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Inside the Upheaval of Journalism

Reporters Look Back on 50 Years of Covering the News

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Edited By Ted Gest and Dotty Brown

In the spring of 1969, 101 students received master’s degrees from Columbia University’s prestigious School of Journalism, where they had learned the trade as it was then practiced. Most hoped to start a career in newspapers, radio, television or magazines, the established forms of journalism of that era. Little did they realize how the news world they were entering would be upended by the internet and by the social forces that would sweep through the country over the next 50 years.

This book tells the story of the news media revolution through the eyes of those in the Class of 1969 who lived it and helped make it happen. It is an insider’s look at the reshaping of the Fourth Estate and the information Americans now get and don’t get—crucial aspects of the vibrancy of democracy.

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Chapter Seven Criminal Justice: The Journey from “Give Me Rewrite!”

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Criminal Justice: The Journey from “Give Me Rewrite!”

TED GEST

Many Americans formed their image of police and court news reporting from The Front Page, the classic comedy set in the pressroom of Chicago’s Criminal Courts Building. The 1928 play features hard-drinking, poker-playing reporters competing for the latest scoop on a jailbreak and other crime news of the day. But that old-timey, smoke-filled scene was due to change in the 1960s as the nation, its politicians, and its reporters began grappling with rising crime rates.

Crime, of course, has always been a favored topic of the news media. “Allowing for changes in language usage, there is a continuum in crime reporting from the penny press era of the 1830s to the yellow journalism of 1900 to the jazz journalism of the 1920s to the tabloid TV-tinged journalism of the 1990s,” wrote crime reporter David Krajicek in Scooped! Media Miss Real Story on Crime While Chasing Sex, Sleaze, and Celebrities.1

Barry Goldwater, in his unsuccessful presidential bid of 1964, was among the first to make crime a headline of his campaign. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, the conservative Arizona senator vowed to make “enforcing law and order” a priority, saying he would “do all that I can to see that women can go out on the streets of this country without being scared stiff.” Goldwater was talking about the beginning of a huge modern-day rise in crime in the...

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