James Fallows, Breaking the News (New York: Pantheon Books, 1996). Fallows, a veteran journalist, rags on the bad habits and lack of ethics of the media, print and electronic. His most interesting point: today's media exalts the procedural (eg, behind the scenes Congressional bickering that sank Clinton's health care initiative) at the expense of the substantive (what the economics of the health care system really are).

Lawrence K. Grossman, The Electronic Republic (New York: Viking, 1995). Grossman, the former president of NBC News and of PBS, illustrates this somewhat disorderly book with fascinating anecdotes of personal experiences with broadcast ethics (or, more properly, the lack thereof.)

Harold A. Innis, The Bias of Communications (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1951). Innis, a professor whose theories greatly influenced McLuhan, was the first to analyze the ways in which forms of communication affect the structure of society.

Gene F. Jankowski and David C. Fuchs, Television, Today and Tomorrow (New York: Oxford University Press 1995). Unlike Grossman, these two former television executives believe that the status quo represents the best of all possible worlds.

Jerry Mander, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (New York: Quill, 1978). In this fascinating but oddball essay, Mander, a former advertising man, argues that television is irredeemable as a form of communication: its built in bias is such that it cannot be saved but should be abandoned.

Robert W. McChesney, Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). Historian McChesney proves that, in telecommunications history as in human affairs generally, the same crimes and follies are endlessly repeated. The book is especially interesting for its account of the Federal Radio Commission's campaign to stamp out nonprofit broadcasting, leaving the field clear for the networks that still dominate the field 65 years later.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995). McLuhan alternates between brilliance and blither. His statement that the medium is the message is true and timeless, but one could live without his insight on nylon stockings.

Newton Minow and Craig L. LaMay, Abandoned in the Wasteland (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995). The former FCC commissioner under Kennedy who made the famous statement that broadcasting was a "vast wasteland" believes nothing has improved. Like other FCC commissioners, I agree with his diagnosis but fear his prescription, which disregards freedom of speech.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York: Penguin, 1985). Postman writes eloquently, is delightfully sarcastic and always a pleasure to read. He is right about radio and television-- easy targets, though--but dead wrong about the Internet in the views he has expressed more recently.

Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). If you read only one book from this list, let it be this one. This prescient volume surveys the free speech failures of broadcasting and makes an impassioned plea for us to avoid over-regulation of on-line communications, the importance of which the author foresaw.


FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), covers the press.

Another media watchdog is the aptly named Media Watchdog.

Neil Postman thinks the Net represents the information glut, irrelevance, fragmentation and the ongoing death of typography--and you can find his thought provoking if wrong headed views right here on the Net.

There is an excellent Media and Communications Studies site based at the University of Wales. Here you can find anything from a history of the telephone to an introduction to semiotics, as well as links to other useful pages.

The FCC server contains the speeches of Commissioner Reed Hundt, who indicates he is not averse to regulating the Internet if properly invited by the Congress.

Another university source is the The Media History Project at the University of Colorado.