Kevin G. Barnhurst
School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK and Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

In 2013 Rolf Dobelli’s pop psychology book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, already in translation into several languages, appeared in the United States with a marketing splash.1 In op-ed and online commentaries, aided by press headlines like “News Is Bad for You,” Dobelli described an experiment he tried on himself: he stopped paying attention to the news. His how-to list of ninety-nine things that clutter the mind does include daily news, but the marketing effort went further. Users could download a longer essay on the experiment and the problems with attending to news. Reviewers—mostly news insiders—dug out assertions from different chap­ters to lament the attack on the public usefulness of news, panning the book.2 But within half a year its worldwide sales exceeded a million copies.

A pitch that gets traction by recommending audiences abandon news casts a shadow over the industry and its employees. And that pessimism seemed justi­fied as software threatened to automate news writing, promising reporters left mainstream news, and news businesses struggled beyond the Great Recession of 2008. In digital times, news no longer worked as it had when editors managed the flow to an audience of opinion leaders and avid followers.3 In mobile, digital media, reporting and editing of news slipped into the background, and legacy media seemed like dinosaurs about to join other industries in the tar pits of history. The gloomy side of the digital era may trap individuals, groups, and sectors of life in a cultural paradox, a sticky web that the Arachne of fracking capitalism4 is building strand by strand to extract value from daily living.

In some ways mainstream news may be a relic, but is there hope for its future? One source of optimism is that news practitioners have managed to hold on through a century of tough transitions, a tenacity that also makes news an apt case study of current transformations. Another is that news organizations have been creative.5 Despite the usual view that legacy media fail to innovate, concrete evidence shows their contributions to the digital boom. News organizations at first built free-access sites online, contributing to the euphoria about the democratic potential of the web. As the internet became more commercial, mainstream news sites joined the competition for traffic, claiming local turf, buying up competitors, and redesigning content to capture more page views for advertisers, but they also allied with information sources like movie houses and sports organizations to reproduce the omnium-gatherum of the old-time newspaper. Ubiquitous links to social media invited readers to clip and send news stories using digital tools, another adaptation from the heyday of print news.

But the main cause for hope may spring from the contradictions of news, which seem to have stymied the lofty strain of twentieth-century modernism without rejecting the down-to-earth strain from nineteenth-century realism. The mod­ernist focus on big-picture explanations from big-name practitioners at big-time media undermines the enduring cultural idea that news provides many small encounters with the human condition. But realist reporting of what happens to the little guy at places nearby remained an attraction for audiences online and on mobile social media and a factor pushing government and political action.6 News content illustrates the uneven course of modernism and its tensions and contradic­tions with realism in U.S. culture, which contributed to the misrecognition of the changing content best illustrated in the certainty that news is brief. Brevity marked the early forms of the new journalism with a quality that settled into cultural expec­tations, but over the century, stories grew longer first in newspapers and then on television after newscasts began scooping the press. They continued that growth across media, even without commercial and visual pressures, such as on NPR.

The change received little attention, although practitioners were clearly adding more words. In the “who,” ordinary persons could no longer stand alone in stories, distancing news especially from the laborer or wage worker.7 Stories lost their common touch despite the sense of realism that reporters gained on the ground during their early careers. But as socioeconomic status and education levels in the occupation rose, stories shifted to modern modes that emphasized abstract groups, supervising officials, and distant experts. The belief in expert knowledge endured at the expense of realist accounts about people. The shift away from persons also accompanied declines in the usual measures of citizen activity and related atten­tion to news, such as newspaper readership. During the span when modernism became ascendant, U.S. news moved away from the substance of realism about persons.

A similar change occurred in the “where.” Street addresses disappeared, fol­lowing cultural shifts in the understanding of public and individual safety but also contrary to the practitioner mantra of making reports “local, local, local.”8 Moving locations farther from the places people live might reflect an effort to address the geographic ignorance of audiences, but it accompanied their waning direct engage­ment with mainstream news outlets. In television, place-relations among actors in and audiences for events became more complex but overall made anchors and correspondents more central. The transformation followed the modernist penchant for elites to provide broader-based views for citizens and downplayed the realist trust in publics that form around their own issues. Under ascendant modernism, news provided less realism about places.

