For the 40th episode of the Journalism History podcast, host Nick Hirshon spoke with W. Joseph Campbell about the major media events that made 1995 a watershed year, from the Oklahoma City bombing to the trial of O.J. Simpson to the Bosnia peace accords to the President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair.
W. Joseph Campbell is a tenured full professor in the American University School of Communication’s Communication Studies program. An award-winning journalist whose 20-year career took him across the globe, Campbell is the author of six books–including 1995: The Year the Future Began.
This episode is sponsored by the American University’s School of Communication.
Nick Hirshon: 00:00:09 Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Nick Hirshon, guiding you through our own drafts of history.
00:00:26 This episode is sponsored by American University’s School of Communication. Based in Washington, D.C., the School of Communication inspires media change makers in communication studies, journalism, film and media arts, public communication and game design through excellence in teaching, research, and unique real-world opportunities.
00:00:50 The year 1995 stokes nostalgia for many Americans, a period that brings back memories for baby boomers and millennials alike. People Magazine declared Brad Pitt the sexiest man alive. The funny pages featured the final panels of two classic comic strips, The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. A lot of us were playing pogs, or watching ER, or going to “infinity and beyond” with Toy Story, or doing the Macarena. Beyond these vestiges of pop culture, the year was marked by a series of seminal events that still affect society today. The internet streamed into many American homes for the first time. O.J. Simpson was tried for double murder. A federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed. A peace accord for Bosnia was struck. And Bill Clinton began an affair that sparked a scandal.
00:01:43 In this episode, we take a look back, twenty-five years later, to discuss the events of 1995 with W. Joseph Campbell, a professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and the author of the book 1995: The Year the Future Began.
Joe, welcome to the Journalism History Podcast.
Joseph Campbell: 00:02:03 Thank you for having me on the podcast, on the show.
Nick Hirshon: 00:02:06 Of course. So we’re in the year 2020 and that marks the twentieth-fifth anniversary of a series of significant events that you chronicle in your book, 1995: The Year the Future Began. What a title! Your book draws on interviews, memoirs, archival collections, and news reports to describe the decisive moments of 1995. We’re gonna get into all of these in a lot more detail later, but just briefly here, the emergence of the internet and mainstream American life, the Oklahoma City bombing, the double murder trial of O.J. Simpson, the U.S.-brokered negotiations in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the Bosnian War, and the first encounters at the White House between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, which culminated in Clinton’s impeachment. You note in the preface to the book that we don’t tend to think of 1995 as a seminal year in the same vein as, say, 1968 when it was so turbulent with the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, or 1979, which included the rise of militant Islam and challenges to communist rule in Eastern Europe, but I just ran through that list of personalities and events from 1995, and when you see that list, it does indeed seem to stand out as a watershed year. So we’re going to cover all those events again individually later on. But first I’d like to ask you, how did you come to realize that so many pivotal events had happened in 1995?
Joseph Campbell: 00:03:22 It’s a great question, and thanks again for having me on the podcast. It really was – 1995 really was the year that our “now” began – our “now,” the events and realities that we live with can be in many respects traced back to that seminal moment, 1995, and you ran through the major ones and these include the rise of the internet, the popular internet and the worldwide web. Neither of those was developed or invented in 1995, but in 1995 they reached mainstream consciousness. There was a critical mass of sorts that was reached in 1995 and this helped to make the worldwide web and the internet known to people. They realized that there was something big out there that was emerging. They weren’t quite sure what it was. Journalists weren’t able to clearly explain to audiences what this was, but the sense was, in 1995, that this was going to be something really big.
00:04:18 It’s going to change how we – how we live our lives in many important ways. And there were hints of this. At the end of 1995, Nick, I remembered Newsweek Magazine had a cover story talking about how this changes everything. The year then closing, 1995, had been the year of the internet and that stuck in the back of my mind as, as something to keep in mind as a potential project to work on later on. Something to keep on the back burner, not to lose sight of. Maybe 1995 is a– is a pivotal year. I had done it a year study about 1897 and how that, the events of 1897, had – had shaped and changed and altered the direction of American journalism. And so I was looking not necessarily to do another year study, but another book project and, and when I had finished a book on media-driven myths, it was time for taking a look at another project.
00:05:15 And that was 1995, and the more I began to dig into the year and its elements, and its moments, and its personalities, the more it became really clear to me that this was a decisive year. This was a watershed in many ways, not just in the rise of the internet, but it was a – it was a watershed year in terms of, of criminal justice and the application of criminal justice in the O.J. Simpson trial. It was the year in which domestic terrorism reared its head in a dramatic and unprecedented way with the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. It was a year in which the United States really came of age after the Cold War. It, it really grew into its role as the sole remaining superpower. And it applied that power in international diplomacy and ending this nasty, bitter bloody war in Bosnia by bringing the parties to Dayton, Ohio.
00:06:13 And keeping them at an Air Force base until they reached an agreement to settle that far-away war. So it was a moment of, decisive moment in international diplomacy and it certainly was a decisive moment in political scandal because the government shutdown – the partial government, federal government shutdown of February 1995 allowed for Bill Clinton, the president, and Monica Lewinsky, an unpaid intern, to get together to become in close proximity at the White House, setting in motion a political scandal that ended with the spectacle of his impeachment and trial in the U.S. Senate later in the decade. So this was a decisive year – a year defined by these watershed moments in, in all kinds of areas, all kinds of ways and pulling them together made for a very persuasive and powerful case in my view.
Nick Hirshon: 00:07:05 So it strikes me that one of the interesting things about 1995, there’s years in our lives where we tend to think that they are going to be remembered forever. And because we lived them and we think, well, this must be the craziest year ever. But as you said, 1995 has really held up. We’ll get into that a little bit later on. First, let’s move through your book chronologically and the first chapter you talk about 1995 as the year of the internet when the worldwide web entered American consciousness. Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, and Match.com first went online. So how important was 1995 in the development of the internet that we now know today?
Joseph Campbell: 00:07:48 It was a vital early moment in the emergence of the internet that we know today, and this was when the internet reached a critical mass in terms of people understanding that there was this new medium out there and it was a year in which the internet and world wide web became household words. It’s not that everybody was online in 1995. Far from it. Most people, most Americans, most adult Americans, were not online in 1995, but they had heard about it. They at least had heard about the web and they were paying some attention to this. And the title of that chapter, the first chapter, the year of the internet was, was borrowed from, was taken from Newsweek Magazine, which described it as the year of the internet in its, its year-end retrospective. And it’s, it was the moment, 1995 was the time when people suddenly realized that there was this, this new technology out there.
