Monthly Archives: July 2013

For Hemingway’s birthday, visit his papers

By Christopher B. Daly 

This Sunday, July 21, is the birthday of Ernest Hemingway — journalist, novelist, man of letters, beau ideal of a certain interpretation of masculinity. He would have been 114.

There are probably lots of ways to observe his birthday: you could go out and kill a top predator (like a lion or marlin), or you could go drinking and get a bartender at a famous bar to name a drink after you, or you could run with the bulls at San Fermin, or you could try to write ten simple declarative sentences in a row.

Alternatively, you could “visit” with Hemingway by rummaging around in his vast trove of papers and photos, which are archived as the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Much of the Hemingway collection remains to be digitized, so the only way to see most of those documents and objects is to visit the JFK Library, which would not be the worst thing — it sits right over Boston Harbor. But if you visit the website, you can click on the “media gallery” and cruise through Hemingway’s own photos.

If the heatwave continues, try looking through the photos that feature Hemingway in the Alps. He is somewhere in this group bobsledding in Montreux. Enjoy.


[Postscript: The Hemingway Collection site also offers an explanation for why the collection is housed at the JFK Library, which is not an obvious connection. I have not done any research into this question, so I can’t evaluate the accuracy or completeness of this version, but it’s worth reading.]

Update: The Boston Globe reports that the JFK Library has digitized the scrapbooks kept by Hemingway’s mother, which document his childhood. The Library has posted them on the website, too.


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American revolution based on avoiding surveillance

By Christopher B. Daly 

During the current revelations about the extent of routine surveillance being conducted on American citizens by agencies ranging from the NSA to the Postal Service, it might be worth recalling how this liberty-loving country was founded.

In the 1760s and early 1770s, a growing minority of British colonists living in North America were developing longer and longer lists of grievances against the Crown and Parliament. These Whigs (or patriots) looked for ways to turn their concern into practical action to resist what they considered abuses of their rights as Englishmen.

Recognizing the power of information and coordinated action, they formed Committees of Correspondence — first in Boston and later in all the colonies. They eventually became tantamount to shadow governments, but they

Sam Adams, enemy of the surveillance state.  National Portrait Gallery

Sam Adams, enemy of the surveillance state.
National Portrait Gallery

began as a mechanism for sharing information, views, and debates. Immediately, the founders recognized a problem: most of the mail that passed through the British postal system was routinely read by postmasters. So, if the Whigs were going to get organized on a continental basis, they needed to find a way to escape from that surveillance if they were to avoid arrest and punishment.

The answer was the Committees of Correspondence, which developed a shadow post office to serve their needs. When one committee had an important message to send to another, the members dispatched a private post rider, who carried the message on horseback — from Boston to New York, say, or from Baltimore to Savannah. Alternatively, they might dispatch a loyal Whig aboard a ship carrying the printed or handwritten messages on his person.

One famous case in point: after the dumping of the tea into Boston Harbor in December,

Paul Revere thwarted postal surveillance.  By John Singleton Copley

Paul Revere thwarted postal surveillance.
By John Singleton Copley

1773, the Boston Committee of Correspondence dispatched none other than Paul Revere to carry the news to Manhattan. That was a trip of more than 200 miles by horseback, which Revere completed in less than a week, over pretty rough roads, as winter was settling in. Long before his famous ride to Lexington and Concord, the Boston copper- and silversmith made other, lesser-known but essential rides for the cause.


From the patriot point of view, this system was a clever, heroic, and indispensable work-around that was a vital means for advancing the cause of liberty.

From the British point of view, of course, this was an illegal conspiracy to commit treason. 

[Postscript: As soon as the revolution began, the (illegal) Continental Congress began trying to conduct foreign affairs in hopes of drawing other nations into the revolutionary battle against Britain. The Congress set up a “Committee of Secret Correspondence,” led by Benjamin Franklin. Members began reaching out to contacts in Europe, but of course they could not use the British postal system and the new revolutionary government had not established its own. So, they turned to private couriers, who carried the committee’s secret messages. Later, this committee was renamed the Committee for Foreign Affairs. Thanks to the U.S. State Dept Office of the Historian for that one.]

