We Interrupt this Broadcast, by Joe Garner

Effectively combining history, commentary, and audio recordings of actual news broadcasts, Joe Garner’s recently re-released We Interrupt This Broadcast is a far cry above the typical coffee-table history book.

This is the third edition of Garner’s book, and it features several new entries, including September 11th, the Virginia Tech Massacre, and Hurricane Katrina. Each segment consists of a few pages of useful background information (covered on the audio CDs by veteran journalist Bill Kurtis), and a collection of black-and-white photographs. The book covers a variety of major 20th and 21st century events, ranging from the death of Elvis to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the Challenger explosion.

While most of the selected events are historically significant, it’s equally interesting to consider what We Interrupt This Broadcast leaves out. The book focuses on the breaking-news broadcasts that dropped the jaws of mainstream America, not necessarily the events with the longest lasting cultural impact. The firing of General MacArthur, the Columbine shootings, the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. and the O.J. Simpson trial are covered—but Woodstock, the McCarthy trials, and the 1963 Birmingham church bombing are not. How were these events (particularly those surrounding the civil rights movement) covered on television and radio? What was on TV on the morning the Little Rock Nine entered Little Rock Central High for the first time, for example, or the day Malcolm X was shot? Garner could—and totally should!—write a fascinating companion book about the events broadcast news failed to consider breaking-news worthy.
Posted by: Julianka


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