Signposts for the press gang

The Twentieth-Century Newspaper Press in Britain

September 15, 1995

Few tasks come more thankless than that of the bibliographer. And never more so than in this case, where the industry in question is both source and subject for the historian, produces in bulk and is given to introspection. David Linton and Ray Boston, who provide the introduction, come to the task with experience drawn from an earlier incarnation of this volume in 1987 - but with a vast range of new contributions from the press's media sections clamouring for inclusion.

In the circumstances a curate's egg is inevitable, with arbitrary decisions to be made on the key questions of inclusion and exclusion. The newspaper researcher will find this volume invaluable, but not exhaustive.

Two major bloomers are evident in the exclusion of Le Mahieu's A Culture For Democracy, a major study of the cultural politics of the early popular press, and of the Economist surveys of the press in 1928 and 1933, provider of valuable analysis of the press economics of that competitive period.

The decision to include fiction about the press is welcome but the politics are a touch crusty. James Curran and Jean Seaton's Power Without Responsibility may not be "remarkable for political balance", but it is hard to see why it should be singled out in such a manner.

The introduction veers from a sensible description of the difficulties facing the press historian - notably most papers' sadly offhand attitude to their own records - to the bizarre when he looks at recent years.

Two cheers then: while noting its imperfections, the reaction of most researchers will be gratitude that Mr Linton has undertaken this huge and thankless task, providing, if not all the answers, a valuable set of signposts.

Huw Richards is a reporter on The THES.

The Twentieth-Century Newspaper Press in Britain: An Annotated Bibliography

Author - David Linton
ISBN - 0 7201 2159 0
Publisher - Mansell
Price - £70.00
Pages - 386

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