Reviewed by Martin Conboy (Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield)
Published on H-Albion (April, 2008)
A Mediated Affair? Histories of a Special Relationship
First, a word about the combination of authors for this book: Joel Wiener has done more than anybody to open the door to a consistent investigation of nineteenth-century British journalism history. Mark Hampton, as one of the brightest young scholars in the field, has provided some of the most comprehensive and probing accounts of developments in British journalism from the mid-Victorian period to the present. Together they provide a formidable combination in opening up Anglo-American media history to further scholarly scrutiny. On this occasion, they broaden their focus to embrace graphic culture, cinema, and radio and television broadcasting, including drama, to thoroughly reshape the debate on Jeremy Tunstall and David Machin's thesis on Anglo-American media impacts, and to bring this set of historical insights into a longer-term analysis of "globalization" and the media.
The introduction, though tantalizingly brief for this reader's tastes, provides a sketch of a penetrating analysis of the continuities and innovations in perceptions of Anglo-American media history. As one would expect in an edited volume, there is a good concentration on the overall themes of the work, which are broken down into cognate sections. However, because of the range of topics, as well as the historical ambition of the volume, the material is very widely spread and there is little sustained attention to any of the themes even within the relevant subsections. Some of the pieces are too brief to do justice to their research potential, yet, as the door is pushed ajar, especially with the development of increasing numbers of digital archives of this sort of material, it is encouraging to think that there is such good work ready for further exploration and development.
Many of the pieces rise to the challenge of the collection by revisiting what have become rather stale areas of Anglo-American scholarship, invigorating them with fresh and penetrating scholarly insights. Of particular note are James Startt's re-evaluation of some of the assumed inevitabilities in the development of American popular journalism at the end of the nineteenth century; the cultural amplification of Anglo-American representation which the illustrations provide, particularly in Christopher Kent's piece on the Anglo-American artist Matthew Morgan; Tom O'Malley's meticulous revision of accounts of entrenched anti-Americanism within the British Left's attitudes to broadcasting policy; and Siân Nicholas's richly referenced account of debates on the national specificity of news in Britain in the 1930s.
The conceptual gaps throughout the volume relate to the language of the newspapers under scrutiny. Richard Fulton's chapter provides an early account of the crossover of influences in newspaper reports of the Spanish-American and Anglo-Dervish wars of 1898 but fails to provide as systematic an examination of the language of these reports as would be needed to be entirely convincing. Elsewhere this lack of engagement with the specifics of the language of the Anglo-American media becomes increasingly apparent. Wiener's thought-provoking reflections on speed and journalism tells us so much about social attitudes to national and professional cultures on each side of the Atlantic, but would surely be further enhanced by a more detailed engagement with the stylistic effects of speed in the newspapers' language. Jessica Bennett and Hampton revise the gestation of the "special relationship" between Britain and the United States in First World War propaganda, but for all the sophistication of this investigation of the political mechanics of British foreign policy, examples of how the language of the newspapers actually achieved their aims are too brief, especially in comparison with the relatively wide range of newspapers covered.
What we have then, nevertheless, is a richly promising set of departures for future research into the field of Anglo-American media relations, and one which will no doubt draw a new generation of scholars into more detailed and sustained examinations not only of what has divided and united these two media cultures, but also into the very stuff of the language which provides the content of these media products.
. Jeremy Tunstall and David Machin, The Anglo-American Media Connection (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
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Martin Conboy. Review of Wiener, Joel H.; Hampton, Mark, eds., Anglo-American Media Interactions, 1850-2000.
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