Matt's Reviews > The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation

The Race Beat by Gene Roberts
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's review
Apr 26, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: pulitzer-winners, audiobooks, african-american-history, pulitzer-goal
Read from May 27 to June 18, 2010

It begins talking about the work of a Sweedish researcher in the '40s who wrote that the condition of black Americans in the South in the Jim Crow era would never improve without massive publicity. People outside the South, while morally sympathetic, would never rally around and demand social change unless the immoral, uncivil, and illegal conditions blacks suffered were portrayed graphically, bluntly, and provocatively. And that's how the author portrays how the press corps - starting with newspapers, and ultimately tipped through television - played a large role in mobilizing people around the country to support the civil rights movement.

The author was one of the newpapermen on the race beat, but he does not figure prominently in the account at all. The portrayal of the media often conflicts with how I view the media today. There are editorialists or commentators, and there are journalists. Both groups are discussed at length in the book. The commentators who write the editorials are the biased, inflammatory, controversial ones. Today, they get all the attention. The journalists who hunt down stories, investigate, and write about the facts are every bit as necessary for the public to understand the events around them, but often get out-shouted by the commentators who blast us with biases and half-truths.

I think one of the lessons from this book is that a purely editorial media cannot enable the public to understand an issue because of its independence from facts. We as media consumers must rely on factual event reporting and commentary, and learn to separate dogma and reality.

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06/09/2010 page 235
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