One thing that was both interesting and annoying was that the book was written for both an American market and a British one, so many of the references were what was going on in Britain over the years. It was interesting because most of our printing history starts there. It was annoying because most students could care less about what happens there, and some of the references are lost on them.

The biggest issues I had with the book were these. On one hand, it used a vocabulary that was well above the language my students used, and I had to look up many words myself to see what they were talking about. On the other hand, it was in sore need of an editor for grammar and punctuation. I suspect that Wiley-Blackwell didn’t spend a lot on editing it.

Because there aren’t many books like it, I will continue using it. And it does have its strong points, including lots of valid information. But it is some stodgy reading otherwise.

I give it two stars out of five.