00:08:40 And, and it was difficult for, for news organizations to explain it to them to, to say what this worldwide web was. It was like we were inventing a new language almost. And some of the terminology remains with us today. Some of the terminology, and some of the vernacular has passed away, but it’s really interesting to go back and just see how news organizations and news outlets were struggling with ways of describing the internet and the worldwide web to people. Like the New York Times early in 1995 described the internet or the worldwide web as a portion of the internet, overflowing with sights and sounds. Overflowing with sights and sounds. Now that’s a very, what crude and, and superficial way of describing it, but it’s not completely inaccurate. And it’s an attempt, an example of the attempts that media were using to explain this new medium, this new platform, this new option to people.
00:09:35 Another example: I think the Philadelphia Inquirer called the worldwide web an electronic publishing service for pictures, sound and video as well as text. Again, kind of a clunky definition, but nonetheless one that’s, yeah, pretty much accurate. We can see that that’s true. Later in the year, the New York Times said the, the web was an amalgam of the public library, suburban shopping mall and the congressional record. Again, a bit of a clunky description of what this was but nonetheless accurate. It sort of began to get people, yeah, acquainted and familiar with what this was and what this was going to be. Another part of the answer to your question, Nick, is that we can trace to 1995 the emergence of a number of prominent mainstays and I think you mentioned them earlier, mainstays of the digital landscape that emerged in 1995 or had their origins or derivation in 1995 and remain with us.
00:10:33 Amazon.com is, is, is a prime example. It began selling books online in July 1995. Not many people noticed, not many people cared. But we know now that that Amazon twenty-five years later is, is this behemoth, this, this not only online retail behemoth but, but web services behemoth and it’s everywhere. It’s huge. And not even Jeff Bezos, the founder, had an idea, even a remote idea, just how big Amazon was going to become. And there are other mainstays too. Craigslist. The, the emergent Craigslist got going in 1995. Online dating through Match.com started in 1995. Yahoo! was incorporated in 1995. The founders of Google meet on the Stanford campus in the fall of 1995, and at first they didn’t like each other. They thought each other was pretty, pretty arrogant, but that, but that partnership, you know, became this, this other behemoth. So Google has its roots in 1995.
00:11:39 And what really illuminated the web for people in 1995 was the initial public offering of shares of Netscape Communications. This was a maker of a web browser, a very popular web browser, the first real popular, widely used web browser called Netscape Navigator. And it, it was used by many people as their way, as their introduction to the online world and the IPO, the initial public offering of shares of Netscape Communication in early August 1995, was such as dramatic success that it, it signaled to, to millions of people that not only is this a reality of this, this digital landscape, this digital world, but it was also a way to make money online, and it kicked off the dot-com boom of the late 1990s. So there was an awful lot going on in terms of, of innovation and, and development of new options in 1995. It was a very fertile time digitally. And, and we still see some of the results of that even today, as I say, with Amazon and Google and other entities.
Nick Hirshon: 00:12:53 And as this is the Journalism History podcast, do we see changes in news delivery, news consumption, that date back to 1995, and you know, people going online for the first time to get their news?
Joseph Campbell: 00:13:06 There is a lot of that in 1995 for sure, and it was not just 1995 but the year before, the year after. There was, this was a slow emergence. It wasn’t like all of a sudden people are now online and in a big-time way. In fact, online audiences were pretty small in those first years of the popular web and so small that some news organizations and news executives took comfort from the fact that this was a very small audience for news online and really didn’t think that there was much of a threat. They didn’t sense that there was a threat posed by the digital landscape to traditional media and that the web was not gonna be a real force for many years and therefore it wasn’t something they really had to worry that much about. Eugene Roberts at the Philadelphia Inquirer was among those. He was kind of pooh-poohing the– the prospects of a challenge from, from the worldwide web. As we know very shortly after 1995 this challenge became very real and began to, to batter news organizations, and that battering continues to this day. So there was a fair amount of shortsightedness by, by news organizations, by news executives as to what this was going to be like and how this was going to, to affect and influence news gathering and news organizations. Traditional media, I think, ignored the emergence of the web to, to its– to their peril.
Nick Hirshon: 00:14:28 And as we get into another aspect of journalism in 1995, coverage of some of these major events that still linger today, you’ve looked at the deepening preoccupation with terrorism in 1995 after Oklahoma City, the massive bombing that killed 168 people, the deadliest act of domestic terror in U.S. history. You mentioned in the book that within weeks of the bombing, a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to vehicular traffic near the White House. Perhaps the start of an era of security-related restrictions that you note have become more common, more intrusive, more stringent, perhaps even more accepted. And now since Oklahoma City, the nation has dealt with a number of events with mass casualties, most notably the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, of course, and a series of mass shootings, including Columbine in 1999, the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, and unfortunately so many others. And because of that, tragically, I wonder if we no longer have that sense of security. But at the time of Oklahoma City, I believe the United States was enjoying an era of relative peace and security. And that made the bombing especially jarring, that really broke into our homes in a way that maybe we’d, we would not feel today. So can you take us back to understand how Oklahoma City may have rattled the American psyche so much?
Joseph Campbell: 00:15:44 It’s a great question. It came out of nowhere. The Oklahoma City bombing just came out of nowhere. It was a spring day, April of 1995, and all of a sudden in the American heartland, there was this shattering, this terrible, this highly destructive truck bombing outside the federal building. And it, it took place right after 9 o’clock, a.m., in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City time. And the perpetrator turned out to be a disgruntled Army veteran who built a bomb and had it rigged so it would go off in a truck outside – a rental truck right outside the Oklahoma City bombing – Oklahoma City federal building right as the place was filling up with people. So he wanted to have a mass casualty event. And, and included among the 168 fatalities were a good number, almost twenty school children, a little kids actually in a, in a daycare center on the second floor of the federal building overlooking the street where Timothy McVeigh, a disgruntled Army veteran, parked this truck and locked it and had fuses burning into the cargo hold where he had huge quantities of, of explosive devices ready to go off.
00:16:58 And they did go off and they went off with a horrible, jarring, a horrible sound that was felt for blocks and blocks away in Oklahoma City and destroyed not only the federal building there, but, but many buildings nearby. And because it was such a shock and came out of, it came out of nowhere. It really rattled the American population. At first news organizations believed that this was the work of Middle East terrorists. Connie Chung on CBS News that night said that, cited unnamed sources and said that this is likely the work of, or U.S. experts believe this to be the work of Middle East terrorists. So there was that sense that that was, those were the perpetrators in the first hours after the bombing. And the country therefore received another shock when it was– when Timothy McVeigh was the, was the culprit when he was arrested north of Oklahoma City.
