Contested Ground
280 pages, 6 x 9
12 b&w illus
Release Date:13 Sep 2019
Release Date:13 Sep 2019
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Contested Ground

The Tunnel and the Struggle over Television News in Cold War America

University of Massachusetts Press
In 1962, an innovative documentary on a Berlin Wall tunnel escape brought condemnation from both sides of the Iron Curtain during one of the most volatile periods of the Cold War. The Tunnel, produced by NBC's Reuven Frank, clocked in at ninety minutes and prompted a range of strong reactions. While the television industry ultimately awarded the program three Emmys, the U.S. Department of State pressured NBC to cancel the program, and print journalists criticized the network for what they considered to be a blatant disregard of journalistic ethics.
It was not just The Tunnel's subject matter that sparked controversy, but the medium itself. The surprisingly fast ascendance of television news as the country's top choice for information threatened the self-defined supremacy of print journalism and the de facto cooperation of government officials and reporters on Cold War issues. In Contested Ground, Mike Conway argues that the production and reception of television news and documentaries during this period reveals a major upheaval in American news communications.
In Contested Ground, Mike Conway's analysis of a controversial Cold War–era television program adds significantly to our understanding of TV news history while illuminating long-standing debates about the proper roles of journalism, broadcasting, and documentary.'—Matthew C. Ehrlich, author of Radio Utopia: Postwar Audio Documentary in the Public Interest

'Contested Ground shows the choices earlier newspeople made when faced with difficulties like those we confront today. This must-read book helps us plot a more informed path into the future.'—Bob Dotson, New York Times best-selling author and former 'American Story' correspondent on NBC's Today

'[T]his well-written book is a valuable addition to the literature on journalism and broadcasting history.'—Choice

'Conway's is a new and interesting take on both the memo and literary journalism history . . . Contested Ground is both an eclectic and focused postwar media history that connects The Tunnel, Frank, and his memo to a critical juncture and positions the boundary work of television journalism in its Cold War context. It challenges readers—which should include undergraduate and graduate students of media practice and history—to ask new historical questions about other critical moments.'—Journalism History

'Who says that media history has to be boring? Mike Conway . . . shows that it can be darn riveting in his compelling and timely media history of a pivotal moment from the Cold War . . . TV history is worthy of this kind of thoughtful, thematic reconsideration, and I hope others follow Conway's lead.'—American Journalism
MIKE CONWAY is associate professor of journalism at Indiana University Bloomington.
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