Mister Pulitzer and the Spider

Mister Pulitzer and the Spider : Modern News from Realism to the Digital

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A spidery network of mobile online media has supposedly changed people, places, time, and their meanings. A prime case is the news. Digital webs seem to have trapped "legacy media," killing off newspapers and journalists' jobs. Did news businesses and careers fall prey to the digital "Spider"? To solve the mystery, Kevin Barnhurst spent thirty years studying news going back to the realism of the 1800s. The usual suspects--technology, business competition, and the pursuit of scoops--are only partly to blame for the fate of news. The main culprit is modernism from the "Mister Pulitzer" era, which transformed news into an ideology called "journalism." News is no longer what audiences or experts imagine. Stories have grown much longer over the past century and now include fewer events, locations, and human beings. Background and context rule instead. News producers adopted modernism to explain the world without recognizing how modernist ideas influence the knowledge they produce. When webs of networked connectivity sparked a resurgence in realist stories, legacy news stuck to big-picture analysis that can alienate audience members accustomed to digital briefs. Combining social science, cultural studies, and real conversations, Barnhurst tells the history of an American idea: that modern knowledge can be commanding and democratic at the same time. Mister Pulitzer and the Spider weaves storytelling and graphics with down-to-earth writing in a groundbreaking account of past change and future promise in American thought.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 156 x 235 x 30.48mm | 635.03g
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 025204018X
  • 9780252040184

Review quote

Over the years, I've found few scholars whose work is as original, insightful, or readable as Kevin Barnhurst's. Mister Pulitzer and the Spider exceeds even that lofty expectation. Barnhurst's story of how the hierarchy and meaning of reporters' five Ws have changed since the late 1800s explains more fully how the news has shaped society, and been shaped by it, than any book I've read. If your nightstand, classroom, or personal library has room for only one book on journalism, make it this one.--Thomas E. Patterson, author of Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism "With unparalleled scholarly precision spanning more than 200 years, Kevin Barnhurst chronicles the tumultuous evolution and revolution of news--how it's created and consumed. Through his panoramic lens, Barnhurst reveals a macro and micro focus on why today's newspapers are thinner, broadcast sound-bites shorter, and news often skeletal on the facts, the result of technology developing shorter attention spans. Spoiler alert, Mister Pulitzer and the Spider leaves us with a glimmer of hope."--Roberta Baskin, award-winning investigative journalist "Everyone has a theory about what's gone wrong with the news business. Kevin Barnhurst's explanation is original, elegantly presented, and potentially useful both to journalists and to citizens trying to decide which version of the news is worth paying attention to."--James Fallows, author of Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy
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About Kevin G. Barnhurst

Kevin G. Barnhurst was Chair of Communication in the Digital Era at the University of Leeds and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His books include Seeing the Newspaper, The Form of News: A History, and Media Queered: Visibility and Its Discontents.
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