20th Century's Best Journalism

Page added: March 1999
Last updated: Fall 2005

Many thanks to Steve for passing this on to me :-)

Latest Top 100: 20th century's best U.S. journalism

March 2, 1999
Web posted at: 2:05 a.m. EDT (0205GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Author John Hersey's book "Hiroshima" topped the list of 100 best examples of American journalism in the 20th century as compiled by experts assembled by the New York University Department of Journalism & Mass Communication.

Closing out the roster, announced Monday, was Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail," a series of articles published by Rolling Stone magazine in 1972 and later turned into a book.

In between, is a varied compendium of books, articles, columns, collected works, famous photographs and television reports drawn from several wars and many major social issues of the past 100 years.

Some were familiar: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's Watergate reports for The Washington Post (3), Edward R. Murrow's expose of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (10), AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's Iwo Jima flag raising photo (68).

Others are less vividly recalled, such as Lincoln Steffens' 1902-4 "Shame of the Cities" at No. 6.

Books made up nearly a third of the selections, among them Norman Mailer's "Armies of the Night" (19) and "The Executioner's Song" (72), Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" (48), Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" (22), Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique" (37) and "Angela's Ashes," the recent bestseller by Frank McCourt (95).

Photos, in addition to Rosenthal's, included Life photographer Robert Capa's coverage of D-Day in Normandy (27) and the Spanish Civil War (73); Margaret Bourke-White's postwar Germany photos (65) and two Associated Press photos from Vietnam -- Nick Ut's picture of a burned girl fleeing napalm (41) and Eddie Adams' shot of a South Vietnamese general executing a Viet Cong suspect (92).

"Hiroshima" was first published in an entire issue of The New Yorker magazine in 1946. The narrative built around six survivors from the moment of the blast had no competition for top honors, NYU journalism Professor Mike Norman said.

"It hit like a thunderbolt" at the time and has since become "the model for American journalism, the first use of the technique of plot in journalism," he said.

While any list is open to argument, Professor Mitchell Stephens, head of the university's journalism school, said: "I suspect that another similarly distinguished group of voters would have selected much of the same work."

The list, he said, touched in some way most of the major social issues of the past 100 years. "It shows that this was a century that understood itself through its journalism and non-fiction," he said.