The keynote speaker at the 2020 Joint Journalism and Communication History Conference will be Matthew Pressman, an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. He holds an A.B. in History from Dartmouth College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Boston University. His first book, On Press: The Liberal Values that Shaped the News (Harvard University Press, 2018), examines the transformation of American journalism in the 1960s and 70s.
Prior to his academic career, Pressman was an assistant editor at Vanity Fair, covering the news media for VF.com (among other duties). A series of his VF.com articles won the 2010 Mirror Award for Best Commentary, Digital Media. In addition to publishing in academic journals, Pressman has written for The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Time.
About the book:
In the 1960s and 1970s, the American press embraced a new way of reporting and selling the news. The causes were many: the proliferation of television, pressure to rectify the news media’s dismal treatment of minorities and women, accusations of bias from left and right, and the migration of affluent subscribers to suburbs. As Matthew Pressman’s timely history reveals, the distinctive characteristics of contemporary American journalism emerged during these tumultuous decades.
Simply reporting the facts was no longer enough; reporters recognized a pressing need to interpret and analyze events for their readers. Objectivity and impartiality, the cornerstones of journalistic principle, were not jettisoned, but they were reimagined. Journalists’ adoption of an adversarial relationship with government and big business, along with sympathy for the dispossessed, gave their reporting a distinctly liberal drift. Yet at the same time, “soft news”―lifestyle, arts, entertainment―moved to the forefront of editors’ concerns, as profits took precedence over politics.
Today, accusations of news media bias are more rampant than ever, and there are increasing calls from activists, customers, advertisers, and journalists themselves to rethink the industry’s values. On Presssuggests that today’s controversies are just the latest iteration of debates that began a half-century ago.
On Press has won the PROSE Award for best book of 2018 in the category of Media & Cultural Studies and the History Division Book Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).