fyi..Alabama author Rick Bragg is included in this collection of oral
histories of Florida journalists...aj wright // ajwright@...
From: H-NET List for Southern History [mailto:H-SOUTH@...
Behalf Of Ian Binnington, H-South
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2004 2:12 PM
Subject: Crosspost: H-Florida Review, McMullen on Pleasants. _Orange
H-NET BOOK REVIEW
Published by H-Florida@...
Julian M. Pleasants. _Orange Journalism: Voices from Florida Newspapers_.
The Florida History and Culture Series. Gainesville: University Press of
Florida, 2003. x + 339 pp. Index. $27.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8130-2653-9.
Reviewed for H-Florida by David Lee McMullen <dlmcmull@...
Departments of History, University of Aberdeen/University of North Carolina
From Hot Type to the Internet: Florida Newspapers in Transition
As a native Floridian and former Florida journalist acquainted with several
of the individuals interviewed and discussed in _Orange Journalism_ , I
found the book to be accurate, insightful, a pleasure to read and an
important contribution toward recording the history of Florida newspapers
during the Twentieth Century.
_Orange Journalism_ is a compilation of fifteen oral histories, each
providing a slightly different perspective of print journalism in a state
noted for innovative newspapers. The diversity of this collection can be
found in the observations of men and women; African Americans, Hispanics and
whites; editors, publishers, reporters, columnists, cartoonists and sports
writers; representing national, daily and weekly publications. The author,
Julian M. Pleasants, is director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
and a professor of history at the University of Florida. A foreword is
provided by the series editors, Raymond Arsenault and Gary R. Mormino.
Among the more fascinating interviews were those outside the mainstream of
Florida journalism: Garth Reeves, long-time publisher of the _Miami Times_,
South Florida's leading African American newspaper, discussed the role of
his publication in the desegregation of Miami; Tommy Greene, a past
president of the Florida Press Association and publisher of several North
Florida weeklies, talked about the realities of starting a small town
publication and keeping it profitable; and Horacio Aguirre, founder of
_Diario las Americas_, explained how he runs an international Spanish
language newspaper from Miami. Discussing his editorial policy during the
violence in Liberty City in 1988, Reeves noted, "Editorially, we did not
call them 'riots.' We called them 'protests.' Sure, everybody else called
them 'riots,' but, editorially, we were saying that the people were not just
rioting to be rioting. They were protesting wrongs that were piled upon
them year after year and that it looked like nothing was being done about
it" (p. 202).
Among the most colorful oral histories are those of Rick Bragg, an Alabama
farm boy who grew-up to become a top writer for the _St. Petersburg Times_
and the _New York Times_, and Carl Hiaasen, a columnist for the _Miami
Herald_ and successful novelist. Commenting on the quality of newspaper
writing these days, Bragg said, "I'd encourage writers to takes chances, not
in their reporting so much as in their writing. Everybody is not a stylist.
Everyone is not intended to write like Tennessee Williams after a
half-bottle of whiskey. But one reason that there is so much damn deadly
dull writing in this country is because writers are being told by their
editors to 'save it for your novel'" (p. 244).
Only two women are included, which seems odd when reporting on an industry
where women have taken a significantly greater leadership role during the
past several decades. The two are Diane McFarlin, publisher of the
_Sarasota Herald-Tribune_, and Lucy Morgan, an investigative reporter for
the _St. Petersburg Times_. McFarlin observed that quality journalism and
profits are not mutually exclusive. Referring to Nelson Poynter, the former
publisher of the _St. Petersburg Times_, she said: He "demonstrated to
probably the most memorable extent that great journalism makes a great
business.His standards were immensely high, and he structured his
organization to support those high standards" (p. 123).
Others included in the volume are: Al Neuharth, _USA Today_; David Lawrence,
_Miami Herald_; Fred Pettijohn, _South Florida Sun-Sentinel_; Tippen
Davidson, _News-Journal_ (Daytona Beach); Earle Bowden, _Pensacola
News-Journal_; Loyal Frisbie, _Polk County Democrat_; Don Wright, _Palm
Beach Post_; and Edwin Pope, _Miami Herald_.
Noticeably missing from this collection are the perspectives of the
Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Orlando newspapers, leading broadcast
journalists, and the countless reporters who abandoned the profession
because of long hours, low salaries or managers who openly manipulated news
coverage to meet the editorial policies or business interests of their
In several incidents, the interviewers failed to push deeper into some of
the tougher issues facing Florida newspapers, including how the business
side of the publication influences news coverage and what the future of
journalism holds for newspapers, especially as the Internet continues to
develop. In a few cases, there is a noticeable "chumminess" between the
interviewer and interviewee that distracts from the quality of the
My personal disappointment is why wasn't this volume done years ago? Anyone
familiar with Florida newspapers can quickly name several individuals, no
longer with us, who would have contributed significantly to such a volume.
All that said, _Orange Journalism_ is a valuable addition to Florida's
historical archives, and should be of interest to anyone who wants to know
more about newspapers or the Sunshine State.
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