“Encyclopedia of Journalism” Set to Debut at Month’s End

Six volumes.  Three thousand pages.  Roughly 350 signed entries.  Contributing scholars galore.  Launch date: late September 2009.  It is the Encyclopedia of Journalism, an everything-and-more look at news media then and now overseen by The George Washington University professor extraordinaire Christopher Sterling.

Sterling has been shepherding the project to fruition for more than four years, helping put together a compendium of knowledge on the technologies, individuals, issues, events, trends, and honors related to the creation, dissemination, intake, and impact of all-things-journalism.  He was gracious enough to recently grant CMM a brief e-interview about the project’s significance and scope.

Encyclopedia of Journalism

In the age of Wikipedia and other online knowledge sources, why should a print encyclopedia be of interest to j-students or educators?

Excellent question and one we’ve heard before as you might guess. Indeed many reference book publishers are pulling back as they feel the market has shrunk. But Sage (the publisher) and a number of other firms continue to develop these multi-volume, multi-author works, arguing that a carefully designed and edited work remains of value even in an electronic age (and…no small point, the new Encyclopedia is also available electronically).

Another point is that such a project does a huge amount of organizing of information- arranging the field, if you will- and that kind of “teaching” is valuable when people first approach a new topic. Wikipedia, for example, is often a great place to start looking up a new subject, but it’s a bad place to stop looking (as so many do).

Finally, all our authors are identified (obviously not the case on Wikipedia), as is the whole editorial team, which provides some sense of the quality behind the bindings.

What would you consider the strangest or funniest entries in the encyclopedia?

That’s nearly impossible to say after all these years. Having read and edited virtually every word in the whole thing now about three times, I am way too close to be a fair judge on either question. There is probably not much that’s actually funny, save for some of the journalistic hoaxes, especially in the 19th century. I can say that I learned one heck of a lot (this is a huge field) doing it- and I hope others do as well.

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