First published in , this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of “pseudo-events”—events such as press conferences and presidential debates . introduced the notion of “pseudo-events”—events such as press conferences It is the book to end all books about ‘The American Image’—what it is, who. THE IMAGE. A Guide to Pseudo Events. in America. DANIEL J. BOORSTIN. From News Gathering to News Making: A Flood of Pseudo‑Events. ADMIRING.

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A Guide to Pseudo Events. From News Gathering amerkca News Making: There was a time when the reader of an unexciting newspaper would remark, “How dull is the world today!

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America | work by Boorstin |

But, the editor explained, it might appear oftener “if any Glut of Occurrences happen. The newsman’s task was only to give “an Account of such considerable things as have arrived unto our Notice. Although the theology behind this way of looking at events soon dissolved, this view of the news lasted longer. Dana, one of the great American editors of the nineteenth century, once defended his extensive reporting of crime in the New York Sun by saying, “I have always felt that whatever the Divine Providence permitted to occur I was not too proud to report.

We need not be theologians to see that we have shifted responsibility for making the world interesting from God to the newspaperman. We used to believe there were only so many “events” in the world.

If there were not many intriguing or startling occurrences, it was no fault of the reporter. He could not be expected to report what did not exist. Within the last hundred years, however, and especially in the twentieth century, all this has changed.

We expect the papers to be full of news. If there is no news visible to the naked eye, or to the average citizen, we still expect it to be there for the enterprising newsman. The successful reporter is one who can find a story, even if there is no earthquake or assassination or civil war. This change in our attitude toward “news” is not merely a basic fact about the history of American newspapers.

It is a symptom of a revolutionary change in our attitude toward what happens in the world, how much of it is new, and surprising, and important. Toward how life can be enlivened, toward our power and the power of those who inform and educate and guide us, to provide synthetic happenings to make up for the lack of spontaneous events. Demanding more than the world can give us, we require that something be fabricated to make up for the world’s deficiency.

This is only one example of our demand for ajerica. Many historical forces help explain how we have come to our present immoderate hopes.

But there can be no doubt about what we now expect, nor that it is immoderate. Every American knows the anticipation with which he picks up his morning newspaper at breakfast or opens his evening paper before dinner, or listens to the newscasts every hour on the hour as he drives across country, or watches his favorite commentator on television interpret the events of the day.

Many enterprising Americans are now at work to help us satisfy these expectations. Many might be put out of work if we should suddenly thee our expectations. But iamge is we who keep them in business and demand that they fill our consciousness with novelties, that they play God for us.

ameeica The owners of a hotel, in an illustration offered by Edward L. Bernays in his pioneer Crystallizing Public Opinionconsult a public relations counsel. They gukde how to increase their hotel’s prestige and so improve their business. In less sophisticated times, the answer might have been to hire a new chef, to improve the plumbing, to paint the rooms, or to install a crystal chandelier in the lobby.


The public relations counsel’s technique is more indirect.

He proposes that the management stage a celebration of the hotel’s thirtieth anniversary. The celebration is held, photographs are taken, the occasion is widely reported, and the object is accomplished. This celebration, we can see at the outset, is somewhat — but not entirely —misleading. Presumably the public relations counsel would not have been able to form his committee of prominent citizens if the hotel had not actually been rendering service to the community.

On the other hand, if the hotel’s services pseudo-eventz been all that important, instigation by public relations counsel might not have been necessary. Once the celebration has been held, the celebration itself becomes evidence that the hotel really is a distinguished institution.

The occasion actually gives the hotel the prestige to which it is pretending. It is obvious, too, that the value of such a celebration to the owners depends on its being photographed and reported in newspapers, magazines, newsreels, on radio, and over television. It is the report that gives the event its force in the minds of potential customers.

The power to make a reportable event is thus the power to make experience. One is reminded of Napoleon’s apocryphal reply to his general, who objected that circumstances were unfavorable to a proposed campaign: Bernays explains, “not only knows what news value is, but knowing it, he is in a position to make news happen.

