Ruthless Criticism

New Perspectives in U.S. Communication History


William S. Solomon and Robert W. McChesney, editors

Informative and thought-provoking.

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Ruthless Criticism offers perspectives and subjects largely outside traditional historiography. It broadens the concept of media history to include lesser-studied media, and offers alternative interpretations of traditional media.

This anthology of original research includes an array of scholarly and theoretical perspectives. Each addresses specific topic within a specific era. reflecting the diversity of U.S. mass media.

Solomon and McChesney begin by using critical theory and deconstruction to examine the meanings of print in the colonial era. Subsequent chapters study the media ecology of the antebellum press; the intense focus on profits of the post-Civil War mainstream press; gender images in the labor press; the diversity of political views within the working-class press; and the development of a commercial press in the black community.

The essays concerning the twentieth century focus on the rise of a culture industry and include studies on the origins of the broadcast ratings system and the commercial broadcast system and the commercial broadcast system, early television’s portrayals of childhood, the televisions networks’ close ties with the federal government, the government’s key role in creating and developing the field of mass communication research, and teenage girls’ popular culture from 1960-1968 as a formative influence on the feminist movement.

William S. Solomon is associate professor of journalism and mass media at Rutgers University. He writes on media history, newsroom labor studies, and sociology of news. Solomon received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, and has worked as an editor at the Providence Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Oakland Tribune.

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1930-1935, and has published numerous scholarly articles. McChesney received a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Washington.

Ruthless Criticism spans a broad specturm of communication history.

Public Relations Review

These thirteen essays attack the subject of communication history from a variety of perspectives. Eager to revisit, reinterpret, or revise earlier historical conclusions, the articles reflect the diverse backgrounds of the author—scholars in communications as well as American studies, religion, and English literature.

Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

Informative and thought-provoking.

Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Should be required reading in introductory communication courses across the country. Presents fascinating and vital aspects of media history that have been largely ignored.

Herbert I. Schiller, University of California, San Diego

Ruthless Criticism puts the great monster of contemporary media in its historical place. While it informs us, it also trouble us, and makes us think critically about the role of profit-driven media in a society that calls itself democratic.

Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

This is a refreshing corrective to standard media history that in the past overwhelmingly represented the outlook of media entrepreneurs and their blind doctrine of the automatic virtues of uninhibited profit-making. Ruthless Criticism gives all students of social evolution a chance to understand how modern media perpetuate self-serving myths and use their power to create new ones.

Ben H. Bagdikian, author of The Media Monopoly