⇨ W. Joseph Campbell has written seven solo-authored books, the most recent of which — Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in U.S. Presidential Elections — was published by University of California Press.
Lost in a Gallup presents a lively and sweeping assessment of major polling failures in U.S. presidential elections from 1936 to 2016. And it examines the sometimes-exasperating interplay between pollsters and journalists, a complex relationship that has produced collaboration as well as bitter disdain.
The book makes the point that polling failure often is journalistic failure, given that pre-election polls set media narratives and expectations about high-profile political campaigns. They are central to how journalists, and Americans at large, understand a campaign’s ebb and flow.
The book presents original research drawn extensively from the papers of prominent pollsters including George Gallup, Elmo Roper, Archibald Crossley, Warren Mitofsky, and Louis Harris.
Publishers Weekly said in its review of Lost in a Gallup:
“Campbell convincingly concludes that ‘voters in 2020 are well advised to regard election polls and poll-based prediction models with skepticism.’ Newshounds closely following the latest 2020 predictions would be well-advised to read this bracing reality check.”
Campbell’s book is well-written, impressively researched
“Campbell’s book is well-written, impressively researched, and detailed.”
Read an excerpt from Lost in a Gallup.
Here’s a related video clip.
Descriptions about Campbell’s other books follow.
Getting It Wrong: Debunking the Greatest Myths in American Journalism
Getting It Wrong debunks prominent media-driven myths, those well-known stories about and/or by the news media that are widely believed and often retold. They include several of the most cherished stories American journalism tells about itself.
The first edition of Getting It Wrong won the Society of Professional Journalist’s national Sigma Delta Chi award for Research about Journalism (see image nearby).
From a review of the first edition, by Jack Shafer, Slate.com:
“Toting big guns and an itchy trigger-finger is American University professor W. Joseph Campbell … flattens established myths that you were brought up to believe were true: that Orson Welles sparked a national panic with his 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast; that the New York Times suppressed news of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba at the request of the White House; that Edward R. Murrow destroyed Sen. Joseph McCarthy; that publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst told an illustrator, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war,” before the Spanish-American war started; and more.”
“The best tonic for the brain fever caused by media myths is an open mind and a free inquiry. I especially admire the disciplined way Campbell corrects so many flawed records without taking cheap shots at the perpetrators.”
From a review by Edward Kosner in the Wall Street Journal:
“Persuasive and entertaining … With old-school academic detachment, Mr. Campbell, a communications professor at American University, shows how the fog of war, the warp of ideology and muffled skepticism can transmute base journalism into golden legend.”
1995: The Year the Future Began
The year 1995 was a critical hinge moment in the recent American past.
In 1995: The Year the Future Began (2015) Campbell draws on a variety of interviews, oral histories, memoirs, archival collections, and contemporaneous news reports to present a vivid, detail-rich portrait of a momentous time.
The book offers fresh interpretations of the pivotal moments of 1995, including the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the mainstream of American life; the bombing at Oklahoma City, the deadliest attack of domestic terrorism in U.S. history; the sensational “Trial of the Century,” at which O.J. Simpson faced charges of double murder; the U.S.-brokered negotiations at Dayton, Ohio, which ended the Bosnian War, Europe’s most vicious conflict since the time of the Nazis; and the first encounters at the White House between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, a liaison that culminated in a stunning scandal and the spectacle of the president’s impeachment and trial.
Nick Gillespie of Reason magazine called the book “compulsively readable.”
(The image above is a portion of a three-page spread that Italy’s largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, devoted to the book.)
From a review by Robert Fulford in Canada’s National Post:
“Campbell’s intense commitment to his material brings it to life. He’s a persuasive writer with an excellent sense of detail and a knack for narrative. Even those who clearly remember 1995, and know how major events turned out, will find his book illuminating.”
The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms
The Year That Defined American Journalism (2006) tells the story of a remarkable and decisive year in American journalism—1897. It was a year when journalists were wrestling with the nature, character, and future of the profession.
From a review in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly:
“This book offers a different and well-documented perspective of the Yellow Journalism era… In so doing, [it] makes a significant contribution to our understanding of journalism history and, ultimately, the journalism of today.
From a review in Journalism Studies:
“This is a lively and fascinating book, beautifully written and thoroughly researched. It effectively captures the American fin-de-siècle, providing a snap-shot yet admirably conveying the dynamism and anxieties of the period.”