00:17:57 And linked to the, to the crime a couple of days later. So the, the shock about how this happened and who perpetrated it and where it was– and where it was done was really a double or triple shock for the American population. It turned out that McVeigh was something of a lone wolf. He had the help of two collaborators, two conspirators, but they were not really prominent in, in developing the, the perverse plan to bomb that building and, and, and building the bomb necessarily. And he had help, but it wasn’t the part of a vast conspiracy. And that is a misconception that I think has taken hold over the years since the bombing in April 1995, that McVeigh was part of a wider network of people, of right-wing extremists trying to undercut the government. I mean, he wanted to teach the U.S. government a lesson. That was his perverse idea about setting this bomb and conducting the attack on the Oklahoma City federal building.
00:19:00 He wanted to deliver a grievous lesson to the United States, in part because of what it had had done two years earlier in Waco, Texas. And that was sort of a Timothy McVeigh’s idea of– twisted idea of retribution for the events in Waco two years earlier. So it was, it was difficult for the American population at large to sort of get their head around this attack, why it was done, who perpetrated it, and why that target in the middle of the heartland. As a result, because it was such a shock, there were, there were almost immediately efforts put into place to beef up security across the country. And one of those places was in front of the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue. So without warning, about a month after the Oklahoma City bombing, authorities blocked off part of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to vehicular traffic to keep away, to, to deny really the, the prospect of a, of a truck bombing in front of the White House.
00:20:09 And so that was part and parcel of many other efforts across the country to enhance security, particularly at federal buildings, to prevent the possibility of a repeat attack, of a copycat kind of attack in which McVeigh had used this rental truck – a Ryder truck packed with explosives to blow up a federal building. And we have lived with consequences of, of, of this ever since then. ’Cause I think the country has become, especially after 9/11, especially after 2001, the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, especially after that, the country has become much more security conscious and I think more inclined to, to give up some aspect of, of personal liberty in order to have an assurance of security, of a heightened assurance of that we’re going to be secure in what we’re doing in this country. So that, that attack on Oklahoma City had lasting repercussions. As I say we feel them to this day.
Nick Hirshon: 00:21:08 Do you feel that the media was responsible at all for maybe worrying people too much about this and then leading to those stricter security enforcements, or is there any, any fault there or just anything that you gleaned from your watching all of these news reports, reading all of the articles?
Joseph Campbell: 00:21:30 I think the, the major criticism about the media performance in covering the Oklahoma City bombing was its initial and erroneous assumption that this was the work of Middle East terrorists. And that was a, a narrative the news media were eager to go with and turned out to be quite wrong about it. Now I acknowledge and I recognize that covering major and unexpected events such as a bombing of a federal building in the heart of the country is going to lead to a lot of misreporting, a lot of erroneous reporting.
00:22:06 But the basic narrative, the basic storyline was so wrong on that. And the news media really never went back to examine how they got it wrong and why, why they were so inclined to buy into this wrong, erroneous narrative. And that’s, I think, something that the media can be faulted for. I mean, they could blame their sources, “well, the sources told us” and we were just repeating what the sources said, but of course the media have responsibility to glean and, and to make sure that the information they’re getting from sources is accurate. They just can’t be the transmission belt, of course. So I think that the media really can be faulted for its erroneous reporting about the immediate aftermath of the bombing, and then failing to go back and explain how it got it wrong and so that, that would be my major criticism of, of media performance in, in that.
00:22:58 But I, I do think that they were in, in some respects saying, well, let’s not overdo it. When the portion of Pennsylvania Avenue was closed to vehicular traffic a month after the bombing at Oklahoma City, the Washington Post editorially went out hard against this saying, this is, this is, this is an overreaction. This is not going to help. This is really not the way to go about doing it. It’s heavy handed. And I think that that was probably an accurate characterization. We were beginning to overdo this, and I think that’s part of the residue of, of the Oklahoma City bombing is that we have become more guarded, more suspicious, more security-conscious in this country. And those aspects, those inclinations, those tendencies were certainly reinforced and, and, and, and intensified in the aftermath of 9/11. So we are really in many ways– in many ways a security-first country nowadays.
00:23:58 The security-first mindset has taken hold, and it can be traced to 1995 and the Oklahoma City bombing. In some ways it can even be traced a little further back to the first attempted bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. It did not topple the buildings, but it certainly led to some casualties there. And that was a wake-up call, I think for New Yorkers especially, but for Americans at large that there were these terrorist threats afoot in the country. Oklahoma City brought the recognition that homegrown terrorism was a real reality and a deadly kind of homegrown terrorism, that’s certainly a possibility.
Nick Hirshon: 00:24:38 And before we move on from Oklahoma City, let’s look at the specifics of Timothy McVeigh being covered by the media. Today we hear a lot of criticism of the press for maybe focusing too much on the perpetrators, on the mass shooters, on the bombers and terrorists instead of the victims. How do you feel the media performed in its coverage of Timothy McVeigh?
Joseph Campbell: 00:25:02 Overall, pretty well. I mean, it was not just the aftermath of the bombing in 1995, but the trials that, that followed the, the trial of McVeigh was, was moved to Colorado because of pretrial publicity in and around Oklahoma City. It was a good move to move it outside the city. But I don’t think there was any doubt that that McVeigh was given a fair, fair trial. He did not really mount much of a defense. His defense team tried to present this as a – trying to present McVeigh as a pawn in a larger global conspiracy. And it was one of these, these cockamamie theories that really had very, very little support in terms of empirical evidence. And in terms of McVeigh’s own, own backing. He said, no, this is not right.
Nick Hirshon: 00:25:58 So you also cover in the book the so-called trial of the century, O.J. Simpson, the popular former football player who answered to charges that he had slashed to death his former wife and her friend. The trial stretched across much of the year. Simpson was eventually acquitted, but the court of public opinion largely held him accountable. And the Simpson case garnered a lot of news coverage at the time. A lot of Americans probably thought it would resonate years later, but we’ve seen so many other quote unquote “trials of the century” over the years that people at the time thought would be remembered forever and they faded pretty quickly. One of Simpson’s attorneys, F. Lee Bailey, has remarked in 1999, “Every time I turn around, there’s a new trial of the century.” So a lot of them do fizzle out. Why the Simpson trial stand the test of time as a true historic moment?
