Colombia Journalism Review
By James Boylan
People's Movements, People's Press: The Journalism of Social Justice Movements
by Bob Ostertag
232 pp. $23.95
This compact work offers selected chapters in the history of American insurgent journalism. The book began as a commission by the Independent Press Association, a coalition of ethnic and community publications, undertaken by Bob Ostertag, a scholar-composer-activist based at the University of California at Davis. The value of his approach lies in the skill with which he combines the history of the journalism of such movements with the history of the movements themselves. He finds fresh insights in the abolition and women’s suffrage movements and their overlaps. In tracking the emergence of gays and lesbians and their press, he wrestles with the paradox of the journalistic transformation from a semi-underground press to one that has experienced overwhelming prosperity; he is not entirely happy with the changes. His narrative of the journalism of GI dissidence during the Vietnam War reveals anew the depth and seriousness of the resistance, and the ultimate inability of the Pentagon to cope with it. The final chapter, on environmental journalism, is not concerned primarily with individual human rights, and appears to be, perhaps, in the wrong book.