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Review of “Covering America” in Journalism History

I am posting this review of my book in the scholarly journal Journalism History here, because the journal charges a lot for access.

Journalism History 

Vol 13 (4), Winter 2013, p254-255

CA cover final 2Daly, Christopher B.

Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism.

Amherst and Boston: UMass Press, 2012. 535 pp. $49.95.


Many a teacher of journalism history has heard students complain about how dull or inaccessible they find any one of several available media history textbooks. And many a journalism instructor has agreed with his or her students’ complaints about de-contextualized dates and names of publishers and their historically significant newspapers strung through those tomes. Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism addresses these complaints. In Covering America, Christopher Daly has wrapped the story of American journalism from the colonial period through the digital age into a carefully researched, beautifully written, and memorable account of how news reporting mostly has grown as well as improved during the span of three centuries as innovators have exploited new technologies, constitutional protections, government subsidies, cultural trends, and business formulae to maintain their financial independence and journalistic standards while serving their readers and audiences ever more efficiently.

            Daly, an associate professor of journalism at Boston University with twenty years of experience covering New England for the Washington Post and writing for the Associated Press, concentrates in Covering America on newspaper, television, and digital news with only occasional references to early twentieth-century magazines and rare mentions of public relations and advertising. His focus is the changing and expanding definition of news over time. Daly admits that in Covering America, unlike Frank Luther Mott’s or Edwin Emery’s geographically broader approaches to journalism history, he emphasizes journalism originating in New York— although Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago receive some attention when media in these cities contribute to the overall narrative. This exclusion of examples of western and southern journalism, however, contributes in two ways to the success of Covering America. It greatly reduces the clutter and detail that overwhelms so many students, and it allows Daly to hold the social, political, economic, and technological context constant as he explains the challenges and opportunities printers, for example, faced at roughly the same time and place. Rather than grasping at data, the reader finds the overall historical patterns of journalism more apparent and memorable.

            In describing his history as narrative, Daly accurately describes his method of organizing this book, which is apparent from the opening paragraph of his introduction through his final chapter on “Going Digital.” Covering America, not unlike other journalism history texts, begins with Benjamin Franklin, but does so with a narrative lead one might expect from a short story or magazine feature:

             On an early spring night in 1722, a young man hurried along the narrow streets of Boston, trying not to be seen. He was not a spy or a thief. He only wanted to be a writer. Just sixteen years old, Ben Franklin was hoping to get his writing published for the first time, and he had chosen a risky, roundabout route to do so.

 Daly then notes that young Franklin was “skulking” around the shop of the New England Courant, owned by his brother James, in order to slip a manuscript under the door for his older brother to discover and, he hoped, to print. In this description of Franklin’s actions, Daly finds several defining characteristics of American journalism still at work today: printing was a private business, journalism was open to the young with raw talent, and the pleasure of publication drives journalists into the field.

            In the first chapter on the “Foundations of the American Press, 1704-1763,” after explaining the organization of the print shop, its products, and its method of production, Daly returns to Franklin as an example of printers during this period of six decades before the American Revolution, devoting eleven of the chapter’s twenty pages to detailing his biography, readings, head for business, popular writings, and principles of journalism in his “Apology for Printers.” Within this chapter, Daly also describes the John Peter Zenger trial and acquittal for seditious libel, noting that Franklin helped Zenger obtain his attorney. Franklin receives briefer mentions in several more chapters, reminding readers the interconnections always present as journalism is transformed over time. This pattern of focusing on one or two individuals as representative of journalists from particular periods is a device of narrative compression that Daly uses in each of the chapters in Covering America. As Daly develops an overarching narrative to describe 300 years in the development of American journalism, he inserts short narratives of innovative journalists and publishers who exemplify traits of the period being described. This is how readers receive substantial information about Benjamin Day, James Gordon Bennett, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Paine, Horace Greeley, Joseph Pulitzer, Ida B. Wells, William Randolph Hearst, Adolph Ochs, Henry Luce, Harold Ross, David Sarnoff, William Paley, Walter Winchell, Walter Lippmann, Dorothy Thompson, Edward R. Murrow, Ernie Pyle, John Hersey, A.J. Leibling, David Halberstam, Truman Capote, Gloria Steinem, Katherine Graham, Ted Turner, Al Neuharth, and other journalistic innovators who so comfortably populate Daly’s story of the news.