The “what” might be the most realist of the Ws because news depends on what happens, but events became less abundant in stories. Reports retained some realist effects, but modern analysis crowded out other occurrences. The changes in the “what” were complex and interacted with the “why.” News of World War I relied on dispatches that turned out to be a kind of wishful thinking, interpretations based what correspondents hoped events would mean. In the aftermath of that revelation and the discovery of large-scale internal U.S. propaganda, the press refocused on event coverage. But denotative news then came into question in the McCarthy era, when reporting the baseless accusations of a U.S. senator ruined lives and disrupted government while objective standards kept reporters from saying what they knew was happening. Stories then became less centered on events after midcentury. Both the reactions, which seem to contrast, responded to crisis—World War I and the McCarthy era—by seeking much the same end, the high-modern goal to explain events better. Both also asserted news practitioners’ role as sense-makers, serv­ing an ideological process that advanced the occupation. Overall a commitment to the abstract strain of modernism pulled news away from realism about events.

The denotative three of the Five Ws tended to move away from realist accounts of events affecting people in nearby places, but in the other two, modernism reigned. The “why” along with the “when” of news transformed as demanded by critics, who for much of the century complained that news lacked enough context and back­ground to make the origins and effects of events understandable and to explain their meanings and significance.9 Although unrecognized, the time dimension of news grew more varied, enlarging the background in news content over the century. More references to the past and to future expectations, along with refer­ences to change over time, fit the modernist understanding of time that stresses the long view. And in the “why,” the explanatory element also expanded, adding more about how events work, what causes them to happen, and which purposes they serve. News practitioners no longer wrote as if their main task were to report what happened for the public to process. Instead they presented themselves as modern experts making sense of events and spotting issues and trends. Especially on television, the growth in expressing opinions may have prompted critics to urge news toward further and better explanations. Turning stories toward explanation required expertise, but in interviews, practitioners espoused the realist humility of down-to-earth, episodic news.

Realism lost ground during the ascendancy of twentieth-century modernism in the news. The descriptive facets, “who,” “where,” and “what,” at the center of realism, declined over the century, and the contextual facets, “when” and “why,” expanded at the center of the newer modernism. All five Ws had moved largely in a direction opposite from what observers expected, so that news was no longer what all but the best-informed insiders, students, or policymakers tended to assume. At its height, modern news seemed to reveal a great deal about the world with­out any reflection on the messenger.10 Practitioners came to stand on a detached, authoritative ground. The use of the opening anecdote11 emerged as a way to say that the story matters in realist terms, in the places where life goes on. But for the body of the story, news aligned with social sciences, precision data analysis, and other ways for arriving at an abstract account. Other arts and literature had shifted into naturalism and on through other movements, embracing the underside of U.S. life, but news practice resisted efforts to realign news with human expression. Rejecting them helped practitioners retain the hope for progress and helped the occupation retain its claim to serve the public.

But by century’s end, U.S. society and concepts of time and space had again entered flux, with publics forming around fleeting issues within mobile, networked space shown in tag clouds and new-media visualizations. Digital society seemed to break with previous realist concepts of stable persons, contiguous places, and concrete events, as well as with modernist concepts of linear progress and expert explanation. Take location services.12 In the digital era a place comes into existence not because an Internet Service Provider finds a user or brings one onto the net­work, the way news once brought places into existence for distant others by tell­ing a story set there. No new-media executive can put anyone on the digital map. Instead a place emerges and appears online and on GPS systems when enough users pinpoint and identify its location. A home at the end of the telephone lines in rural America is “no place” on any digital device for about a month after its broadband service goes live. It becomes a location only after multiple users leave tracks using online maps, mobile apps, and GPS to find it. And it disappears if it falls out of use. A worrisome visibility system replaced the old authority system. No one can impose top-down information, but neither has the physical dropped out of play for locations.

