How the media shape collective memory and use that memory to shape our understanding of current events
News and the Collective Memory of Social Unrest
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Jill A. Edy
A nation's collective memory does not simply exist. It is created. But what factors influence its form and content? And what roles do the news media play in fashioning our collective memory? Here Jill A. Edy observes the process of negotiating a meaning for the past as it unfolds in the news, exploring the ways that news practices, the relationships between actors who make the news, the expectations of news audiences, and the impact of current events affect the development of collective memories in a mass society.
Using the 1965 Watts riots and the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago as case studies, Edy creates a useful framework for understanding how, over time, conflicting versions of events are resolved, what forms the resolutions take, and how those resolutions influence the representation of current news stories. Anyone who is interested in political communication and the role of media in public culture will find a wealth of insights in this valuable new book.
"Beautifully written and consistently illuminating, this book crosses disciplinary boundaries by applying framing and narrative theory to the forces that influence the collective memories and current rhetorical uses of historic political clashes, especially those that erupt from below, initiated by ordinary citizens rather than elites. The book contributes significantly to both social scientific and humanities-oriented scholarship on the powerful political meanings and uses of the past."
"Jill Edy provides a fascinating and important contribution to the study of political communication. Using a creative and fruitful research design, she demonstrates the way political actors communicate about the present through the lens of the past."
"In her comprehensive study...Edy advances the study of collective memory in several ways."
"An important addition to the literature on how news is framed and how agendas are set...Edy’s analysis is thoughtful and her citations are thorough."
"Troubled Pasts offers an excellent introduction to the concept of collective memory…[Edy] examines how journalists craft not only the proverbial ‘first draft’ of history but how they help shape later drafts. She also offers an interesting discussion and examples of three ways in which journalists contribute to historical understanding—or misunderstanding: commemorations, analogies, and contexts. The way in which she weaves together journalistic and political issues makes the book appropriate for consideration in a wide range of classes, including media history, media criticism, reporting, U.S. history, political science or sociology....[I]t is well researched, cites numerous sources for journalistic content and theoretical context, and includes a clear discussion of methodology."
"[W]ell researched and thought-provoking…a smart book that is of interest to anybody who understands the development of the social stock of knowledge and collective memory as a powerful social process."
"Edy’s short book is extremely well written and her work is well grounded in the literatures of communication and political science. As such, the work is an excellent resource for scholars interested in political communication, framing, media studies, and social history. It makes a significant contribution to our collective understanding of social movements and media coverage of them."
"The overall argument of the book is a strong one and even people who have no particular interest in the events of 40 years ago will find Troubled Pasts a good theoretical model and a good guide to how we might best use the literature about reporting, remembering, framing and motivation."
Jill A. Edy is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Oklahoma.