Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Book Reviews — Signed or Unsigned?

A relatively recent trend was emerging around 1921: reviewers appending their names to their reviews.

It is only in this twentieth century that the newspapers of New York have chosen to declare the authorship of their reviews of books, of plays, of pictures and of music…. [But] even now, a certain proportion of the book reviewing, even in the best of our newspapers, is anonymous; and it is very properly so, the works of salient importance being dealt with by experts whose names are given, while the less significant volumes are briefly considered by a competent office staff.

In modern times, the largest outlets for book reviews don’t publish anonymously. Neither the New York TimesWall Street JournalWashington Post, nor New York Review of Books does so, at least not that I can find.

However, anonymous or pseudonymous reviews abound on websites like Amazon and Goodreads.


Book Reviews — Signed or Unsigned? (PDF)

Published: Sunday, August 14, 1921

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

August 15th, 2021 at 10:01 am

The Anonymous Roosevelt

As an ex-president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote an anonymous monthly column for one of America’s biggest magazines, Ladies’ Home Journal, under the recurring column title “Men.”

His authorship wasn’t revealed until 1920, after Roosevelt’s death, by the 30-year editor of Ladies’ Home Journal Edward Bok in his autobiography The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After. The next year, the book would win the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

As this book excerpt which ran in the New York Times Magazine told:

It was natural that the appearance of a department devoted to men in a woman’s magazine should attract immediate attention. The department took up the various interests of a man’s life, such as real efficiency; his duties as an employer and his usefulness to his employes [sic]; the employe’s attitude toward his employer; the relations of men and women; a father’s relation to his sons and daughters; a man’s duty to his community; the public school system; a man’s relation to his church, and kindred topics.

Reader speculation regarding the author’s identity centered on either popular minister Lyman Abbott or former 40-year Harvard President Charles William Eliot. According to Bok, “In not a single instance was his [Roosevelt’s] name connected.”

Roosevelt once said of Bok, “[He] is the only man I ever heard of who changed, for the better, the architecture of an entire nation.”

Now if only we could find out who wrote the anonymous New York Times op-ed “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”


The Anonymous Roosevelt (PDF)

Published: Sunday, September 26, 1920

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

September 23rd, 2020 at 10:21 am

Posted in Journalism,Politics

If You Don’t Believe the War Is Over — Look at These Summer Magazine Covers

Magazine covers during summer 1919, after WWI had ended, were different than during summers 1917 and 1918 during the war:

For two Summers the June, July, and August covers displayed about the same thing that they showed in the other three seasons — beautiful girls dressed as nurses, or canteen workers, or motor corps drivers, or Salvation Army maids.

However, the girls have taken off their uniforms. The war is over. There is a rush back to beach costumes on the front covers.

Of course, the one similarity both during and after the war is that the magazine covers still featured posing “girls.” But at least they were wearing something — the first issue of Playboy wouldn’t be published until December 1953.

If You Don’t Believe the War Is Over — Look at These Summer Magazine Covers (PDF)

Published: Sunday, July 20, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 17th, 2019 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Art,Journalism

File of ‘La Libre Belgique’ Now in New York

The daring, revolutionary, and anti-authoritarian Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique [The Free Belgium] was published during World War I — its authors and location a state of almost complete mystery.

As this 1918 article details:

“Since the beginning of 1915 this small four-page sheet has been published, almost weekly, ‘somewhere in Belgium,’ in defiance of the Germans and despite their vigorous and persistent efforts to suppress it. Its publishers have not been caught, though hundreds of arrests have been made ‘on suspicion.’ Huge fines have been imposed and long terms in jail endured by those apprehended with it in their possession, but the source of its being, the presses from which it emanates, the ‘cave automobile’ in which it is published, and the daring spirits who first gave it life and who have maintained it under ever-increasing danger are still as free as when the enterprise began in February, 1915.”

The paper was published 56 times in 1915, 48 times in 1916, and 11 times in the first three months of 1917, for a total of 115. A copy of every issue during that entire run was snuck out and brought to America by the Catholic priest Father Jean Baptiste De Ville while in Belgium, at great risk to his own life.

Their operating creed was laid out through a piece published in the publication’s very first issue:

“La Libre Belgique will live in a cave, and propagate, like Catholicism, in the catacombs. It will live in spite of persecution and official censure because it shall tell the truth, and because there is something stronger than might, stronger than Kultur [culture], something stronger than the Germans — the truth! And Belgium is the soil of truth and liberty.”

What happened to this newspaper? It ultimately published 171 issues during the war (115 by the time of this article), and still lives on today with a 35,500 daily print circulation in Belgium, plus more than 1 million online visitors.

File of “La Libre Belgique” Now in New York: Banker Has Bought It from a Priest Whom the German Invaders Could Not Prevent from Collecting Copies of Secretly Issued Newspaper (PDF)

Published Sunday, March 10, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

March 9th, 2018 at 8:01 am

Posted in Journalism

Thirty-two Camps Have Newspaper in Common

The newspaper Trench and Camp was started for soldiers in training during WWI, with the intention that half the content would be national and identical among each of the 32 editions, with the other half of content being written by local writers.

Trench and Camp did not survive past approximately 1919. What most Americans now think of as the primary publication dealing with the military, Stars and Stripes, began in its modern incarnation during WWI.

However, it had apparently not received enough attention by January 1918 for the New York Times Sunday Magazine to profile it yet — Trench and Camp was still apparently the bigger of the two publications at that point.

Thirty-two Camps Have Newspaper in Common: Four Pages of Each Issue Printed Here for All, Four More Pages of Local Interest Printed at Nearby Cities for Each Cantonment (PDF)

From Sunday, January 6, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

January 10th, 2018 at 8:17 am

Harden, Who Talks Freely and Yet Avoids Jail


Maximilian Harden’s German newspaper Die Zukunft, or The Future, was willing to write in defense of American President Woodrow Wilson and against Kaiser Wilhelm II, despite a sharp German crackdown on the press.

How? The article speculates that perhaps Harden possessed embarrassing or incriminating information against the Kaiser that he was using as blackmail — not unlike current claims of Russian blackmail against President Trump. Indeed, Harden had previously exposed a homosexual relationship between members of the German Cabinet in 1907, a shocking scandal at the time.

Alas, Harden ended his newspaper in 1923 and passed away in 1927, before his pen could have perhaps done some more fighting against Hitler.

Harden, Who Talks Freely and Yet Avoids Jail: German Editor’s Astonishing Record of Assailing Junkerdom and Praising America — One of the Few Who Dare to Speak (PDF)

From Sunday, July 8, 1917

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

July 6th, 2017 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Journalism