             Covering America would vastly improve the student experience of an often unappreciated journalism history course, particularly at the undergraduate and master’s levels. Journalism students will leave a class after reading Daly’s book with a clear understanding of the methods and values of the field they will soon enter. They will also gain some confidence that journalism will continue even if paper and ink disappear.

 Joseph Bernt, Ohio University

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Review of “Covering America” by J&MC Quarterly

I am posting this enthusiastic review in the scholarly journal Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly because the journal charges a lot for access.

Book Review:

CA cover final 2Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism

Reviewed by Giovanna Dell’Orto (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA)


This engrossing, wide-ranging history of American journalism from

the colonial era to the present makes a tremendous contribution to

mass communication education by being that rarest kind of

textbook—one that reads like literature instead of CliffsNotes.

Covering all the bases, from the Zenger trial to the Huffington Post,

and with excursions into much lesser known histories across news

media, Covering America makes perfect and enjoyable mandatory

reading for undergraduate and graduate classes in journalism history.

Christopher Daly, an associate professor at Boston University’s

Journalism Department, approaches this monumental historical

survey with the reportorial flair appropriate for a former Associated

Press and Washington Post journalist, which sets it apart from more

pedagogical classics like Emery, Emery, and Roberts’s The Press

and America. Literally from the first line, Daly grabs the reader with

striking, cinematic details that make the past come alive. Page 1

opens with a teenage Benjamin Franklin skulking along the dark

streets of eighteenth-century Boston, trying to put one over his

brother in order to start his writing career—and the readers are

hooked, be they scholars who have been teaching colonial journalism

for years, like this reviewer, or freshmen who might have never heard

of Franklin.

Similarly intimate visual vignettes are peppered throughout the next

nearly five hundred pages, including an iconic Ed Murrow “sitting on a

bench in a White House hallway, chain-smoking Camel cigarettes” as

FDR decides how to react to just-received news of Pearl Harbor. At

the other end of the press–government relationship spectrum, we are

treated to the image of President Nixon dancing at the White House

wedding of his daughter at the very same moment when “the

typesetters and pressmen at the [New York] Times started printing”

the Pentagon Papers stories.

Most helpful for classroom use, in all these cases and across the

volume, Daly assumes no prior historical knowledge on the readers’

part, and retells the basics of U.S. history through the eyes of the

journalists and media owners who put its first draft in front of the

American people. Most chapters even conclude with short summaries

of how their main characters—from Franklin to David Halberstam—

ended up, much like the end titles in documentaries, so that no gaps

are left in a remarkably comprehensive story.

Some journalism historians might object that this volume skates very

close to the “Great Men” tradition. The narrative focus is unabashedly

on the major figures that made journalism what it is (and yes, for the

vast majority of the three hundred years covered it was mostly white

men). As Daly puts it repeatedly, social, political, economic, and

technological developments influenced the shape of journalism, but

for the major shifts to happen, “somebody had to do something.”

Since this book’s main audience is not the specialist, focusing on the

adventures of those various “somebodies” at the expense of scholarly

interpretative controversy seems an effective trade-off for terrific

storytelling that gets the major points across memorably.

In addition, the book does make two fundamental conceptual

arguments that give it depth and a unifying thread. Daly argues that

journalism has been central to the history of the country. From the

early Republic Party press all the way to today’s blogs (which, as

Daly notes, are not that different), the media history narrated in the

volume shows how journalism helped shape American life.

Sometimes, it has done so with nefarious effects, but also with a

“long tradition of service to humanity.” That service, however, has

recurrently been imperiled by the practice of journalism as a


The most heartfelt, compelling question raised is the strange bed

fellowship of journalism and money. At the end of chapter 12, which

focuses on the Pentagon Papers and Watergate and is perhaps the

book’s best, Daly reflects on what he feels was the “apotheosis” of

the raison d’être for independent, aggressive journalism: “Build a big

enough audience so that you can make enough money to tell anyone

to go to hell. The risk of such an attitude is sounding arrogant, but

without it there is no real journalism.” But money, as the book shows,

is not always a journalist’s friend—not when it has meant

acquiescence to governmental or corporate interests, not when it is

intended to fatten shareholders’ wallets instead of newsgathering

operations, and not when it is made by pandering to the evil twin of

mass interest, the enduring prurient passion for celebrity scandals

and gore.

For an overview book, the level of detail is astounding, especially

since it does not detract from the narrative flow. With illuminating

forays into law, technology, and policy making, readers are

introduced to pamphleteers, editors, reporters, columnists, and

broadcasters, from Thomas Paine to Matt Drudge by way of Horace

Greeley, Ida B. Wells, Adolph Ochs, Harry Luce, and less obvious

figures, such as Harold Ross and Walter Winchell. From the smelly

printing equipment in colonial shops to the Supreme Court justices’

opinions and the account behind the iconic napalm-burned

Vietnamese girl photograph, there are no major stories left untold.

Striking quotes straight from the media—the Liberator’s opening

editorial, Ernie Pyle’s Captain Waskow’s tribute, Earl Caldwell’s

report of the King assassination—enrich the atmospheric narrative.

Until, that is, the digital era: The one major criticism of this volume is

that its treatment of what Daly calls the last major period of journalism

history, the digital revolution from the mid-1990s onward, is

unsatisfactorily perfunctory. The entire digital era gets a twenty-page

chapter that does not even mention such critical developments as the

rise of fake news shows or shattering scandals such as the Jayson

Blair affair, which is hinted at in the conclusion.

Writing what amounts to a history of the present is certainly difficult,

but the end of the book feels abrupt, and the first decade of the

twenty-first century deserves the same lively, in-depth study as the

other eras so masterfully narrated. Despite that shortcoming, this

volume is a top-choice main history textbook and reference work for

journalism educators, researchers, and students at all levels.

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Notice of “Covering America”

By Christopher B. Daly 

A shout-out to Rutgers historian David Greenberg. In a book review in the current issue of the Journal of American History, Greenberg more or less dissected a new book called News for All the People. Then, unexpectedly, he swerved into a nice mention of my book:

Historians of journalism seeking a new synthesis will be better served by Christopher B. Daly’s Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism (2012), which does not emphasize racial oppression quite as much yet does debunk cherished myths of American journalism history while presenting a coherent narrative account.


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Death of a Cold War spy/”journalist”

By Christopher B. Daly 

As if we needed any reminders that it is not a good idea to mingle spying and journalism, the recent death of Austin Goodrich is a good example. It was true during the Cold War that the U.S. spy agencies and American foreign correspondents often cooperated.

The spies offered briefings to U.S. foreign correspondents as they headed abroad — all very chummy and gratis — and they expected to “debrief” those journalists when they returned home.

At the same time, real spies sometimes used a journalistic position as “cover” for

U.S. spy masquerading as a journalist.

U.S. spy masquerading as a journalist.

their espionage. That appears to have been the case with Goodrich.

Either way, these are bad practices, which the journalistic establishment eventually came to recognize. For one thing, it is dangerous to the health of journalists if other peoples have reason that we are all spies and should be treated as such.

During the 1970s, thanks to the Senate special committee known as the “Church Committee” (for its chair, Frank Church), a lot of secrets about American spy agencies came to light. Among them was the cozy relationship between some journalists and some spies.

The Church Committee’s findings deserve to be reviewed today. I assume that over the course of the intervening decades all of the abuses exposed by the committee have been resumed, along with new ones. I would say it’s time for a new Church Committee to try once again to get to the bottom of the spy game.


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Abolish the NCAA (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly 

Recently, the Times invited readers to send in letters for a “Sunday Dialogue” concerning the NCAA. The prompt for the letters involved a rather arcane point, internal to the NCAA, about whether the top 1% of teams by revenue should break off from the NCAA. 