He is a creator of events. The intriguing feature of the modem situation, however, comes precisely from the fact that the modem fo makers are not God.

The news they make happen, the events they create, are somehow not quite real. Typically, it is not a train wreck or an earthquake, but an interview. Therefore, its occurrence is arranged amerlca the convenience of the reporting or reproducing media. Its success is measured by how widely it is reported. Time relations in it are commonly fictitious or factitious; the announcement is given americx in advance “for future release” and written as if the event had occurred in the past.

The question, “Is it real? Its interest arises largely from this very ambiguity. While the news interest in a train wreck is in what happened and in the real consequences, the interest in an interview is always, in a sense, in whether it really happened and in what might have been the motives.

Did the statement really mean what it said? We expect more of them and we are given more of them. They flood our consciousness.

Their multiplication has gone on in the United States at a faster rate than elsewhere. Even the rate of increase is increasing every day. This is true of the world of education, of consumption, and of personal relations. It is especially true of the world of public affairs which I describe in this chapter. For our present purposes it is enough to recall a few of the more revolutionary recent developments.

The great modern increase in the supply and the demand tye news began in the early nineteenth century. Until then newspapers tended to fill out their columns with lackadaisical secondhand accounts or stale reprints of items first published elsewhere at home and abroad. The laws of plagiarism and of copyright were undeveloped. Most newspapers were little more than excuses for espousing a political position, for listing the arrival and departure of ships, for familiar essays and useful advice, or for commercial or legal vuide.


The telegraph was perfected and applied to news reporting in the ‘s and ’40’s. Two newspapermen, William M. Polk’s presidential message in was the first to be transmitted by wire. When the Associated Press was founded boorstinnnews began to be a salable commodity. Then appeared the rotary press, which could print on a continuous sheet and on both sides of the paper at the same time. The competitive daring of giants like James Gordon Bennett, Joseph Pulitzer, and William Randolph Hearst intensified the race for news and widened newspaper circulation.

The increased speed of printing was itself revolutionary. Still more revolutionary were kmage new techniques for making direct images of nature. Photography was destined soon to give printed matter itself a secondary role. By a giant leap Americans crossed the gulf from the daguerreotype to color television in less than a century.

Verisimilitude took on a new meaning. Not only was it now possible to give the actual voice and gestures of Franklin Delano Roosevelt unprecedented reality and intimacy for a whole nation. Vivid image came to overshadow pale reality. The Grand Canyon itself became a disappointing reproduction of the Kodachrome original.

The new power to report and portray what had happened was a new temptation leading newsmen to make probable images or to prepare reports in advance of what was expected to happen. As so often, men came to mistake their power for their necessities. Readers and viewers would soon prefer the vividness of the account, the “candidness” of the photograph, to the spontaneity of what was recounted.

The news gap soon became so narrow that in order to have additional “news” for each new edition or each new broadcast it was necessary to plan in advance the stages by which any available news would be unveiled. After the weekly and the daily came the “extras” and the numerous regular editions.

The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin soon had seven editions a day. No rest for the newsman. With more space to fill, he inn to fill it ever more quickly.

In order to justify the numerous editions, it was increasingly necessary that the news constantly change or at least seem to change. With radio on the air continuously during waking hours, the reporters’ problems became still more acute.

News every hour on the hour, and sometimes on the half hour. Programs interrupted any time for special bulletins. How to avoid deadly repetition, the appearance that nothing was happening, that news gatherers were asleep, or that competitors were more alert?

I,age the costs of printing and then of broadcasting increased, it became financially necessary to keep the presses always at work and the TV screen always busy.

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America

News gathering turned into news making. The “interview” was a novel way of making news which had come in with the Graphic Revolution.

Ellen Jewett, inmate of a house of prostitution, had been found murdered by an ax. Robinson, a young man about town, was accused of the crime. Bennett seized the occasion to pyramid sensational stories and so to build circulation for his Herald; before long he was having difficulty turning out enough copies daily to satisfy the demand.

He exploited the story in every possible way, one of which was to plan and report an actual interview with Rosina Townsend, the madam who kept the house and whom he visited on her own bootstin.