When the press loses sight of truth and falls prey to bias, American press critics push back to safeguard our free and democratic nation.
Journalists are no strangers to criticism and some have even seen disagreements turn to outrage and acts of violence. There is another history of press criticism, though. This one as a rule doesn’t resort to physical threat or denunciation. Nevertheless, it can be merciless when critics think the press has become too slanted in one direction, has fallen short of some ideal, is too concentrated for its own good, or seems to be underreporting or ignoring some critical story of the day.
Shame the Devil is a sweeping look at this other history. Beginning with Walter Lippmann, rightly regarded as the first modern press critic, Shame the Devil provides a chapter-by-chapter profile and analysis of his successors. Many critics work within the profession of journalism, while some consider it from the outside. These include: George Seldes, A. J. Liebling, Ben Bagdikian, Reed Irvine, Neil Postman, and Noam Chomsky. A concluding chapter brings together a diverse group of contemporary critics, including Sharyl Attkisson, Brooke Gladstone, Eric Deggans, Amy Goodman, Janine Jackson, and Candace Owens.
Merging history, biography, and a candid analysis of various critical points of view, Shame the Devil moves from press commentary in the bitter aftermath of World War I to the head-spinning paradoxes of the post-truth era. Throughout, some of America’s best critics contend with both the big events of their day and the big issues of journalism to ask the always vital question: How can the press help to create and sustain a more democratic society?
Wayne J. Guglielmo is a former senior editor at Medical Economics magazine, where he won awards for both his feature and special issue reporting. He has also been a contributor to other print and online publications, including Newsweek, WebMD, New Jersey Monthly, and BMW Magazine. He has taught expository writing and literature at Queens College, CUNY; Indiana University, Bloomington, where he received an MA in American literature; Hofstra University, New York; and Ramapo College of New Jersey. He lives with his wife, Maria Cornea, in Northern New Jersey.
Chapter 1. Walter Lippmann: The Evolution of a Press Critic
Chapter 2. George Seldes: The Last Muckraker
Chapter 3. A.J. Liebling: Comedy of Errors
Chapter 4. Ben Bagdikian: Media for the People
Chapter 5. Reed Irvine: The Advocate
Chapter 6. Neil Postman: News as Entertainment
Chapter 7. Noam Chomsky: News as Propaganda
Chapter 8. Contemporary Critics in the Post-Truth Era
Epilogue: The Once and Future Critics
Guglielmo tells the story of the press in the U.S. through the lens of its harshest and often most hopeful critics. In doing so, he offers a compelling portrait of the forces that have shaped the press, the unprecedented challenges facing it today, and the consequences for our democracy.
The audience, the press, and American society have had a wary interdependence far beyond today’s cries of “fake news.” Through biography and close readings of press critics representing 100 years of thought, Guglielmo sheds light on that relationship and offers a broad set of lenses for understanding media today.
A highly readable tour through the history of press criticism in the United States from the dawn of the twentieth century through today. Readers will come to understand the true difficulty of achieving objective reporting when reporters must face the pressures exerted by the forces of government, politics, culture, and their own personal worldviews. Anyone who is interested in the history of media or just striving to make sense of a post-truth world will find Shame the Devil a worthwhile read.
3/5/23, New York Times: Wayne Guglielmo contributed a letter to the editor in response to Bret Stephens’s column about the state of American journalism. The book is included in his byline.