Ruthless Criticism was first published in 1993. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Ruthless Criticism offers perspectives and subjects largely outside traditional historiography. It broadens the concept of media history to include lesser-studied media, and offers alternative interpretations of traditional media.
This anthology of original research includes an array of scholarly and theoretical perspectives. Each addresses specific topic within a specific era. reflecting the diversity of U.S. mass media.
Solomon and McChesney begin by using critical theory and deconstruction to examine the meanings of print in the colonial era. Subsequent chapters study the media ecology of the antebellum press; the intense focus on profits of the post-Civil War mainstream press; gender images in the labor press; the diversity of political views within the working-class press; and the development of a commercial press in the black community.
The essays concerning the twentieth century focus on the rise of a culture industry and include studies on the origins of the broadcast ratings system and the commercial broadcast system and the commercial broadcast system, early television's portrayals of childhood, the televisions networks' close ties with the federal government, the government's key role in creating and developing the field of mass communication research, and teenage girls' popular culture from 1960–1968 as a formative influence on the feminist movement.