For news a similar pattern exists for the “where” and extends to the other Ws of online lives and occurrences. People and events “go viral” because of user traffic, and from it aggregators have found a way to turn a profit. The main search engines operate much as newspapers had after display advertising became a major source of revenue.13 Selling ad space to department stores could make up for giving away or selling more copies at a loss. Digital businesses hand out free content but make smaller amounts of money from advertisers who want to reach the much larger volume of self-selecting digital views. As conditions changed, news organizations seemed capable of going in any direction, putting all five Ws of content into play online. Their websites left a record of the period, showing they later chose to stay the course of modernism. The patterns for each of the five Ws were strong across the news sites and ran deep in the four topics studied: accidents, crime, jobs, and politics. By 2000 the websites in the study, which differed in size and spanned the U.S. geography, had built online editions that closely matched what they were already doing in print. By 2005 social interactivity was emerging in a new itera­tion of the web, and the sites had expanded their experimentation online. But by 2010 the content had reverted, returning to the tendencies of the previous century, as leaders of major media called for reporters and editors to recommit to earlier values for news. That advice meant going back to authoritative and explanatory news, aspects of modernism that became more elite when and put their content behind pay walls. There a reader of the Times online found virtual pages in high-modern design, enhanced with digital navigation, zooming, and interactivity.

For the referential Five Ws, the pattern played out with some variations. The “who” changed to match the length of news. Stories were growing longer in 2000 and ebbing in 2005, but returned to the longer flow by 2010. In the “who” of mobile, digital media, people play a more active role, and the initial increase in persons on the sites seemed to realign news with the zeitgeist, possibly returning news to its realist roots. But over the ensuing decade, fewer people populated stories on home pages and throughout the sites. For the “what,” events bucked the long-term trend at first but then returned to the declining levels of the previous half century. The new era seemed to provide access to more events, and the sites did that at first, suggesting a comeback for the multiple occurrences from realism. But here again, the content turned away from that course. And for the “where” of news, places, after a slight reversal, moved more distant from the street address. Place and space interact in contradictory ways under digital conditions, with possibilities that news practice rejected after an initial flirtation. The pauses and accelerations in how news presented persons, places, and events registered a moment when the sites tried new things, some of them concrete aspects of realism, with brief accounts of events focused on persons at local places.

The inferential side of the Five Ws stayed with the modern course online. The context of “when” and explanations of “why” continued moving away from the realist assumption that audiences would make sense of the news for themselves. Collapsing and coordinating time characterizes the digital era, but the “when” of news online expanded while coordinating time, so that the trend toward more references to more time frames and periods peaked and then resumed. Producers of news content added points along a time continuum, falling into an incongruity with digital possibilities as well as with the now-focus of realist time. Multiple, contradictory, and individual interpretations may have become more available in the digital era, but the “why” of news content pushed forward on the project of providing easy or binary explanations of trends and problems. Following American modernism contradicted how audiences were adapting, making sense for them­selves and resisting expectations in the new-media era. Practitioners misrecog­nized that news had become a powerful interpreter and that people could use new media to resist.

News producers were not alone in that misrecognition. In his 2010 commence­ment address at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, President Barack Obama described citizens actively seeking and sorting out information.14 He went on to explain—

That’s why we need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. [Applause.] That’s why we need an educated citizenry that values hard evidence and not just assertion. [Applause.] As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” [Laughter.] Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of the New York Times, try glancing at the page of the Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. [Applause.] It is essential for our democracy. [Applause.]

Obama’s remarks assert the realism of “hard evidence” but also accept the mod­ernist ideal of the media sorting content into abstract categories. He invokes the usual justification that separating fact from opinion is essential for democratic life. His advice refers mostly to opinion columns, as if elite outlets succeed in dividing the news into two clear categories. His view shows how the nineteenth-century realist and twentieth-century modernist strains of modernism may fuse, but care­ful thinking about their differences can reduce confusion and point a course out of the current crisis.

