The author of this blog is a professor of journalism at New York University's Carter Institute. His most recent books include "Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World" (Palgrave Macmillan), "Beyond News: The Future of Journalism" (Columbia University Press) and "Journalism Unbound: New Approaches to Writing and Reporting" (Oxford University Press). For a full bio and listings of his writings, including links, see the header above.
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Journalism, which lives so thoroughly in the present, is rarely examined from a historical perspective. But with larger perspectives in short supply — particularly as the field appears to change ever more rapidly — history has much to contribute. The posts here will mostly focus on what is happening to journalism and news today, and seems likely to happen to them tomorrow. It will pounce on some of the limitations of contemporary journalism and call, not surprisingly, for it to become wiser, deeper, broader and more adventurous. These posts will also suggest, and this is more controversial, that journalists ought to worry less about recording the news of the day — currently well recorded in multiple forms all across the Web — and devote themselves more to interpreting the news of the day. The posts here will, often enough, weigh in on the turmoil currently afflicting journalism and what might be born of it. These are, not coincidentally, issues Prof. Stephens is working on for his two current book projects. In their search for perspective on these up-to-the-minute topics, these posts will, however, frequently make use of centuries-old analogies.
A History of News (Viking, Penguin, Oxford — third edition). A New York Times“Notable Book of the Year.” Translated into four languages. An investigation of the nature and meaning of news — based on an extended international history of journalism, from from preliterate societies through Athens, Rome, China, medieval Europe, Renaissance Europe, revolutionary America and France, nineteenth-century England and America, and through the twentieth century and the digital age. “Thorough, scrupulous and witty…A History of News is in all respects first-rate, and original, work,” Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post.
the rise of the image the fall of the word (Oxford). A historical perspective on contemporary media and their potential. “A visionary thinker,” San Francisco Chronicle. “Compelling and engaging…. It will undoubtedly require skeptics to rethink their prejudice against the power and potential of the moving image,” Houston Chronicle. “Remarkable for [its] depth of research, breadth of thought, intrepid spirit, and provocative conclusions,” Hungry Mind Review. “A fascinating, counterintuitive tour de force,” Wilson Quarterly. “A thoughtful and measured challenge, the kind of…scholarship that helps push us forward,” American Journalism Review.” “Fascinating to think about,” Library Journal. “A terrific book…forcefully and brilliantly argue[d],” Hotwired. “I consider his visionary work to be a great public service,” FEED.
Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11 (Bonus Books; new edition forthcoming from September 11 Memorial). An oral history of the events of that day in the words of more than one hundred and thirty television and radio journalists, ranging from the three network anchors to reporters from Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Organized, cut, edit and rewrote these accounts, collected by my fellow editors — Allison Gilbert, Phil Hirschkorn, Melinda Murphy and Robyn Walensky — into a narrative. “This extraordinary book…, beyond its compelling backstage detail, gives us a remarkable window into how individual reporters, like their nation, struggled through stages of shock, denial, outrage, pride and professionalism,” American Journalism Review. All royalties donated to September 11-related charities. Spring 2002.
Broadcast News (Wadsworth — fourth edition). “The best-selling textbook in its field since publication in 1981,” the New York Times, November 7, 1993.
Writing and Reporting the News (Oxford — third edition). Written with Jerry Lanson. Widely used journalism textbook.