Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism by Mitchell Stephens

Title: The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism
Author: Mitchell Stephens
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: June 20, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Few Americans today recognize his name, but Lowell Thomas was as well known in his time as any American journalist ever has been. Raised in a Colorado gold-rush town, Thomas covered crimes and scandals for local then Chicago newspapers. He began lecturing on Alaska, after spending eight days in Alaska. Then he assigned himself to report on World War I and returned with an exclusive: the story of "Lawrence of Arabia."

In 1930, Lowell Thomas began delivering America's initial radio newscast. His was the trusted voice that kept Americans abreast of world events in turbulent decades - his face familiar, too, as the narrator of the most popular newsreels. His contemporaries were also dazzled by his life. In a prime-time special after Thomas died in 1981, Walter Cronkite said that Thomas had "crammed a couple of centuries worth of living" into his eighty-nine years. Thomas delighted in entering "forbidden" countries--Tibet, for example, where he met the teenaged Dalai Lama. The Explorers Club has named its building, its awards, and its annual dinner after him.

Journalists in the last decades of the twentieth century--including Cronkite and Tom Brokaw--acknowledged a profound debt to Thomas. Though they may not know it, journalists today too are following a path he blazed. In The Voice of America, Mitchell Stephens offers a hugely entertaining, sometimes critical portrait of this larger than life figure."

My Two Cents:

"The Voice of America" is the story of Lowell Thomas, a journalist whose life seemed to follow the news through its different forms of presentation: paper, radio, television. He was once the most well-known journalist in the U.S., truly the Voice of America, well before the likes of Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw.

It's no secret that there are a lot of questions about journalism and media these days. Have a certain opinion? There is probably a news outlet or "news outlet" that will cater to your opinion without making you think critically or examine your beliefs. Back when Lowell Thomas first started writing, he was very much interested in giving people the "just the facts, ma'am" treatment of the news in a thorough yet entertaining way. He is the journalist that brought us the story of Lawrence of Arabia (frankly, I don't think I knew that was a true story before this book)! As you get to see in the book, he was not afraid of getting his hands dirty and going to the places where the news was being made.

I also found it fascinating how his career spanned the different popular news resources of the 20th century. He first wrote his stories before moving on to the radio. The way that the author shows how his career changed as the medium changed was fascinating. The author gives a lot of detail of how Thomas was able to continue to be relevant for decades by adapting to new technology while still telling good stories.

This book was fascinating! Although I never lived through those times truly, this book made me long for the day of news based on what was actually happening rather than a talking head's lens of what was happening. This is a good pick for history lovers!


1 comment:

  1. In this day of social media it's hard to know what to think of our news today. Do your research before you believe what you see and hear. :-)

    sherry @ fundinmental


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