In her masterwork, The Human Condition, political thinker Hannah Arendt dis­tinguishes between labor and work.15 In one sense she defines labor as ephemeral and work as more permanent. A cook labors by making everyday foods, where the wider occupation of chefs works within a larger tradition or cuisine that endures. She also defines work as the way humans transform the world into something designed, contrived, or simulated. A builder labors by constructing common­place but authentic shelters, and architects work by applying the artifice needed for memorable or unique structures that give a city or landscape its character. Journalists labor when they go out into the streets, workplaces, eateries, and dwell­ings to gather stories, then write and edit them to convey what people experience. The labor of news may occur once and evanesce or recur in the round of seasons and anniversaries. Practitioners seem to misrecognize their labor by discounting gumshoe reporting as beginners’ drudgery, handing it over to interns, or farming it out to stringers. One way to reimagine news would be to restore the dignity and value of news labor, along with other kinds of labor in society.16

Practitioners also misrecognize the work of journalism, treating it as the prod­uct of individual effort, achievement, and recognition. The work of journalism builds something larger than any individual. It is certainly more than a collection of stories reprinted in an anthology, although that book may endure for a while, and probably more than inventing a genre such as “explanatory writing” or found­ing a news institution, although both involve originality and artifice in Arendt’s sense. From another perspective, the work of news is centripetal, and its labor is centrifugal.17 Centrifugal forces flee from, and centripetal forces draw to, the center. Think of centrifugal forces as Ray Bradbury described them in Fahrenheit 451, flinging off wasteful thoughts, and think of centripetal forces as gravity in the cosmos, drawing moons to planets and planets to the sun by counterbalancing the outward momentum of their orbital spin.18 The commercial side of news media tends to be centrifugal, spinning off audience members as individual consumers, but the political side can be centripetal, pulling citizens together toward the center of majoritarian democracy.19

Practitioners may misrecognize the distinction by assuming that the work of journalism will flow directly from its labor. But the relation between its work and labor is more complicated because, among other things, the two are opposing forces and involve long-lasting culture on one hand and a short-term interaction on the other. The view of practitioners might spring in part from misconceptions about how audiences watch and read news, especially in the digital era.20 Citizens may not engage with news in the way Obama recommends, but they are as knowl­edgeable as they need to be and continue to form into publics around emerging issues. In Dewey’s sense, the public is not a dummy. As news grew distant from the working classes and others, audiences found alternatives. Replacing the hope for an attentive and engaged citizenry with cynicism about a browsing audience that skims and dismisses stories makes it even more difficult for news practitioners and outlets to build bridges to the emerging era. Revaluing the labor of journalism might shift responsibility for citizenship back to audiences, aiding them as the main participants in democracy.21

The work of journalism first defines what news is or can be, how it should be made, and which uses and purposes it serves. The “journalist” was its first inven­tion, defining the occupation and sustaining that definition for more than a cen­tury.22 By positioning itself in relation to others and society, journalism creates a view of the world, a system of ideas surviving in collective life. That perspective inheres in stories, genres, and institutions, but arises more from shared beliefs within the occupation and society than from individual actions. By the end of the twentieth century, news had become one of the central ways of asserting what is and what one can know about the world. Even science was turning to news, hav­ing abandoned its ivory tower of a century before to focus on “impact,” “outreach,” and “communication,” to cite the recent language of research funding agencies.23

Studying the work of news texts requires going beyond them to the surrounding history and society and below their surface to the philosophy underpinning them, the ontology and epistemology of news. Like any general kind of knowledge, news turns out to have a complicated and contradictory history. One way to understand it is through the intellectual strains from its origins, the intertwining of nineteenth-century realism and twentieth-century modernism. Realism provided a baseline in persons, places, and events, and modernism supplied an overlay of temporal con­text and explanatory power. But the strains of modernism had unequal influence. The record of content from the invention of the journalist around the 1880s to the aftermath of the digital crisis in the 2010s shows a long if uneven pattern of real­ism declining into the background as modernism ascended. No matter what new technology, new kind of medium, or new form of market or content competition emerged, news overall grew longer and more abstract, interpretive, and temporally complex. That those involved assumed news was much the same as it had been a century before is testament that journalism is more than an occupation and that its product, news, sheds light on the cultural transformation now in progress.

The reasons for what happened to U.S. news content are complex. At times the changes emerged from occupational conditions and ambitions for those creating news, at times from the economic context for news organs and their goods, at times from the political moves of parties and editors in relation to partisanism, at times from the responses of audiences and publics, and at times from technical changes that seemed to intervene on their own. The causes worked in concert as well as alone—but also in conflict—across the levels of social analysis, and the power relations among levels had critical consequences. Viewing the competing forces using the lens of modernism assumes that they worked through the symbols and representations available in the culture. In that sense, news played a central role in creating the modern world of the twentieth century.

The grandiosity and elitism of modernism are difficult to mourn, but realism presents a different picture. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the journalist emerged amid the ideas abroad in U.S. literature and society, its practi­cal realism built on assumptions similar to what emerged in other realist writing of the era: that readers and producers shared an earthy skepticism about reports, enjoyed encountering graphic details and felt motivated by them, and embraced the rough-and-tumble of party politics. News practitioners in the twentieth cen­tury produced stories that slowly abandoned those assumptions, distancing the news from audiences who appeared always on the verge of contempt, vulnerable to sensational content, and blinded by partisan politics. The gritty labor of news production, imagined with its original typographic and photographic tools even after they left common use, tended to veil how news transformed. And the process opened a kind of misrecognition, so that practitioners saw themselves doing the labor of reporting while their output did other work, which may have advanced careers or the occupation but also served the modern ideal.

U.S. intellectual life of the late twentieth century engaged in several decades of cultural critique and responded to die-hard realists in a period of “culture wars,” which spawned the hybrid rusé realism among extremists on the right. Its rheto­ric hides a tacit, contemptuous application of constructivism behind lip service to the ideals of observing and reporting on the concrete world. The result is a systematic misrepresentation of knowledge to manipulate public opinion.24 But by a few years into the new century the severest critics of realism had turned a corner.25 When French sociologist Bruno Latour, an early constructionist student of scientific practice, paused to ask for a return to realism in 2004, he pointed to a twentieth-century philosopher with expanding influence, Alfred North Whitehead, a mathematician whose later work turned to metaphysics. American thinkers like John Dewey, William James, George H. Mead, and others associated with Chicago sociology developed pragmatism as a philosophy with concrete application, but the Englishman Whitehead took the idea of symbolic interaction to its root. His masterwork, Process and Reality, asserts that Western philosophy went astray by considering matter fundamental. He decries the “ingrained tendency . . . to look below what we are aware of for the substance in the sense of the ‘concrete thing,’” which “is the origin of the modern scientific concept of matter.”26

His view would seem to destroy the basis of news in concrete persons or things, but there is more. He also dismisses the possibility of concrete places and times. “What we find in space are the red of the rose and the smell of the jasmine and the noise of the cannon,” he says. “We have all told our dentists where our tooth­ache is.” It is not the things in a place but the experience of ongoing processes that makes what is. To dismiss time, he argues that the Greek philosopher Zeno “had an obscure grasp” of process in his paradox that an arrow in flight is motionless at any point in time: “The introduction of motion brings in irrelevant details. The true difficulty is to understand how the arrow survives the lapse of time.” Not the arrow, its line of motion, or lapse of time makes the arrow’s flight but the interac­tion with human subjectivity. Whitehead’s “process philosophy” argues that any baseline “reality” observable in the sciences, for instance, is an illusion because all supposed “objects” are instead processes that humans experience.

