Exploring American journalism's defining year

The Year That Defined American Journalism tells the story of a remarkable and decisive year in American journalism—1897. It was a year when journalists were wrestling desperately with the character and future of the profession.

Just as it is today, American journalism in the late 19th century was in turmoil. It was an uncertain, troubled yet invigorating time—a time when fresh approaches to newsgathering were developed, a time when the contours of modern American journalism were defined.

Eighteen ninety-seven was also the year when American journalism's most famous editorial— “Is There A Santa Claus?”— was published; the year when the term “yellow journalism” first appeared in print; the year when the New York Times placed its now-famous motto, “All the News That's Fit to Print,” on its front page; the year when the longest-running comic, the “Katzenjammer Kids,” made its debut, and the year an American newspaper organized a jailbreak in Cuba— a most extraordinary episode in activist journalism.

“No other year, arguably, has produced more memorable and singularly important moments than 1897,” the author, American University professor W. Joseph Campbell, writes in The Year That Defined American Journalism (Routledge, June 2006).

The book is based on meticulous research and draws on the collections of the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and of universities such as Columbia, Cornell, Ohio State and Syracuse.

The Year That Defined American Journalism — Campbell's fourth book since 1998—is an elaboration of his research into the yellow press period of the late 19th century. It is the first “year study” in journalism and mass communication studies. Year studies are popular in other fields of history, but until now they have been untested in journalism research.

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