front cover of Shadow of the Racketeer
Shadow of the Racketeer
Scandal in Organized Labor
David Witwer
University of Illinois Press, 2008
Shadow of the Racketeer: Scandal in Organized Labor tells the story of organized crime's move into labor racketeering in the 1930s, focusing on a union corruption scandal involving payments from the largest Hollywood movie studios to the Chicago mob to ensure a pliant labor supply for their industry. The book details the work of crusading journalist Westbrook Pegler, whose scorching investigative work dramatically exposed the mob connections of top labor leaders George Scalise and William Bioff and garnered Pegler a Pulitzer Prize for reporting.

From a behind-the-scenes perspective, David Witwer describes how Pegler and his publisher, the politically powerful Roy W. Howard, shaped the news coverage of this scandal in ways that obscured the corrupt ties between employers and the mob while emphasizing the perceived menace of union leaders empowered by New Deal legislation that had legitimized organized labor. Pegler, Howard, and the rest of the mainstream press pointedly ignored evidence of the active role that business leaders took in the corruption, which badly tarnished the newly reborn labor movement.

Because he was more concerned with pursuing political gains for the conservative movement, Pegler's investigative journalism did little to reform union governance or organized crime's influence on labor unions. The union corruption scandal only undercut the labor movement. Pegler's continuing campaign against labor corruption framed the issue in ways that set the stage for postwar political defeats, culminating with the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, which greatly limited the power of labor unions in the United States.

Demonstrating clearly and convincingly how journalism is wielded as a political weapon, Witwer studies a broad range of forces at play in the labor union scandal and its impact, including the influence of the press, organized crime, political corruption, and businessmen following their own economic imperatives.


front cover of A Small Corner of Hell
A Small Corner of Hell
Dispatches from Chechnya
Anna Politkovskaya
University of Chicago Press, 2003
Chechnya, a 6,000-square-mile corner of the northern Caucasus, has struggled under Russian domination for centuries. The region declared its independence in 1991, leading to a brutal war, Russian withdrawal, and subsequent "governance" by bandits and warlords. A series of apartment building attacks in Moscow in 1999, allegedly orchestrated by a rebel faction, reignited the war, which continues to rage today. Russia has gone to great lengths to keep journalists from reporting on the conflict; consequently, few people outside the region understand its scale and the atrocities—described by eyewitnesses as comparable to those discovered in Bosnia—committed there.

Anna Politkovskaya, a correspondent for the liberal Moscow newspaper Novaya gazeta, was the only journalist to have constant access to the region. Her international stature and reputation for honesty among the Chechens allowed her to continue to report to the world the brutal tactics of Russia's leaders used to quell the uprisings. A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya is her second book on this bloody and prolonged war. More than a collection of articles and columns, A Small Corner of Hell offers a rare insider's view of life in Chechnya over the past years. Centered on stories of those caught-literally-in the crossfire of the conflict, her book recounts the horrors of living in the midst of the war, examines how the war has affected Russian society, and takes a hard look at how people on both sides are profiting from it, from the guards who accept bribes from Chechens out after curfew to the United Nations. Politkovskaya's unflinching honesty and her courage in speaking truth to power combine here to produce a powerful account of what is acknowledged as one of the most dangerous and least understood conflicts on the planet.
Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated in Moscow on October 7, 2006.
"The murder of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya leaves a terrible silence in Russia and an information void about a dark realm that we need to know more about. No one else reported as she did on the Russian north Caucasus and the abuse of human rights there. Her reports made for difficult reading—and Politkovskaya only got where she did by being one of life's difficult people."—Thomas de Waal, Guardian

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Soldier of the Press
Covering the Front in Europe and North Africa, 1936-1943
Henry T. Gorrell, Edited & Intro by Kenneth Gorrell, & Foreword by John C. McManus
University of Missouri Press, 2009
Threatened by each side in the Spanish Civil War with death as a suspected spy, decorated for saving an airman’s life in a bullet-ridden B-24 Liberator over Greece, war correspondent Henry “Hank” Gorrell often found himself in the thick of the fighting he had been sent to cover. And in reporting on some of the world’s most dangerous stories, he held newspaper readers spellbound with his eyewitness accounts from battlefields across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
An “exclusive” United Press correspondent, Gorrell saw more than his share of war, even more than most reporters, as his beat took him from the siege of Madrid to the sands of North Africa. His memoir, left in an attic trunk for sixty years, is presented here in its entirety for the first time. As he risks life and limb on the front lines, Gorrell gives us new perspectives on the overall conflict—including some of World War II’s lesser-known battles—as well as insights into behind-the-lines intrigue.
Gorrell’s account first captures early Axis intervention in Spain and their tests of new weaponry and blitzkrieg tactics at the cost of millions of Spanish lives. While covering the Spanish Civil War, he was captured by forces from each side and saw many brave men die disillusioned, and his writings offer a contrast to other views of that conflict from writers like Hemingway. But Spain was just Hank’s training ground: before America even entered World War II, he was embedded with Allied forces from seven nations.
When war broke out, Gorrell was sent to Hungary, where in Budapest he witnessed pro-Axis enthusiasts toast the victory of Fascist armies. Later in Romania he watched Stalin kick over the Axis apple cart with his invasion of Bessarabia—forcing the Germans to deal with the Russian menace before they had planned. Then he saw twenty Italian divisions mauled in the mountains of Albania, marking the beginning of the end for Mussolini.
Combining the historian’s accuracy with the journalist’s on-the-spot reportage, Gorrell provides eyewitness impressions of what war looked, sounded, and felt like to soldiers on the ground. Soldier of the Press weaves personal adventures into the larger fabric of world events, plunging modern readers into the heat of battle while revealing the dangers faced by war correspondents in that bygone era.

