1st Edition

Journalism in a Culture of Grief

By Carolyn Kitch, Janice Hume Copyright 2008
    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book considers the cultural meanings of death in American journalism and the role of journalism in interpretations and enactments of public grief, which has returned to an almost Victorian level. A number of researchers have begun to address this growing collective preoccupation with death in modern life; few scholars, however, have studied the central forum for the conveyance and construction of public grief today: news media. News reports about death have a powerful impact and cultural authority because they bring emotional immediacy to matters of fact, telling stories of real people who die in real circumstances and real people who mourn them. Moreover, through news media, a broader audience mourns along with the central characters in those stories, and, in turn, news media cover the extended rituals. Journalism in a Culture of Grief examines this process through a range of types of death and types of news media. It discusses the reporting of horrific events such as September 11 and Hurricane Katrina; it considers the cultural role of obituaries and the instructive work of coverage of teens killed due to their own risky behaviors; and it assesses the role of news media in conducting national, patriotic memorial rituals.

    Introduction: Disaster, Trauma, and Respect for the Dead 

    1. At War with Nature: Coverage of Natural Disaster Fatalities 

    2. Death Rites Interrupted: Responsibility and Remembrance in Coverage of the Tri-State Crematory Scandal and Hurricane Katrina 

    3. Who Speaks for the Dead?: Authority and Authenticity in News Coverage of the Amish School Shootings - Lessons Learned from Life Stories 

    4. Life and Death in a Small Town: Cultural Values and Memory in Community Newspaper Obituaries 

    5. 'It Takes a Sinner to Appreciate the Blinding Glare of Grace': Redeeming the 'Dark' Celebrity 

    6. 'We Can’t Keep Losing our Kids': Fear, Blame and Mourning in Press Coverage of Teen Deaths 

    7. Mourning 'Men Joined in Peril and Purpose': Working-Class Heroism in News Repair of the Sago Miners’ Story - The Journalism of Ritual and Tribute 

    8. 'Portraits of Grief' and Stories that Heal: The Public Funeral for Victims of September 11 

    9. Reporting on 'a Grieving Army of Americans': Citizen Testimony in the Misremembering of Ronald Reagan 

    10. 'All the Fellows that Went on Before Me': Tribute, Memory and Counter-Memory among Veterans of 'the Good War'




    Carolyn Kitch is Associtate Professor of Journalism at Temple University. She is the author of The Girl on the Magazine Cover: The Origins of Visual Stereotypes in American Mass Media and Pages from the Past: History and Memory in American Magazines. She is a former magazine editor and writer.

    Janice Hume is Associate Professor in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she is author of Obituaries in American Culture.

    "Journalism in a Culture of Grief is a landmark, the first book to examine American news coverage of death. In this systematic and thorough study, Carolyn Kitch and Janice Hume show that how death is reported in print and broadcast news reveals what the nation values."--John P. Ferré, University of Louisville

    "The breadth and depth of research deserves applause.  Meanwhile, the use of narrative and discourse analysis makes for readable and interesting essays.  Each chapter is clearly organized and can stand alone, but when taken together the book highlights journalism's important role in our cultural understandings of death and grief." --Journalism History

    "As an example of media history that illuminates so much about the times and culture it examines, it will interest students, scholars and members of the lay-public alike." -American Journalism