Joseph Campbell: 00:26:44 You know, I’ve– it is open to debate whether it really was the trial, the of the century, of the twentieth century. One of his defense lawyers, not F. Lee Bailey, but another one did some research and found that there were like thirty-three different trials of the century during the twentieth century, going back to the McKinley assassination in 1901, including the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial and in, what, the late twenties or thirties? And it was there were, so, there were a number of trials of the century and in the twentieth century, this was perhaps the last one, or maybe the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999 was – could have been the trial of the century, certainly was not of the last major trials of the century. But I don’t know. It certainly was the, the, the trial, the most famous murder trial of the late twentieth century.
00:27:37 The Simpson case. It really does have incredible stickiness in the sense that we continued to recall the Simpson case twenty-five years later. And there have been a number of dramatizations about the, about the case about, about Simpson and his life. He remains rather shameless about it all. He’s never confessed. He’s never – he was found liable at a civil trial a couple of years after the 1995 trial, but he has never – and he was ordered to pay more than $33 million in damages to the estates of his former wife and Ron Goldman, who was also killed in this attack outside her condominium, outside her townhouse, in, in Los Angeles in 1994. That was the, that was the central crime there. And since, has never, never paid anything. And so it’s, that’s one of the ways, his brazenness is one of the ways in which this case continues to live on.
00:28:48 Simpson went to jail, went to prison for nine years because of an episode at a hotel in Las Vegas in, like, 2003. And he was sentenced, or maybe later in the decade, 2008, perhaps. He was sentenced to jail for kidnapping and armed robbery because he and a gang of thugs went into the room where sports memorabilia was being sold. And he said, this is my stuff. I’m just here to reclaim it, but did so – he wasn’t, he didn’t have a handgun himself, but the people he was with, his little gang there, were armed. And so he was sentenced to jail. He served eight or nine years in prison because of this out in Nevada. And he came out of prison. And when he did, when he was paroled, this was like a major event covered in real time by cable news organizations and others. It was, it was a big event.
00:29:46 O.J.’s release from prison and he has proven to be, I dunno, remains to be in a perverse way, an intriguing character. He’s– now that he’s out and sort of on his own, he’s, he’s hanging out in Las Vegas, keeping out of trouble for the most part. He has a Twitter account now, and so he’s online and people almost immediately had nearly a million followers and probably has more than that now. And so he’s, he’s still a figure. He’s a high, reasonably high-profile figure. People, people recognize him. He was a well-known and popular athlete. He was a, was a pitch man for Hertz, for Hertz rental car. He was a so-so movie actor. So there’s a lot of popular cultural elements that relate to O.J. Simpson that people remember and sort of continued to be fascinated by.
00:30:44 Plus they’re fascinated I think by how he beat the rap. How did he, I mean, he was accused of this. Most people believe he killed, killed his former wife and Ron Goldman in a, in a brutal knife – knife attack. How did he get away with that? How did he beat that rap? Especially when there’s so much evidence, DNA-based evidence against him? How was he able to, to win acquittal? And it was largely because of his skilled, highly skilled and very imaginative defense team led by Johnnie Cochran, who developed a defense that really turned the case around, made it a trial about, about police conduct or police misconduct and effectively shredded the prosecution’s best evidence, i.e., its DNA evidence because there was no murder weapon. There was no confession, there were no eye-witnesses to the crimes. So what the prosecution had was a mountain of DNA evidence and back in 1995 DNA evidence in criminal trials, forensic DNA, was new stuff.
00:31:42 And so the jurors in a tough time getting their heads around this, most Americans watching on TV, it was broadcast routinely on American television. They had trouble figuring it all out. The prosecution had trouble delivering it, but O.J.’s defense team had little trouble tearing it apart, especially how it was collected. The sloppy and clumsy way in which police criminalists in Los Angeles gathered this DNA evidence, this blood-based evidence, and it was contaminated. That was, it was really, really pretty shotty. So they effectively destroyed the prosecution’s best evidence in this case and his acquittal by the end, by October 1995, when his trial was wrapping up and the verdicts were announced, his acquittal was almost predictable. It was hardly a surprise, at least to me. I thought there’s no chance they’re going to convict this guy given how they’ve destroyed the evidence that that the prosecution put forward.
00:32:46 It’s a very intriguing moment too when his verdicts were announced, Nick. This was on October 3rd, 1995. The verdicts had been reached by the jury the day before. They had deliberate – deliberated for less than four hours, reached the verdict in, in surprisingly speedy fashion, alerted the judge and he said, okay, we’re gonna have the announcement of the verdict. The readings of the verdicts will be at 10 a.m. Pacific time the following day, which was October 3rd. In the run-up to that hour, to that appointed hour, the country largely stood still and this was a remarkable phenomenon. The New York Times called it a, a moment of national communion and it really kind of was, because everybody stopped what they were doing. News conferences on Capitol Hill were postponed. The stock market dropped off in terms of volume, number of calls placed, telephone calls placed also plummeted as people gathered around television sets and radios to await the verdicts in the O.J. trial and to be in a position of not knowing what was going on in terms of the verdicts.
00:33:56 The outcome of this, of this, of this trial, this supposed “trial of the century.” It was just an untenable position for anybody to be in on that day in October 1995. So the country just shut down for about ten, twelve minutes in anticipation of the reading of the verdicts, and that’s a rare moment. We don’t see that much anymore. We don’t see that kind of country-wide shutdown in anticipation of a, of a, of a major moment. The only thing that strikes me, only moment that is reasonably parallel to that would be the lunar landing in 1999, 1969, and we knew it at a certain hour when the first man was going to be setting foot on the moon and there was huge television audiences for that and television audiences for the O.J. verdicts were not quite as, as, as large, but nonetheless it was a similar kind of moment where everything was just shut down.
00:34:51 People were watching with anticipation as to what was going to happen, what the outcome would be, how this trial would be decided. And of course he was acquitted on both charges and was a free man – was a free man, but a lot of people, in fact, most Americans today believe that he committed those crimes. Nonetheless, he sort of lives with that stigma and, and has sort of lived through it and twenty-five years later he’s, he’s, if not a popular character, he’s kind of a, you know, he’s, he’s not necessarily a reviled character either.