Whitehead shares with the American pragmatists and others in rejecting the grand view from the heights of philosophy in favor of a homemade kind of thinking that emerges in experience.27 People make the world through interactions together, and what they produce, from home life to international cooperation, works because of interaction and not because of “hard” matter or preconceived notions like science or democracy. For news and the belief system called journalism that produces it, experience is at the core because people and places are always in process, captured by the idea of events. Whitehead calls events “actual objects” or “actual occasions” and places them at the center, as what humanity grasps in the moment of emotional engagement. They “are drops of experience, complex and interdependent,” and “the final real things. . . . There is no going behind actual entities to find anything more real.”28 The shock or amazement in the voice of “news” is much the same, and so process philosophy does two things. It fits with the realist aspects of news but also anticipates postmodern conditions, opening the way to adapt to the digital era. It is not hard to imagine what news-as-process would look like because it is already there in the best of news.

A recent example is Serial, the first podcast to win a Peabody award, taking a seat alongside legacy media like CNN, NBC, and NPR.29 The series is not short, each segment running about fifty minutes and appearing weekly in twelve install­ments during in 2014. Nor is the event, a 1999 murder in Baltimore, new. Besides the unsolved crime, what makes the content riveting is the sound of everyday peo­ple from places surrounding Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student, and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, convicted and imprisoned for her strangling and death. Series creator Sarah Koenig said in an interview, “These are real people with families and lives, who have trusted me with their information or with their anonymity, and so it makes it nervous.”30 The reporters were also frank about not having answers and explanations. Halfway through the series, Koenig told Nieman Storyboard, “We’ve always known we don’t know exactly how it’s going to end.” By digging out details without prejudging them, the series producers brought audi­ences into the making of content, drawing in more than 80 million listeners, who commented on the blog and generated external discussion boards. And the story was not even local for listeners like Ewan McGregor, the Scottish actor. “To say it was addictive is an understatement,” he wrote in Time magazine. “People were talking about it everywhere you went.”31 It’s not about length, or the nuts and bolts of the Five Ws, but about news as a source of knowledge about the world, which comes inflected with assumptions that worked well a century ago but no longer reign supreme. The key would be to imagine the journalist refocusing so that those assumptions continue working today.

Since it first emerged from rumor and gossip in the handwritten and printed news sheets of the fifteenth century, news has always met strong reactions, and that is a strength. The past century of modernist improvement has not made much dif­ference, as the lapses in New York Times coverage of WWI and WMD which bookend the period illustrate.32 War is the ultimate government policy decision, one that the press seeks to mediate in the public interest. But the press and politics are an alli­ance of two unsavory activities, an irony often lost on practitioners and academics, if not on audiences. News may be great stuff for the people, its excitement over accidents a cautionary tale, its exposure of crime a comfort to the compliant, its analysis of unemployment a daily sermon on work and capital, and its pontificat­ing on politics a foil for the active citizenry. And during times of great danger, the press can steady the nation, as it did in the Great Depression and the most recent of the Great Recessions, which the news helped name.33 At other times journalists tend to fall into mischief but also into fun, as interviews with reporters and editors demonstrate here. Their line of work should not go away, but if it does, another version of news practice will turn up, producing another kind of news content for audiences to heed and resist.34

News content since the Mister Pulitzer era moved away from its roots in story­telling to embrace sense making as the contours of generally available knowledge also shifted from realism to modernism. But the digital spider’s era has undermined the position of mainstream news. While promising greater democracy, its web has fed the advance of a new kind of realism, the rusé version that exploits the “construc­tion” of facts to serve reactionary elites. News practice may continue aspiring to deliver solid explanations, sound history, and safe predictions, pursuing ends that lend the occupation authority by colonizing the terrain of citizenship. But journal­ism as a system that once counteracted other -isms could plausibly foster general knowledge another way, by recording real events in the locations of everyday life, telling the stories of, by, and for the people.

