Rick Shenkman, Editor and Journalist - History
News Network / HNN.us
23rd June 2003
What's your background and that of the History News
of my adult life I have worked as both a journalist
and a historian.
History News Network
I finally have the chance to be both simultaneously.
I'm not sure if at heart I am one or the other.
I a historian who's moonlighting as a journalist or
the other way around? Don't know. I established HNN
in 2001. We went online in June of that year--the
fulfillment of a dream that began, I suppose, with
an op ed I wrote for the New
York Times in 1980 in which I chastised the media
for the shallowness of its coverage of news. I suggested
that to remedy the defect the media should begin ringing
up historians for their views just as often as they
call upon economists or political scientists. We have
hundreds of historians to write for us. Most are in
the US but some live overseas. HNN gives historians
a national platform. We can't afford to pay anybody
but we do offer them visibility. Most historians are
happy with that. Anyway, they hold paying jobs so
don't rely on their writing for income.
were the world's most important news media milestones?
In the past century there were 3 important inventions
that had an impact on the media: radio, TV and the
the three, TV remains the most important. It reshaped
our culture and politics and has nearly ruined American
democracy. The irony is that deep thinkers predicted
that TV would improve democracy by giving viewers
a front row seat in politics, allowing them to make
up their own minds about the issues confronting the
country. In fact, TV viewers simply became bored with
politics, forcing the politicians to focus increasingly
on emotional issues to attract attention.
Internet has helped revive democracy, but so far has
not reversed the main trends identified with television:
low voter turnout, emotionalism, an emphasis on personality.
news media sources and journalists do you and your
contemporaries hold in high regard?
always recommend to students that they start with
the NYT and then read a couple of opinion magazines,
making sure that they pick at least one that reflect
the views of people with whom they disagree. Of course,
I tell them all to be sure to read HNN regularly.
are your main services?
Our main services:
keeping readers up to date on breaking news related
providing articles every week that reflect on current
providing a roundup of excerpts of articles related
to history from media around the world.
We surf the Internet so our readers don't have to.
news media website do you visit?
Ok, seriously. We have a list of nearly 100 websites
we visit every week to make sure we know what's going
on. My favorite is Slate
does a typical day for you involve?
one to two hours reading the NYT. Then going through
emails. Then reading the Chronicle
of Higher Education, Frontpagemag.com
and Slate. Then
surfing websites and reading H-Net. When I come across
an article I like that suit's HNN. I'll grab an excerpt
and post it.
role do hoaxes play in the media?
pranksters dream up hoaxes to get attention. Few involve
history. We haven't done much with these.
other media related websites do you contribute or
have been the main achievements of HNN?
In just over 2 years we have become a resource for
national media like the NYT. On occasion we have broken
stories and helped keep others alive. After the Ambrose
and Goodwin scandals broke, HNN became a clearinghouse
for stories about both historians, making us the first
place journalists stopped when they wanted to know
what was going on. Our coverage of Michael
Bellesiles's scandal was through and led to
deep reflections by historians about their responsibilities.
Bellesiles was accused of manufacturing evidence.
Our work helped historians think through the issues
his case raised: How to detect false information;
the role of peer review journals, the role of ideology
in the profession. (His book was used by people in
the pro-control movement.)
history show that Bush made the right choice in declaring
war on Iraq?
me in about 10 years.
are your biggest supporters?
you think a real time machine could be built? (given
that matter can be moved) - NASA and the likes of
which have done this. I know this is "out there".
have no idea. I was a liberal arts major for heaven's
has religion caused more wars and deaths than anything
else in the history of the world?
I see that you specialize in questions that raise
small issues. Jeeze! I cannot offer a short answer
to this question.
has the both the internet, and your website, helped
you achieve your objectives?
the Internet I could not dream of a way to do what
we are doing: providing historical perspective on
a daily basis to issues of concern to Americans.
News Network is located at George Mason University.
The History News Network was created in June 2001
and features articles by historians about current
events. HNN is the only website on the Internet wholly
devoted to this task; the site is updated daily in
response to breaking news. HNN is funded by George
Mason University. The magazine features articles by
historians on both the left and the right. HNN is
a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. They average 3 million hits
Journalistic Plagurism out of control out of control,
by Greg Tingle (published on HNN)