Nick Hirshon: 00:35:38 And you hit on one of the major lasting impacts or memories that I certainly have of the O.J. Simpson trial. As you say, everyone stopped what they were doing and whether it was their ears glued to a radio, standing in a store where TV sets were playing the verdict, everyone really being so fascinated by it. It strikes me that because of our media fragmentation since then, because of the emergence of smartphones and social media and just maybe a sort of disconnect from the news of the day among a lot of people, this was one of the last times that we had this sort of collective event. We get it a little bit with the Super Bowl every year and with award shows, maybe, the Oscars, but there’s nothing quite like so many people so wrapped up in this verdict and relying on the news media, the traditional legacy news media, TV networks, newspapers in their final heyday, maybe unlike today, we’d be turning to Twitter or Facebook for that sort of information.
Joseph Campbell: 00:36:33 Absolutely. It was perhaps the last major news story in the United States in which the internet did not figure significantly. I mean some people were tapping into their computers to get the verdicts, but most people, by and large, were listening to radio or watching on television. I think the New York Times the day after said never before– something to the effect of never before have we been so grateful for, for radio. And it was probably the last time that that kind of comment could have been made. And it was a moment, as The Times did say, a moment of national communion in a sense of we are anticipating where we’re sort of all gathered together to hear the news, hear the verdict, hear the outcome of this, of this widely followed, widely watched and very controversial case and we were doing so on, on traditional legacy media outlets: television, radio.
00:37:26 And so I think that was probably the last time in which that was, that was a reality, because the internet was, was taking hold and, and major events in the future would be communicated by TV and radio, but also online as well. And I think that made it a flashbulb moment. In the book I refer to the Simpson verdicts as a flashbulb moment in which people kind of was so brilliant and so edged in their minds that they remember exactly where they were when this took place, when they got the news of the O.J. trial, they kind of remember what they were doing at that moment. It was one of the two flash bulb moments of 1995, the other being when they heard the news of the Oklahoma City bombing, the federal building in Oklahoma City bombing, terror in the American heartland. That was another flash bulb moment. People remember– tend to remember where they were when they heard that news.
Nick Hirshon: 00:38:16 And you alluded earlier to some of the ways that O.J. Simpson remains in the popular consciousness. ESPN made a five-part documentary mini-series named O.J. Made in America in 2016 and in that same year, the television station FX debuted a true crime anthology, The People Versus O.J. Simpson with Cuba Gooding Jr. as O.J., Nathan Lane as F. Lee Bailey, John Travolta as another one of the defense attorneys, Robert Schapiro. And then you also talked about O.J’s Twitter account, @therealOJ32, and I just want to get your reaction. I’m going to read what he said when he debuted his Twitter account. And as a historian, when you’re seeing these things that you’ve studied from twenty or more years ago, and then they’re coming back up. And kind of what’s your first reaction? So when O.J. created his Twitter account, the first video he uploaded, he said, quote, “Hey Twitter world. This is yours truly. Now coming soon to Twitter, you’ll get to read all my thoughts and opinions on just about everything. This should be a lot of fun. I got a little getting even to do.” end quote. And that last line got a lot of people’s attention. Uh-oh, O.J. said he’s got some getting even to do. What does that mean? But what were your thoughts when you first heard O.J. was on Twitter and you saw kind of the hubbub about what he had said?
Joseph Campbell: 00:39:31 It reinforced my view of, of O.J. Simpson as one shameless individual. I mean this guy who just won’t ever go away. And he was found liable for the deaths of his former wife and her friend Ron Goldman and just doesn’t seem to, that doesn’t seem to faze him. And I think that’s part of the perverse appeal of O.J. Simpson. People still, you know, wonder how he’s dealing with this stuff, how he deals with the deaths of his wife and her friend twenty-five – more than twenty-five years ago now. And you know, he – trying to figure out, O.J. Simpson has baffled many, many people. And I think that’s, again, part of the reason we still find his character, his persona to be so fascinating. And it’s, in a perverse way, it’s, it’s fascinating. But you know, he says outrageous stuff and that comment about when he went on online, on Twitter for the first time, you know, “I have getting even to do,” well, I mean there are people who, Goldman’s family, particularly his sister, Ron Goldman’s sister is one who has been after him in a lot of ways, in a lot of fashions.
00:40:48 She has her own podcast now, and trying to keep the attention focused on O.J. Simpson, whom she calls “the killer.” She and her father refer to Simpson, not by name, but as “the killer” or “the murderer.” And so this is one way in which pot continues to be stirred all the time. Right after the trial, Simpson, in 1995, right after the trial, Simpson released a statement saying that he would devote the rest of his life to tracking down the killer or killers of Ron and Nicole, Nicole Brown Simpson being his former wife, because he said they’re out there somewhere. And it was such a – a shameless statement, an empty pledge that he had clearly no intent of keeping, but nonetheless, it’s emblematic of some of the, of some of the wild stuff that he, he’s inclined to say and, and again, to keep the pot stirring.
00:41:44 So the comment that he made on Twitter about, you know, “I have some getting even to do,” it’s part and parcel of that and it’s just sort of keeping this thing percolating as it, as it has for twenty-five years. And you’ve ment – you mentioned a couple of the television treatments of, of O.J. The FX series was, was incredibly popular. American Crime Story was, was in 2016 was, was astonishing parts. I didn’t think it would be quite that popular, have that quite bit of a following. And then the ESPN treatment of, of O.J. and his life, it was also quite well received and critically well received. I had a little bit of a more negative take on those in part because both treatments tended to downplay the victims, Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. They kind of faded away from the centerpiece of, and this is all about Simpson, but not so much about his, his former wife and her friend who were, who were so brutally killed and who most people believe he did it. And in fact, the civil trial in 1997 found him liable in those deaths. So the, how the victims have become minimized and diminished is, is something that I, I really had trouble with in both the ESPN treatment and the FX series.
Nick Hirshon: 00:43:11 Another thing besides the O.J. Simpson trial, you describe how 1995 marked the end of the vicious war in Bosnia. You call it Europe’s deadliest and most appalling conflict in forty years. And you described how crafting a fragile peace in the Balkans gave rise to a sense of American hubris that we see playing out for years after, maybe in Iraq, Afghanistan, et cetera. What do you mean by this sense of American hubris that was born out of the Bosnia peace accord?
Joseph Campbell: 00:43:39 It was a sense that American power, both diplomatic and military, could be combined in a way that would allow the country to pursue its international policies and diplomatic objectives. And in the years after the Bosnia peace accord, which I think is widely recognized and properly so as having been a very fragile peace agreement. It ended the war, but it didn’t really bring the country of Bosnia together. It’s really still a divided place. Nonetheless for the United States in the aftermath of the Dayton peace accords, in the aftermath of the Bosnian war, it was an, an example of how the United States could, could bring together its diplomatic might and its military power in the pursuit of international objectives. And it did so after this in the, in the later Clinton administration in Serbia, in Iraq, in pin-prick bombings of Iraqi military installations.
