Media Matters

Alisa Plant, Acquisitions Editor

When Robert Mann, Manship professor and co-director of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs here at LSU, sent me the manuscript for Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics, I immediately knew it was that special kind of book that would ignite national interest.  Political junkies, political communications professors and majors, creative ad men, Cold War culture mavens, media historians, and anyone who cares about our political system will find this book compelling. A trenchant look at the dynamics of the 1964 presidential race and the circumstances surrounding the creation of the infamous “Daisy girl” ad, Mann’s narrative not only shows how the spot contributed to Goldwater’s crushing defeat but also details  the impact of the first television attack ad on our national political culture.

Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds is just the latest in an impressive list of media studies books that can go from bedside reading to classroom use. Leading the pack is the award-winning Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting by John Maxwell Hamilton. Winner of the prestigious Goldsmith Prize from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, & Public Policy, Journalism’s Roving Eye is a comprehensive survey of U.S. foreign correspondence from Benjamin Franklin to the present day. Hamilton’s lively narrative landed the book on Slate Magazine’s top ten books of 2009, and its remarkable coverage of the people and technology that shaped foreign reporting makes it an indispensible resource for related college courses.

Equally comprehensive is Political Communication: The Manship School Guide, edited by Robert Mann and David Perlmutter. In its twenty-seven lively chapters, contributors address virtually every aspect of political communication in rapidly changing digital environment. The guide is a balance of new tactics and traditional methodology, making it a must-read for both the novice to the campaign trail and the seasoned pro.

Another title that needs to be on the syllabus and in the office is Political Polling in a Digital Age, edited by Kirby Goidel, which offers thought-provoking analyses of the challenges of polling in today’s wired world. Contributors such as Mark Blumenthal, Scott Keeter, and Susan Herbst are part of an all-star lineup, and the book’s short, engaging chapters make it perfect for political science and communication courses.

From foreign reporting to political polling to the Daisy girl, LSUP has a range of smart, accessible, and timely media studies titles that help inform the current debates on important issues of today. Scholars, students, and armchair readers are certain to find them of interest.