Faculty Publications

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Publication Date

October 2001

Publication Title

Journalism History

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Journalism Studies | Mass Communication


In the early years of the twentieth century, when live theater dominated the entertainment world and print media led public discourse, each without competition from electronic forms, the daily newspaper theater critic mediated ideas and values quite differently than today’s critics, whose main function has been reduced to that of a consumer guide. This article examines the corps of theater critics who served ten Chicago newspapers about 100 years ago. At a time when news editors were reluctant to cover new ideas and social movements, such as the push for women’s suffrage, theater critics were encountering radical new social ideas from European playwrights. Whether they approved or disapproved—and they did both, vehemently—their open debate with each other provided a level of public conversation of incalculable value in their own time, and largely missing today.