00:44:45 And then in the aftermath of 9/11 there was no doubt that the United States was going to, was going to go to war in Afghanistan. And then in the aftermath of that, or a couple of years after that in Iraq. So this hubris bubble kept expanding to allow and to give the United States a sense that yeah, these military missions abroad can be accomplished just as we did it in Bosnia because the United States under the NATO guise had, had conducted bombing missions in Bosnia that led to the Dayton peace talks in November of 1995 so that military might was on display in Bosnia and it was, was projected elsewhere in, in the Middle East and beyond in the years after 1995. This hubris bubble kept expanding as military successes built upon military successes and encouraged even more ambitious undertakings. The hubris bubble finally burst in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. There was this nasty vicious, long lasting insurgency that bogged down the American military presence there and made Iraq quite something less than the success that had been anticipated. So the hubris bubble lasted for a while, but it was a, it was a factor in the aggressive pursuit of American policy objectives abroad.
Nick Hirshon: 00:46:12 So one of the last major events that you mentioned in your book, from 1995, is the first of several sexual encounters between Bill Clinton and a White House intern twenty-seven years his junior, Monica Lewinsky. That eventually brought about the first-ever impeachment of an elected American president. So what stands out to you about those interactions? What made them so salacious at the time and maybe so unlikely?
Joseph Campbell: 00:46:38 Certainly it was unlikely in the sense that an unpaid intern would have that kind of access to the sitting president of the United States. You know, it wasn’t just a one-off kind of thing. There were a number of meetings. This, this affair, this sexual dalliance of theirs began in November 1995 and continued intermittently until like March of 1997. And in addition, there were many, many phone calls between the two of them, which they engaged in phone sex, not always, but sometimes. The amount of time that the U.S. president devoted to an intern, former intern was just astonishing. It really was astonishing. I mean, this guy is supposed to be the what, the busiest person in the world or one of the most busy people in the world. And he’s, he’s finding time for this young woman, as you say, twenty-seven years, his junior? It’s really astonishing.
00:47:39 And the power dynamic of that relationship is so distorted, so out of balance, that it really looks disturbing. And it looked disturbing even before the emergence of the Me Too movement in recent years. Like, wow, what is the president doing with this young, young woman? I mean it – so there’s a lot, just the optics are not right about this in many, many ways. And it’s that remains astonishing. And then how frequently they met in a clandestine way near the Oval Office. Never really inside the Oval Office, but in places nearby the Oval Office.
00:48:25 The lengths they went to, to try to conceal their, their clandestine affair was astonishing and in the end, not always, not always that successful. But – and then, and then he thought he could, Clinton thought he could essentially lie his way out of this when this became a part of a deposition in a – in a separate sexual harassment case, brought against him by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee who accused Clinton of accosting her in a hotel room while he was governor there. And during the deposition, at which a federal judge presided in person, at the deposition, Clinton was asked about this. He quite clearly lied. And lying under oath was, was a seminal moment in terms of setting us on the path to impeachment. And he was, he was impeached for obstruction of justice and perjury and went to trial in the U.S. Senate in January and February 1999.
00:49:35 And it was just an astonishing turn of events. Even, even reciting them now in a very brief way, it just, it’s just, it’s almost staggering that that could have really happened and led to the spectacle of impeachment. The consequences of the impeachment battle – and he was, he was acquitted, of course, as everybody expected he would be. There was no way the U.S. Senate was going to muster a two-thirds vote to oust him on those charges. In fact, neither charge received a majority in terms of support among us senators. The aftermath, though, not only did Clinton serve out his term, but it really left a bitter, hostile residue in which I think we’re still sorting through this. The political landscape in this country is really deeply divided and those cleavages, the bitter cleavages of today in many respects can be traced to the nasty fight, to the storms of impeachment of the late 1990s, which the impeachment battle of course had its, had its origins in the, and the affair – the Clinton-Lewinsky affair that began in 1995.
00:50:47 But the highly partisan, the hyper-partisan political atmosphere that we are living with today in some respects can be traced to, not exclusively, but in some respects traced to the storms of impeachment of the, of the late 1990s. So we are living in some respects with the consequences of having impeached a U.S. president on charges we knew that would not muster a two-thirds majority to convict him. And so that, that kind of outcome, I think, has left – has left its mark, has left a profound mark on, on the American political landscape and we’re still working through it twenty some years later.
Nick Hirshon: 00:51:32 I know you’ve mentioned in your book how Monica Lewinsky feels about this. Every so often her name is listed in some new article about a scandal or she certainly felt a lot of personal repercussions of this and some of that may not have been preventable no matter how the media handled it. But the sensationalism of this, maybe playing up some things that were scandalous for sure, but people have said later on, “Is that really how we should remember President Clinton and the prosperity that he brought about and so forth?” So how do you think the media handled this?
Joseph Campbell: 00:52:07 So that’s a very good question. It’s, it’s very tough to generalize because there are so many moving parts, if you will. There were so many components of this scandal. It was a scandal, and I think will continue to be a dark chapter in the Clinton presidency. It may not be the first thing mentioned in his obituary, but it certainly will be in the first two or three paragraphs, the scandal that led to his impeachment. And as you mentioned earlier, it was the first time an elected U.S. president had been, had been impeached. I think that the media had to closely report this and it was a delicate story because of the, of the sexual components of it all. But when the, the prosecutor Kenneth Starr freighted his report to Congress with the details that were really very salacious and probably not necessary to present the case that he was making against Clinton, I think he said there were like eleven grounds in which Congress could consider impeaching the president.
00:53:14 But when he included the, the very graphic details about the encounters that Clinton had with Lewinsky, I think there was a, there was a sort of turning off and the media can’t really be blamed for, for having reported that. They had to, in some respects. It was, was immediately posted online by the, by the House of Representatives. So this was, this was like, so I think the Washington Post referred to it as a communal moment of, of reading pornography online or something along those lines. In some respects it was, because the, the report, Kenneth Starr’s report was so graphic and so freighted with these details that, you know, and it was, it was immediately posted online that it really was this – the media could not help, but having reported some of this salacious stuff. And it was quite embarrassing to Monica Lewinsky, and Clinton himself has never apologized to her, at least publicly.
