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Reporting on the reportersPeoples Witness The Journalist in Modern PoliticsFred IglisYale University Press 1895 pp427It will come as a gratifying surprise to most of its current practitioners that the history of journalism is according to Fred Inglis professor of cultural studies at the University of Sheffield a thriving and productive realm of academic history Undeterred by the already creaking shelves-full of the genre Inglis makes a not immodest claim for his own weighty contribution There is not I believe anywhere to be found a book such as this one which offers to reorder a galaxy of starring and not-so-starring more dimly significant names in a new historical constellationThe journalist as star Now hes talking Most journalists worth the name feel obliged to take a more self-effacing line regarding themselves less as Hamlet than attendant serfs They are at best eyewitnesses to history privileged and occasionally brave observers of events which may or may not prove to be historic relayed via the prism of prejudice exercised by their proprietors editors and ultimately readersPhillip Knightley has already documented this last phenomenon in his seminal study The First Casualty as in The first casualty of war is truth a pioneering work to which Inglis turns frequently and not without some self-contradictory angst Although many of the journalistic stars in his personal firmament are war correspondents from Martha Gellhorn to David Halberstam he makes no effort to hide where he himself is coming from To qualify for canonisation in Ingliss book you must conform to his political agenda which is squarely of the high-minded leftThis reviewer may have no problem with that but less sympathetic spirits surely will Invoking the free speech legacy of Fox Wilkes Cobbett and Hazlitt though curiously omitting the latters friend and editor Leigh Hunt imprisoned in 1812 for insulting the Prince of Wales Inglis leavens occasionally prolix political theory with racier potted biographies of his favourite twentieth-century practitioners from Hemingway to the unlikely Arthur
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