The Critic as Artist

There is much to be said in favor of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community. By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us of what very little importance such events really are. By invariably discussing the unnecessary, it makes us understand what things are requisite for culture, and what are not.
—Oscar Wilde, “The Critic as Artist,” Intentions (1891)


  1. Dobelli, “News Is Bad for You—and Giving up Reading It Will Make You Happier,” Guardian, April 12, 2013.
  2. See, for example, Philip Delves Broughton, “Decision Theories,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2013.
  3. White 1950.
  4. Ian Martin, “Fracketeering,”, June 30, 2015.
  5. John O’Sullivan et al., “Innovators and Innovated: Newspapers and the Post-Digital Future Beyond the ‘Death of Print,’” unpublished manuscript; Barnhurst 2002. See Bocz­kowski 2005; Anderson 2013; Usher 2014.
  6. Young readers find breaking stories attractive: see “Social and Demographic Dif­ferences in News Habits and Attitudes,” Personal News Cycle report, March 17, 2014, Critical theory wrestles with realist policy in Duggan and Hunter 2006.
  7. Nerone 2009. On audiences see Barnhurst 1997; Barnhurst 2000.
  8. “Going Local, Not AWOL,” Editor and Publisher, December 1, 2006, 19. Audiences first left newspapers, then television: see “Trends in News Consumption, 1991–2012,” September 27, 2012,
  9. Patterson 2013.
  10. Barnhurst and Nerone 2001.
  11. See Part 2.
  12. The example comes from the author’s discussions with GPS, ISP, and map providers affecting service in rural New Hampshire.
  13. Barnhurst and Nerone 2012. On finances underpinning the crisis see Crain 2009; Almiron 2010.
  14. “Transcript of Obama’s Remarks at U. Mich. Commencement,” Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2010.
  15. Arendt 1958.
  16. On authenticity see Orvell 1989. On time see Innis 1964.
  17. Carey 1965; Innis 1964.
  18. Bradbury 1953, 85.
  19. For the press see Nerone 2015, 111.
  20. Tewksbury and Rittenberg 2012; on reading see Maria Konnikova, “Being a Better Online Reader,” New Yorker, July 16, 2007,
  21. On audience knowledge see Graber 1990. Dewey 1927 contrasts with unproved claims that calls persons smart but “people” stupid. On alternatives and responses see Ladd 2011; Barnhurst 2000; Barnhurst 2011.
  22. See part 2.
  23. Funding language appears in National Science Foundation (NSF) and other agency and foundation announcements. The site returns 132,000 hits for impact, 106,000 for outreach, and 84,700 for communication, but only 36,400 for evidence and 4,270 for facts (Google, June 2015).
  24. Examples include the global warming controversy (see chapter 3) and the abuse of realist language during the George W. Bush era (see chapter 18). Rusé realism includes but is broader than the demand for constant war, which C. Wright Mills called “crackpot real­ism”; see Pinkindustry (blog), 2007,
  25. Latour 2004.
  26. Whitehead 1929, 18, 21, 68–69.
  27. On experience and knowledge see Bachelard 1988, and compare Auerbach 1953 and Steward 2012.
  28. Whitehead 1929, 18
  29. The series appeared on; award listed at www.peabody
  30. The interview is with Louise Kiernan, Nieman Storyboard, October 30, 2014, http://
  31. McGregor, “The Investigator in your Ear,” Time, April 16, 2015,
  32. Barnhurst and Owens 2008.
  33. Catherine Rampell, “‘Great Recession’: A Brief Etymology,”, March 11, 2009,
  34. On the fate of journalism see Paul Starr, “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers,” New Republic, March 4, 2009, 28–35, and Victor Pickard, “Wither(ing) Journalism?” Public Books, July 1, 2014,

*Reprinted from Mister Pulitzer and the Spider: Modern News from Realism to the Digital (Ch. 21, pp. 224-235). Copyright 2016 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with permission from the University of Illinois Press.

Realism Could Rekindle Hope*