News Parade: The American Newsreel and the Mediation of the Public Sphere, 1927-1945 will be published by the University of Minnesota Press.
The book examines the history of an overlooked film form and its importance in the development of 20th Century media culture. Focusing on the sound newsreel of the 1930s, this work brings together an historical examination of the newsreel’s modes of production, distribution, and reception with an analysis of the form’s aesthetic and representational strategies. It argues that the newsreel represents a crucial moment in the development of a spectacular society where media representations of reality became more fully integrated into the looking relations of commodity culture. By emphasizing the mediated watching of reality – and by framing that reality as a kind of parade – the newsreel privileged spectatorship over other forms of knowledge. For the first time, the commodified experience of watching the news became as important as the news itself. In doing so the newsreel helped redefine the public through spectatorship and the public sphere as a site of identity formation and participation mediated by the screen. The book pays particular attention to the ways in which discourses of race and gender worked together with the rhetoric of speed, mobility, and authority to establish the power and privilege of newsreel spectatorship.
News Parade intervenes in key debates in film history and media studies. By providing the first sustained examination of the American newsreel since the 1960s, it broadens our understanding of pre-war film culture, its organization, and its audience. This varied history is especially important at a moment when screen culture is expanding into virtually all aspects of contemporary life. By looking at representations of diverse newsreel makers, subjects, and audiences, this study reveals the extent to which spectatorship and mass media had already begun to transform the public sphere in the United States before WWII.