“This may be a book about history, but its concerns are remarkably contemporary. Its central concern is the struggle for journalism that is both trustworthy and important, a concern that resonates with today’s society that urgently needs credible news reporting but that distrusts media more than ever. It should become essential reading for those who want to understand media criticism in the United States.”—John Ferré, University of Louisville; co-author of Good News: Social Ethics and the Press
“Mainstream press and mainstream church: two institutions often seen as being past their prime, losing audiences, scrambling to stay solvent, and trying to remain relevant. Ronald R. Rodgers examines how these two opinion leaders tangled as America entered the era of mass consumption of goods and ideas, setting the stage for our information-rich but wisdom-poor society.
“Rodgers’s book is aptly named. More than a century ago, the debates about the role and soul of the press focused on whether it should give what people need or what they want—a question fascinatingly addressed in miniature when the a clergyman took control of the Topeka Capital for one week in 1900. This bread-vs.-circuses debate animates the discussion about what seems to be our soul-less public life in the twenty-first century, making Rodgers’s book a truly fascinating prologue to our present.”—Michael Sweeney, author of The Military and the Press: An Uneasy Truce
“Ronald Rodgers brings a strong background to this book: more than twenty years as a newspaper reporter and editor, an intellectual curiosity about the past, and a proven track record as an astute historian. In studying journalism’s mission and conduct over a ninety-year period in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he closely examines criticism of how the press sustained itself and identified 'its role and responsibility.' Using both the regular press and the religious press, and focusing on the ethics of journalism, he argues convincingly that looking at the period under study can lead to a better understanding of journalism’s role in society today. This approach breaks significant new ground in a highly interesting book.”—Patrick S. Washburn, Professor Emeritus, Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism