Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism

Gettting It Wrong - a provocative new book by W. Joseph Campbell
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Getting It Wrong debunks prominent media-driven myths, those well-known stories about and/or by the news media that are widely believed and often retold. They include several of the most cherished stories American journalism tells about itself. The first edition of Getting It Wrong was published in 2010; an expanded second edition came out in 2017.

New chapters in the second edition discuss the first Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960, the "Napalm Girl" photograph of the late Vietnam War, and bogus quotations driven by the Internet and social media.

From a review of the first edition, by Jack Shafer,
"Toting big guns and an itchy trigger-finger is American University professor W. Joseph Campbell ... flattens established myths that you were brought up to believe were true: that Orson Welles sparked a national panic with his 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast; that the New York Times suppressed news of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba at the request of the White House; that Edward R. Murrow destroyed Sen. Joseph McCarthy; that publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst told an illustrator, "You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war," before the Spanish-American war started; and more."

Campbell discussed Getting It Wrong at the
Library of Congress "Books and Beyond" series

"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. "

From a review by Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal:
"Persuasive and entertaining ... With old-school academic detachment, Mr. Campbell, a communications professor at American University, shows how the fog of war, the warp of ideology and muffled skepticism can transmute base journalism into golden legend."

Visit the Media Myth Alert blog

1995: The Year the Future Began

1995 the year the future began
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The year 1995 was a critical hinge moment in the recent American past.

In 1995: The Year the Future Began (2015) Campbell draws on a variety of interviews, oral histories, memoirs, archival collections, and contemporaneous news reports to present a vivid, detail-rich portrait of a momentous time.

The book offers fresh interpretations of the pivotal moments of 1995, including the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the mainstream of American life; the bombing at Oklahoma City, the deadliest attack of domestic terrorism in U.S. history; the sensational “Trial of the Century,” at which O.J. Simpson faced charges of double murder; the U.S.-brokered negotiations at Dayton, Ohio, which ended the Bosnian War, Europe’s most vicious conflict since the time of the Nazis; and the first encounters at the White House between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, a liaison that culminated in a stunning scandal and the spectacle of the president’s impeachment and trial.

As Campbell demonstrates in 1995, the year was one of surpassing exceptionality, a watershed at the cusp of the millennium. And the effects of the decisive moments of 1995 reverberate still.

Visit the 1995 blog

The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms
click on the cover to visit the 1897 book site
Read excerpts

The Year That Defined American Journalism (2006) tells the story of a remarkable and decisive year in American journalism—1897. It was a year when journalists were wrestling with the nature, character, and future of the profession.

From a review in Journalism and Mass
Communication Quarterly

"This book offers a different and well-documented perspective of the Yellow Journalism era... In so doing, [it] makes a significant contribution to our understanding of journalism history and, ultimately, the journalism of today.

From a review in Journalism Studies:
"This is a lively and fascinating book, beautifully written and thoroughly researched. It effectively captures the American fin-de-siècle, providing a snap-shot yet admirably convaying the dynamism and anxieties of the period."


Other books by W. Joseph Campbell
read Chapter 1
Read the intorduction
Read the intorduction
The Emergent Independent Press in Benin and Cote d'Ivoire

Yellow Journalism : Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies

The Spanish-American War: American Wars and the Media in Primary Documents (2005)
Read Chapter 1 Read the Introduction   Read the Introduction
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