00:54:18 And I think there’s a, there’s a real need for that. I’m not sure that she even was looking for that, but he deserves to give her an apology. He really does. Jake Tapper of what is it, NBC, CBS? Anyway, Jake says that Clinton ruined her life, and I think he makes a strong case in saying so. She is still prominent. She’s, she’s trying to, in another way shake off the effects of this, of this scandal, but it’s going to be with her forever. And she’s not presenting herself as, as a woebegone victim by any means. In fact, she writes eloquently, writes well about, about the affair and, and what it has meant to her. But it’s been very tough for her to, to really frankly move on from the scandal. Clinton has had an easier time of moving on from it than she, and I think that’s an important thing to not lose sight of as well.
Nick Hirshon: 00:55:22 Broader questions that I want to ask you coming out of your book. I was fascinated by this part. As part of your research, you traveled to several sites that are related to these events that we’ve described: the federal building in Oklahoma City, the ninth-floor courtroom of the Los Angeles Criminal Justice Center where O.J. Simpson was tried, the Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, where the Bosnia peace accords were reached. How did visiting those sites add to your understanding of the events that happened there?
Joseph Campbell: 00:55:50 Very interesting question. It depends on the site, I think. The Oklahoma City bombing site is – has become – has turned into a very moving and very reflective place where the, the former building site has now been replaced by 168 chairs and it’s called the field of empty chairs. And these are glass and concrete
00:56:21 chairs of different sizes. The smaller chairs represent the younger victims of the bombing. And it is a very meditative site. It is a very pastoral site in the middle of the city. And I think it gives a real powerful sense of the – of the loss and how profound this was, this attack, this unannounced attack in the heartland of America was for the people of Oklahoma City, but also for the, for the people of the United States at large. And, and it is, it is a very moving sight. And I’ve visited there three or four times and it’s, every time I’m very impressed and it’s – it really gives a sense of dimension to the attack and, and its consequences. It also – the field of, of empty chairs as it’s called, the site of the bombing, is also a strange place because the park rangers who were there and who interpret for visitors the site and, and its significance make no mention of Timothy McVeigh.
00:57:30 They make no mention of the perpetrator of this terrible attack. They make no mention of the person who dealt so much death and destruction to this site in 1995, and I think that that’s a terrible oversight. It’s a glaring omission, because you can’t really get the sense of what happened here unless you know who perpetrated, who brought the death and destruction to Oklahoma City in such a violent and unannounced way. And without that, without reference to McVeigh, I think that the site is missing something. It’s kind of empty. As well designed and as impressive as it is in many ways, aesthetically, its messaging is a little, is a little off. And they say they don’t mention McVeigh because they want to focus on the recovery, on the survivors and so forth, and that’s fine. But I do think that there is a part of this that has to be devoted to mention, not to celebrate by any means, but to mention, to acknowledge the disgruntled Army veteran who caused this attack. And it remains the deadliest single act of domestic terrorism in the United States. And so it deserves to be noted, it deserves to be referred to. The history of the site isn’t complete without reference to, to Timothy McVeigh, what he did and why. As I say, this does not have to be done in great length or great detail, but it, it deserves to be noted. It deserves to be mentioned. It certainly does not deserve to be celebrated by any means.
Nick Hirshon: 00:59:22 And when you went to the ninth-floor courtroom of the Los Angeles Criminal Justice Center and the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, any special memories of that or any things that you mentioned in your book? I know that in the book you describe how when you were in that courtroom, there was a framed copy, I believe, the front page of Newsweek with Judge Lance Ito resting his chin on his palm, listening to testimony, I suppose, in the O.J. Simpson trial. And you said it’s still looked very drab like it had on TV all those years ago. But any memories of being there and anything that you were able to then incorporate into the book?
Joseph Campbell: 00:59:52 It was like stepping into a time warp, Nick. It was like going right back into time, back to 1995, and I had never been in the courtroom before, but of course I, and many other people, of course, had seen images of it and it was like going right back into it. It was untouched, as it were, from 1995. I think since then it has been renovated. And the court room when I visited was not in use any longer. And the judge Lance Ito, who presided at this long and controversial trial, had gone into semi-retirement at least, so it wasn’t being used, but it was so strikingly familiar. It was, as I say, it’s like stepping back into time, a time warp. And it was almost as if you expected the characters familiar to you from having watched the trial will somehow reappear almost to that, that kind of feeling. I don’t know if I conveyed that feeling in the book very well. I think I was a little hesitant to do so because I wasn’t sure whether or to what extent the courtroom physically would be changed in the time before the book would be published and out and afterwards. So I think I resisted the, the time warp reference, but it was a strong, strong feeling. Going into that courtroom was like, Whoa, things have not changed here since 1995.
Nick Hirshon: 01:01:20 Sure, and as we are talking about the public fascination of that year, did you encounter tourists at these sites? Did you see other people snapping photographs, for example, at the O.J. Simpson courtroom or obviously paying their respects in Oklahoma City? And if so, what did those interactions do to your impression of these events and how long lasting they’ve been?
Joseph Campbell: 01:01:43 I had to go through a number of hurdles, administrative hurdles, to get access to the O.J. Simpson courtroom, if we can call it that. And it, because it was not being used, it was not completely shut down, but it was, it was kind of in hiatus, if you will. So I – there was some, there were efforts that had to be made and, and a request that had to be lodged before I finally was granted access to the, to the courtroom. So I was there, maybe with a deputy sheriff or two accompanying me, but otherwise there were no tourists. At the Oklahoma City bombing site, the field of empty chairs, that is very moving and there are people there at almost all times of day and night. At night, the field of empty chairs is illuminated. Each of the chairs has an internal illumination or in the base there is a, there is a light that comes on, and it makes for a very powerful, very moving, and very impressive sight at nighttime.
01:02:44 So you find people both day and night at the site. And some people are there, not necessarily as survivors, but as wanting to bear witness to this and to, and to share in their, I guess, their recollections of the moment when they heard about this attack. And that tends to be a very quiet but very powerful at the same time. My impressions of that site are really, really strong, and I do discuss the site in some detail at the end of the chapter about Oklahoma City and how it lacks this reference point that I mentioned earlier to Timothy McVeigh.
Nick Hirshon: 01:03:30 And then as we move on to the effects you still see playing out today, you’ve described the long reach of 1995, how the events and personalities of that year remain influential, and we’ve discussed a lot of that so far in this conversation – how O.J. Simpson, for example, has inspired the critically acclaimed television series and documentary, all the followers of his Twitter account, people returning to the Oklahoma City bombing site. How do you think other developments of that year continue to exert influence on American life today?