The Emergent Independent Press in Benin and Cote d’Ivoire
Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies (2001)
The Spanish-American War: American Wars and the Media in Primary Documents (2005)
|Read the Introduction||Read the Introduction|
Here is a selection of articles and essays Campbell has written over the years for news outlets and scholarly journals.
- With memories of embarrassments still fresh, pollsters face big tests in 2022 midterm elections
(The Conversation October 24, 2022)
- Misfires and surprises: Polling embarrassments in recent U.S. presidential elections
(American Behavioral Scientist August 29, 2022)
- Woodward and Bernstein didn’t bring down a president in Watergate — but the myth they did lives on
(The Conversation June 14, 2022)
- 50 years after ‘Napalm Girl,’ myths distort the reality behind a horrific photo of the Vietnam War and exaggerate its impact
(The Conversation June 2, 2022)
- What history reminds us midterm narratives shaped months before elections
(The Hill April 20, 2022)
- After a misfire in New Jersey, pollster offers remarkable apology for error
(The Hill November 12, 2021)
- Polling misfired in 2020 — and that’s a lesson for journalists, pundits
(The Hill July 26, 2021)
- Elections polls in 2020 produced ‘error of unusual magnitude’
(The Conversation July 20, 2021)
- Still a mystery why polls failed so markedly in 2020
(The Conversation May 20, 2021)
- Confronting the Bay of Pigs-New York Times suppression myth
(The Conversation April 2, 2021)
- Election polling faces a prolonged convalescence
(Baltimore Sun November 20, 2020)
- What polling could use now
(The Conversation November 10, 2020)
- Another polling embarrassment
(The Conversation November 4, 2020)
- A Q-and-A with a historian of election polls
(The Conversation November 3, 2020)
- How ‘Dewey defeats Truman’ election offers insight into 2020
(Fortune November 2, 2020)
- Why we are so enamored with elections polls
(The Conversation October 29, 2020)
- Five scenarios that could yet disrupt the campaign’s endgame
(The Conversation October 21, 2020)
- Poll-inspired cockiness and its hazards
(The Hill October 15, 2020)
- Epic miscalls and landslides unforeseen
(The Conversation October 14, 2020)
- Revisiting the first presidential debate
(The Hill September 28, 2020)
- Whatever happened to poll-bashing?
(The Conversation September 23, 2020)
- Tall tales about election polling
(Baltimore Sun September 11, 2020)
- Why polling failure is often journalistic failure
(The Hill August 30, 2020)
- The hazards of glide-path campaigning
(The Hill July 30, 2020)
- Pitfalls of political polling
(Baltimore Sun October 19, 2018)
- Quelques preuves seraient les bienvenues
(Les Cahiers du Journalisme January-March 2018)
- Hurricane wash-out
(Crain’s NewsPro October 2017)
- Woodward, Bernstein didn’t bring down Nixon
(Baltimore Sun, June 13, 2017)
- Confronting the myths of the ‘Napalm Girl’
(Baltimore Sun, March 31, 2017)
- The rise and fall of Netscape
(Baltimore Sun, August 8, 2016)
- O.J. fervor and the ‘trial of the century’ myth
(Baltimore Sun, June 9, 2016)
- The five media myths of Watergate
(BBC News online, June 16, 2012)
- Story of the most famous seven words in U.S. journalism
(BBC News online, February 10, 2012)
- Halloween myth of The War of the Worlds
(BBC News online, October 29, 2011)
- William Randolph Hearst: Mythical media bogeyman
(BBC News online, August 14, 2011)
- A dozen overrated: Twelve books not as good as their reputations
(American Journalism 26, (1) Winter 2009)
- The grudging emergence of American journalism’s classic editorial:
New details about “Is There A Santa Claus?”
(American Journalism 22, (2) Spring 2005)
- American journalism’s exceptional year
(Journalism History 29, 4 (Winter 2004)
- Not a hoax: New evidence in the New York Journal‘s rescue of Evangelina Cisneros
(American Journalism 19, 4 (Fall 2002)
- Letter: Warmongering mythology
(Washington Post, August 24 2002)
- What’s good about yellow journalism
(Presstime, November 2001)
- Not likely sent: The Remington-Hearst ‘telegrams’
(Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Summer 2000)
- A look back at a look ahead: How fared predictions for 20th-Century newspapers?
(Editor&Publisher, December 25, 1999
- “One of the fine figures in American journalism”: A closer look at Josephus Daniels of the Raleigh News & Observer
(American Journalism 16 (4) Fall 1999)
- The new Afro pessimism
(Hartford Courant, March 20, 1994)