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The Soldier's Friend
A Life of Ernie Pyle
Ray E. Boomhower
Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006

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The Spy Who Loved Us
The Vietnam War and Pham Xuan An's Dangerous Game
Thomas A. Bass
University of Massachusetts Press, 2019
Pham Xuan An was one of the twentieth century's greatest spies. While working as a correspondent for Time during the Vietnam War, he sent intelligence reports—written in invisible ink or hidden inside spring rolls in film canisters—to Ho Chi Minh and his generals in North Vietnam.

Only after Saigon fell in 1975 did An's colleagues learn that the affable raconteur in their midst, acclaimed as "dean of the Vietnamese press corps," was actually a general in the North Vietnamese Army. In recognition of his tradecraft and his ability to spin military losses—such as the Têt Offensive of 1968—­into psychological gains, An was awarded sixteen military medals.

After the book's original publication, WikiLeaks revealed that Thomas A. Bass's account of An's career was distributed to CIA agents as a primer in espionage. Now available in paper with a new preface, An's story remains one of the most gripping to emerge from the era.

front cover of Standing Before the Shouting Mob
Standing Before the Shouting Mob
Lenoir Chambers and Virginia's Massive Resistance to Public School Integration
Alex Leidholdt
University of Alabama Press, 2007

A southern journalist campaigns for racial understanding during the
struggle over school desegregation in Virginia.

In 1958 the nation's attention was focused on Norfolk,
Virginia, where nearly ten thousand students were locked out of their schools.
Rather than comply with the desegregation mandate of Brown v. Board
of Education
, Governor J. Lindsay Almond, supported by the powerful
political machine of Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr., had closed Norfolk's white
secondary schools.

Massive resistance to integration transformed Norfolk
into a civil rights arena. Although the process by which Norfolk's schools
were integrated was far from orderly, the transition was characterized
by debate, political maneuvering, and judicial action--not violence. Lenoir
Chambers, editor of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, conducted a five-year
editorial campaign supporting the peaceful implementation of the Court's
order. The Pilot was Virginia's only white newspaper to take this
position. Chambers was later awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials.

Utilizing a wide range of primary and secondary sources,
Standing before the Shouting Mob examines Chambers's campaign, explores
the influences that shaped his racial views, and places him within the
context of southern journalism. The book also provides a detailed analysis
of Virginia's massive resistance and Norfolk's school closing.


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Storm Beat
A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast
Lori Tobias
Oregon State University Press, 2020
Journalist Lori Tobias arrived on the Oregon Coast in 2000. After freelancing from Newport for several years, she signed on to the Oregonian as a stringer covering the coast from Florence to Astoria; later she would be hired as a staff writer responsible for the entirety of Oregon’s coast—one person for more than three hundred miles. This meant long hours, being called out for storms in the middle of the night (and in dangerous conditions), driving hundreds of miles in a day if stories called for it.

The Oregon Coast is a rugged, beautiful region. Separated from the state’s population centers by the Coast Range, it is a land of small towns reliant primarily on fishing and tourism, known for its dramatic landscapes and dramatic storms. Many of the stories Tobias covered were tragedies: car crashes, falls, drownings, capsizings. And those are just the accidents; Tobias covered plenty of violent crimes as well. But her stories also include more lighthearted moments, including her own experiences learning to live on and cover the coast. Tobias’s story is as much her own as it is the coast’s; she takes the reader through familiar beats of life (regular trips back east as her parents age), the decline of journalism in the twenty-first century, and the unexpected (and not entirely glamorous) experiences of a working reporter—such as a bout of vertigo after rappelling from a helicopter onto a ship. Ultimately, Tobias tells a compelling story of a region that many visit but few truly know.

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Surviving Mexico
Resistance and Resilience among Journalists in the Twenty-first Century
By Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine E. Relly
University of Texas Press, 2021

Mott KTA Journalism and Mass Communication Research Award, Kappa Tau Alpha
Tankard Book Award, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)
Knudson Latin America Prize, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)

Since 2000, more than 150 journalists have been killed in Mexico. Today the country is one of the most dangerous in the world in which to be a reporter. In Surviving Mexico, Celeste González de Bustamante and Jeannine E. Relly examine the networks of political power, business interests, and organized crime that threaten and attack Mexican journalists, who forge ahead despite the risks.

Amid the crackdown on drug cartels, overall violence in Mexico has increased, and journalists covering the conflict have grown more vulnerable. But it is not just criminal groups that want reporters out of the way. Government forces also attack journalists in order to shield corrupt authorities and the very criminals they are supposed to be fighting. Meanwhile some news organizations, enriched by their ties to corrupt government officials and criminal groups, fail to support their employees. In some cases, journalists must wait for a “green light” to publish not from their editors but from organized crime groups. Despite seemingly insurmountable constraints, journalists have turned to one another and to their communities to resist pressures and create their own networks of resilience. Drawing on a decade of rigorous research in Mexico, González de Bustamante and Relly explain how journalists have become their own activists and how they hold those in power accountable.


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