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From Cronkite to Colbert

The Evolution of Broadcast News

Geoffrey Baym

Publication Date - January 2009

ISBN: 9780199945849


In Stock

From Cronkite to Colbert argues that "fake news" should be understood as a new kind of journalism, one that has the potential to save the news and reinvigorate the conversation on democracy in today's society.


With increasing numbers of people tuning out the nightly news and media consumption falling, late-night comedians have become some of the most important newscasters in the country. From Cronkite to Colbert explains why. It examines a historical path that begins at the height of the network age with Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow--when the evening news was considered the authoritative record of the day's events and forged our assumptions about what "the news" is, or should be. The book then winds its way through the breakdown of the paradigm of "real" news and into its reinvention in the unlikely form of such shows as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. From Cronkite to Colbert makes the case that rather than "fake news," these shows should be understood as a new kind of journalism, one that has the potential to save the news and reinvigorate the conversation on democracy in today's society.

Winner of the 2010 NCA Award for Outstanding Book in Political Communication!


  • Uses a tripartite analytical framework for tracking the history of broadcast news from Cronkite to Colbert: high modern, postmodern, and neomodern

  • Puts recent media developments in context with intellectual and philosophical history including the writings of Wittgenstein, Bahktin, and Foucault

  • Explains the concept and action of "media convergence" clearly and critically

  • Looks at the "post network" age in news history and illustrates the problems and possibilities of the era of "digital instability" in which many media platforms--cable, satellite, internet, smart phones, and more--converge to create a new "life after TV"

  • Plays with now familiar media images--Ted Koppel's "big head;" Jon Stewart's repetitive clip technique; Stephen Colbert's "The Word" feature--in order to illustrate media postmodernity

  • About the Author(s)

    Geoffrey Baym is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has written numerous journal articles and book chapters on the changing styles and standards of news media and political discourse. He has worked as a newswriter, reporter, and researcher for media outlets such as the CBS Network News, KSL Television in Salt Lake City, and the Tucson Citizen.


    "Geoffrey Baym is the Jon Stewart of journalism studies (though not as funny): If you want to see the emerging shape of television journalism, watch The Daily Show. If you want to understand its roots, significance and potential for invigorating democracy, read From Cronkite to Colbert: The Evolution of Broadcast News."--Michael X. Delli Carpini, University of Pennsylvania

    "How did a comedian whose show comes on after puppets making crank phone calls come to be seen as the chief advocate of a responsible democratic media? Geoffrey Baym offers an original and convincing interpretation of the historical significance of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and other practitioners of contemporary 'infotainment.' The result is a thought-provoking and important reflection on the transformation of television news and of American political discourse."--Dan Hallin, University of California, San Diego

    "The story that Baym tells in From Cronkite to Colbert is essential reading, not just for scholars of journalism or popular culture but also for political communication effects scholars. For scholars trying to understand why Stewart and Colbert have become so relevant, Baym offers thoughtful and well-supported arguments. Baym's text is both undeniably important and eerily prescient."--Political Communication

    Table of Contents

      Chapter One: Jon Stewart, Brian Williams, and Ted Koppel's Giant Head

      Chapter Two: Representing Reality

      Chapter Three: Publicizing Politics

      Chapter Four: The Slow Death of CBS News

      Chapter Five: News from Somewhere: Hybrid Blends in the Multichannel Era

      Chapter Six: The Daily Show and The Reinvention of Political Journalism

      Chapter Seven: "Nothing I'm Saying Means Anything": Stephen Colbert and the New Language of Public Affairs

      Chapter Eight: Networked News: Stewart, Colbert, and the New Public Sphere

      Chapter Nine: Real News, Fake News, and the Conversation of Democracy