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Of all liars the most arrogant are biographers: those who would have us believe, having surveyed a few boxes full of letters, diaries, bank statements and photographs, that they can play at the recording angel and tell the whole truth about another human life… A. N. Wilson

The United States of America is unique among the principal nations of the world in that there has been a press reporting on events here since before independence. You might very well believe that such a circumstance would lead to our history being more objective than, for instance, an England who has managed to cover royal bastardry, low dealings and high dungeon with an Arthurian mist. You would of course be wrong. The first book reviewed here shows just how often, and how profoundly, the press has gotten it wrong – both by accident and design. The second book shows how inaccurate the histories – many of which accept press reports as primary sources – compound the error.

All the news unfit to print: a history of how things were and how they were reported Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2009 Eric Burns Journalism Objectivity Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. viii, 280 p.; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 265-271) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
A premature newswire report announces the end of World War I, spurring wild celebrations in American streets days before the actual treaty was signed. A St. Louis newspaper prints reviews of theatrical performances that never took place — they had been canceled due to bad weather. New York newspaper reporters plant evidence in the apartment of the man accused of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby and then call him a liar in the courtroom once the trial begins. These are just a few of the many wrongs that have been reported as right over two centuries of American history.

All the News Unfit to Print puts the media under the microscope to expose the many types of mistakes, hoaxes, omissions, and lies that have skewed our understanding of the past, and reveals the range of reasons and motivations — from boredom and haste to politics and greed – behind them. Reviewing a host of journalistic slip-ups involving Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, William Randolph Hearst, Theodore H. White, and many others, this book covers the stories behind the stories to refine incorrect “first drafts” of history from the Revolutionary War era to more recent times.

History in the making: an absorbing look at how American history has changed in the telling over the last 200 years New York: New Press, c 2006 Kyle Ward United States Historiography Hardcover. 1st. ed., later printing. xxvi, 374 p.; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [341]-358) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Historian Kyle Ward gives us another look at the biases inherent in the way we learn about our history. Juxtaposing passages from U.S. history textbooks from different eras, History in the Making provides us with intriguing new perspectives on familiar historical events and the ways in which they have been represented over time.

With excerpts that span two hundred years, from Columbus’s arrival to the Boston Massacre, from women’s suffrage to Japanese internment, History in the Making exposes the stark contrasts between the lessons different generations have been taught about our past. This book is proof positive that your history is not your grandparent’s history and won’t be your children’s history.

 

 

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