James L. Baughman: Journalistic Narratives of Gerald Ford

Roundup: Media's Take

James L. Baughman is the Fetzer-Bascom Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of “There Were Two Gerald Fords: John Hersey and Richard Reeves Profile a President” in the latest issue of American Literary History, which is available to read for free for a limited time. He is also the author of four books, including Republic of Mass Culture: Journalism, Filmmaking, and Broadcasting in America since 1941.

It has been more than 25 years since Gerald Ford narrowly lost the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

Ford’s presidency has become a dim memory. “The more I think about the Ford administration,” John Updike wrote in 1992, “the more it seems I remember nothing.” Taking office after Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974, Ford struggled to restore the public’s faith in the presidency, badly shaken by the numerous illegalities associated with the Nixon White House.

Ford also had to contend with another Nixon legacy: a new, unrelentingly critical journalistic style.

I have been working on a book about American political journalism since 1960, focusing on certain candidates and reporters. Political journalism has changed over the past fifty years, mainly for the better. It is more interpretive and searching. Yet not all changes, in my view, have been good....

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