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Journalism's Roving Eye

A History of American Foreign Reporting

680 pages / 6.88 x 10.12 inches / 42 halftones, 5 line drawings, 2 maps

ebook available

Journalism | Media Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807134740 / September 2009
  Paperback / 9780807143599 / August 2011

Winner of the AJHA Book of the Year Award

Winner of the AEJMC Tankard Book Award

Winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize

In all of journalism, nowhere are the stakes higher than in foreign news-gathering. For media owners, it is the most difficult type of reporting to finance; for editors, the hardest to oversee. Correspondents, roaming large swaths of the planet, must acquire expertise that home-based reporters take for granted--facility with the local language, for instance, or an understanding of local cultures. Adding further to the challenges, they must put news of the world in context for an audience with little experience and often limited interest in foreign affairs--a task made all the more daunting because of the consequence to national security.

In Journalism's Roving Eye, John Maxwell Hamilton--a historian and former foreign correspondent--provides a sweeping and definitive history of American foreign news reporting from its inception to the present day and chronicles the economic and technological advances that have influenced overseas coverage, as well as the cavalcade of colorful personalities who shaped readers' perceptions of the world across two centuries.

From the colonial era--when newspaper printers hustled down to wharfs to collect mail and periodicals from incoming ships--to the ongoing multimedia press coverage of the Iraq War, Hamilton explores journalism's constant--and not always successful--efforts at "dishing the foreign news," as James Gordon Bennett put it in the mid-nineteenth century to describe his approach in the New York Herald. He details the highly partisan coverage of the French Revolution, the early emergence of "special correspondents" and the challenges of organizing their efforts, the profound impact of the non-yellow press in the run-up to the Spanish-American War, the increasingly sophisticated machinery of propaganda and censorship that surfaced during World War I, and the "golden age" of foreign correspondence during the interwar period, when outlets for foreign news swelled and a large number of experienced, independent journalists circled the globe. From the Nazis' intimidation of reporters to the ways in which American popular opinion shaped coverage of Communist revolution and the Vietnam War, Hamilton covers every aspect of delivering foreign news to American doorsteps.

Along the way, Hamilton singles out a fascinating cast of characters, among them Victor Lawson, the overlooked proprietor of the Chicago Daily News, who pioneered the concept of a foreign news service geared to American interests; Henry Morton Stanley, one of the first reporters to generate news on his own with his 1871 expedition to East Africa to "find Livingstone"; and Jack Belden, a forgotten brooding figure who exemplified the best in combat reporting. Hamilton details the experiences of correspondents, editors, owners, publishers, and network executives, as well as the political leaders who made the news and the technicians who invented ways to transmit it. Their stories bring the narrative to life in arresting detail and make this an indispensable book for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of foreign news-gathering.

Amid the steep drop in the number of correspondents stationed abroad and the recent decline of the newspaper industry, many fear that foreign reporting will soon no longer exist. But as Hamilton shows in this magisterial work, traditional correspondence survives alongside a new type of reporting. Journalism's Roving Eye offers a keen understanding of the vicissitudes in foreign news, an understanding imperative to better seeing what lies ahead.

John Maxwell Hamilton, a former foreign correspondent, is the author of Journalism's Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting and other books. He is executive vice chancellor and provost of Louisiana State University, LSU Foundation Hopkins P. Breazeale Professor, and the founding dean of LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication.

Praise for Journalism's Roving Eye

"Hamilton, a former foreign correspondent turned academic, assembles the components of the big foreign-reporting machine—the editors, publishers, reporters, fixers, and shooters as well as technologies such as transoceanic telegraph cables, television, the geosynchronous satellite, the personal computer, and the Internet—to produce an authoritative book. There is nothing like it in the library."—Slate


“An expansive narrative that also underscores serious questions about what is happening now.”—Foreign Affairs

“A roomy and engaging take on foreign news gathering.”—Chronicle of Higher Education

“Drawing on archives, memoirs, and interviews with journalists, Hamilton presents an engaging historical view, offering the highlights and transgressions of the reporters and the U.S. government as we’ve sought to understand the world beyond our shores.”—Booklist

“It is rare that a study appears that sets a new standard in its field. . . . Journalism’s Roving Eye is such a book. It is no exaggeration to say that this well-written and deeply researched study is engaging from beginning to end.”—American Journalism

“An entertaining and authoritative compendium.”—Journalism and Mass Communication Educator

“This monumental yet eminently readable book starts to fill a major hole in mass communication history literature: the development of foreign correspondence.”—Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

“[Hamilton] has enough original material and sprightly writing to keep the re-telling of his story fresh and invigorating. And this is more than a serviceable synthesis. It is a rollicking adventure, rich with colorful anecdotes and memorable details, dramatic characters and fascinating trivia.”—Journalism History

“An alluring and enlightening piece of work. . . . The book, in its scope, detail, and sheer mastery, is a major achievement.”—Columbia Journalism Review


Watch John Maxwell Hamilton discuss the role of US foreign reporting on the Riz Khan show

SOURCE: Aljazeera


Watch John Maxwell Hamilton discuss his book on C-SPAN


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