I didn’t think that was a great question, but I wrote anyway. The Times did not print my letter (probably because it was a bit off-subject). But I have a blog, so here it is:

To the Editor:
As an associate professor at Boston University (a school with 23 NCAA Division 1 teams, including a top-10 men’s hockey team), I have had many student athletes in my classes over the years. The question I have is this: what educational purpose does the NCAA advance? What is the educational benefit of intercollegiate sports?
At the start of nearly every semester, I have one or more students approach me after the first lecture. They hand me letters from the Athletics Dept. telling me in advance which classes these students will be missing and requesting my “cooperation” with their athletic schedules. I often wonder why my students need to travel as far as the West Coast, during the regular season, to run around in shorts and chase balls. They miss classroom experiences that, I  believe, they can never truly make up.
I also wonder why NCAA athletes train year-round. A few years ago, I had a student in a class who was on BU’s swimming and diving team. She missed a number of classes for swim meets, then missed a few more because the team had earned its way into a tournament. Finally, her season was over. When she returned to class, I welcomed her back and observed that now she would have a lot more free time. Not so fast. She explained that although the season was over, the team would go right on holding practices, which she was obliged to attend. In fact, she said, they could step up their training now, because they would not be traveling to meets.
I believe young people should get exercise, but I think that’s true for all college students. They should all have sound bodies. But I don’t see the educational value in having a small fraction of the student population training intensively, year round, in ways that undermine the real reason they should be on campus.
–Chris Daly, Boston


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Studying plastics in the ocean

By Christopher B. Daly 

One of the bedrock principles of ecology is that there is no such place as “away” – as in phrase, I threw that away. In fact, the Earth is a closed system. Everything has to go somewhere. If you try to throw something away, it has to go somewhere.

In recent decades, we have been throwing a lot of plastic into the world’s oceans. No surprise: it’s still there. And it’s not going anywhere soon. Most plastics are very persistent, and while they may break up into smaller and smaller pieces, those tiny fragments keep swirling around the oceans.

Another insight from ecology is that most situations present opportunities for

Plastic fleck covered with bacteria  Sea Education Assn

Plastic fleck covered with bacteria
Sea Education Assn

someone. In the case of the billions of flecks of plastics, it turns out that they can serve as a “home” for all sorts of microbial communities.

A story in today’s Boston Globe reports on research being done by the indispensable Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. All those new environmental niches — known collectively as the “plastisphere — support colonies of micro-organisms.

That’s not to justify the pollution of the oceans with persistent plastics. They create all sorts of problems throughout their lengthy lifetimes.

One highly visible example involves balloons. Many of the mylar and nylon balloons that are filled with helium escape from the parties where they were intended to be enjoyed. All too often, a balloon escapes and flies “away” — except, as we know, there is no place called Away. Eventually, those balloons come down, and a lot of them seem to fall into the oceans. Many of them stay there, snagging fish and gagging turtles. Others wash ashore and litter ourIMG_2339 beaches.

A few weeks ago, walking on a south-facing beach on Martha’s Vineyard, I started noticing just how many balloons there were. My non-scientific finding: A LOT.


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New rules for spying on journalists

By Christopher B. Daly 

No surprise. The government has decided that it does not want to completely retreat from the field of spying on, investigating, and prosecuting journalists who seek and report the truth about our government’s operations. The Justice Dept is willing to make a few concessions, in acknowledgement that it recently got caught over-reaching in a number of cases. But it is nowhere near saying that the First Amendment’s guarantee of press freedom means what it says.

That’s my understanding of what AG Eric Holder announced yesterday in compliance with a demand from his boss, President Obama.

–Here’s coverage by the Times and the Post. (Complete with lots of comments that should not be missed.)

–Here’s the text of the Justice Dept report. (I am posting this in good faith; I hope the Justice Dept is doing the same and is not hiding some classified, redacted version in which they take it all back.)

Essentially, it amounts to this: Trust us. In the future, the attorney general will continue to make judgment calls and do all the balancing of press freedom and national security. If you don’t like it, tough. There’s no appeal, no remedy, no oversight.

If in the future, we have more secrecy and less transparency, this will be part of the reason.

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And fuck you, too!

In case you are the last person on the planet who doesn’t know what was said in U.S. District Court in Boston earlier this week in the murder/racketeering trial of Whitey Bulger, here’s a portion of the transcript, demonstrating the parties’ mastery of forceful, simple Anglo-Saxon vocabulary:

[The “Q” here is defense attorney J.W. Carney. The “A”s are coming from witness Kevin Weeks.]




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