W. Joseph Campbell

Sales of ‘Getting It Wrong’ brisk at NPC’s Book Fair

In Debunking, Media myths, Murrow-McCarthy myth, Year studies on November 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm

The National  Press Club’s Book Fair last night was quite a success.

Getting It Wrong was among some 90 titles chosen for the book fair, and sales of the book were gratifyingly brisk. I didn’t keep count, but easily two dozen copies were sold during the three-hour event. Or more.

A volunteer at the checkout counter stopped by as the program was winding down to ask about the book. She said she had seen a lot of people buying it. And she decided to buy a copy, too.

The venue was the Press Club’s ballroom and it was jammed with book-buyers. I thought the crowd was larger than that of four years ago, when I was chosen to attend the book fair to sell copies of The Year The Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms.

I shared a display table this year with Gayle Haggard, the charming author of Why I Stayed, who traveled from Colorado for the book fair. We were across an aisle from Captain Chesley (“Sully”) Sullenberger, who safely landed a stricken USAirways jet on the Hudson River early last year.

Sullenberger was quite the draw, and he left about an hour early, after selling the available copies of his book,  Highest Duty.

I received only one, mild challenge about Getting It Wrong. A small lady who must be in her 70s, thumbed through the book and announced that she disagreed with my take on Edward R. Murrow’s famous television report about Senator Joseph R. McCarthy and his witch-hunting ways.

Murrow “broke the bubble” on the McCarthy scourge, she told me as she returned the book to the stack on the table. I was tempted to point out that Murrow was very late in confronting McCarthy, doing so only after a number of other journalists had taken on the senator. I was tempted as well to note that Murrow and his producer, Fred Friendly, both dismissed the view that Murrow’s 1954 program was decisive in McCarthy’s fall.

But I let it pass.

Another visitor to the table asked whether Getting It Wrong has much attracted from criticism from journalists who find it dismaying that the book busts some of American journalism’s best-known stories.

Some people have resisted giving up on these stories, I replied. But more often the reaction has been one of some surprise that these tales were myths. Others have said they had rather suspected these tales were too good to be true, I added.

During the pre-event reception for authors and guests, I spoke for a while with James Swanson, author of Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer and more recently of Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse. Swanson said his next project is a fiction-thriller series. I also chatted with Maurine Beasley, a journalism historian at the University of Maryland who is one of my favorite scholars. Her latest book is Eleanor Roosevelt: Transformative First Lady.

I’m in Florence, Alabama, today, to deliver the first Parker-Qualls Lecture in Communications at the University of North Alabama. It’s a program that I’m very honored to inaugurate.

I also will speak with several classes at UNA on media theory, journalism ethics, and political communication.


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