Joseph Campbell: 01:03:59 Well, it certainly was the time when the internet entered a mainstream, entered mainstream American life, and it remains a part of our mainstream. It’s not the same as it was in 1995 because it was very primitive in terms of getting online in 1995 the dial-up modem and anybody who remembers that sound will never forget it, how to make a connection, that digital handshake to go online in 1995. We’re far beyond those primitive moments of connecting online, but nonetheless the internet and its many components and its many elements and facets remain a part of us. It remains part of our lives. It’s a shaping and defining element in many ways, in ways that we weren’t anticipating in 1995. Also, terrorism, as we’ve discussed, domestic terrorism reached deep into the American heartland in 1995 and did so with devastating effect and we’re still reacting in some respects to terrorist attacks and very wary about the this, the prospect of terrorist attacks, be they international terror events or the kind of 9/11. We’re on guard against that.
01:05:05 We’re also on guard against the repeat of Oklahoma City-type bombings and also mass shootings. I mean that’s, that’s become kind of a national preoccupation as well. And we’ve discussed in some detail how the trial of the century did enthrall and command attention of Americans of all walks of life throughout the trial, especially at the end. And it also gave rise to an understanding about the importance and power of forensic DNA. And DNA evidence has entered the popular mainstream as well. I mean, lots of people, many people are, you know, having DNA tests run to, to figure out their, their heritage, their background, their ancestry, and in some respects DNA was introduced at the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995 and has become a major part of mainstream life. The success at Dayton gave rise to a period of muscularity in American foreign policy, in the pursuit of American foreign policy objectives.
01:06:05 We don’t see that same muscularity quite the same these days. But nonetheless, it was, it was an important defining element of American foreign policy in the early part of the twenty-first century in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. And we’re still living with the consequences of those interventions, of those invasions. And the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, I mean, that’ll continue to be a source of fascination for many, many years. Later this year, there will be a – it’s supposed to be another FX series about impeachment, American Crime Story in late 2020 will talk about the impeachment trial with Bill Clinton, and Monica Lewinsky has a production or producer’s role in that series. So it’s going to be launched, or supposed to be launched, about the time the presidential election enters its final leg in the fall. So it’s sure in some respects that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal that began in 1995 is going to reverberate in 2020.
01:07:13 That’s pretty sure. So in many ways, in many ways, these milestones of 1995 continue to exert a long reach. And I think it would be surprising if they didn’t. If these important moments suddenly were forgotten, or suddenly we did not feel their effects any longer. It would be strange if they were – if that were the case, we wouldn’t call them watershed developments. They wouldn’t be watershed moments. But they were, they were important moments. And it’s important to keep that in mind and I think it’s very valuable to look back and to see how the fingerprints of 1995 continue to be found in many aspects of contemporary life. It’s very striking, and it’s instructive as well. It’s instructive to know where these came from and where and how long they have been with us in important and significant ways. So they all reverberate. They all have effects to this day. And it really is a time, looking back, we can say for sure, yeah, this is when our “now” began, 1995.
Nick Hirshon: 01:08:20 And you’ve made some very strong efforts to keep 1995 and the American consciousness through the promotion of your book. These days, academic presses don’t seem to have the budget or sometimes the inclination to provide as much publicity as they once did. So the burden falls on authors to promote their books largely by themselves. It can be a very lonely process, but you’ve certainly done so very well. You’ve discussed the events of 1995 at the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. You gave a book talk at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., that aired on C-SPAN. And you’ve appeared on radio stations in Baltimore, Cleveland, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, as well as on The Kennedy Show on the Fox Business Network. So how would you suggest other authors go about pushing their own books? Are there any strategies that you’ve employed, things that you’ve learned that you think would be useful to the others among us who are trying to promote media history books?
Joseph Campbell: 01:09:10 I’m very glad you asked that, Nick, and I think you touched on several of the elements that – one thing I tried to do is never say no, or rarely say no to interview requests. And I’ve had interview requests from across the country and even unlikely places in the world. People wanted to talk about 1995. And I’m always happy to do so or almost always. I mean there was some crackpot programming that people wanted me to appear on. Like there was, I don’t know, an online, overnight conspiracy-oriented program and I just, I said, no, I’m not gonna do it. I’m not gonna do it. And they offered me six hours of discussion time. And I said, sounds good, but I’m gonna pass on this one. But usually I don’t pass. I, I accept almost any legitimate request from a media outlet to, to talk about my research, to talk about the book.
01:10:01 And in some respects it’s certainly fueled by my own efforts to promote it through a blog. I started the 1995 Blog in advance of the publication of the book, and I continue to post there periodically, at least once a month, to keep 1995 out there and to, and to promote it through social media, particularly Twitter. And I think authors, you’re right, have to do that these days because frankly presses are not doing it and they may do it for a short period of time, but it’s never as long as the author wants. So an author has an obligation to do that, an obligation to his own research or her own research, an obligation to the book to, to, to let it be known that this is there and it’s available and accessible. I’m afraid that many journalism historians or academics in general are a little reluctant to do that because self-promotion does kind of have negative overtones to it.
01:11:00 I say, yeah, but deal with it and go beyond it. I mean, be a self-promoter and be a shameless self-promoter about it because there’s no other way your research is going to be widely known unless you are out there promoting it vigorously, actively, and imaginatively. And these days with social media, there are all kinds of, I don’t have to say that, but there are all kinds of options that are available to authors and would-be authors to make known their research. Not all of these approaches, not all these strategies are going to work. They’re not all going to result in glowing reviews in high-profile news organ-, ews outlets. But it increases the chance, however small that it will. Plus it makes the author, it allows the author to become more familiar with his or her work. I think if you’re often talking about it, writing about it, discussing it, bringing it into your classes in some ways, it makes it clear to you what it was that you were working on.
01:12:02 And that may sound a little odd, but familiarity comes with promotion. And to promote the book frequently, and effectively, and imaginatively makes you better aware of what of, of the importance of the topic that you’ve worked on and the elements of the work that you’ve accomplished. Because you tend you tend to forget. Some of the, some of the nuances, some of the details tend to be lost to one’s mind after a certain period of time. You lose some of the familiarity but – so this way, promotion is a way to keep to keep familiar with what you have done. And I believe that the devoting years to a research project, which a book requires, I think, you’re right, it’s incumbent upon the author to, to do what he or she can to, to keep that book alive.
01:13:04 Not only to keep it in print, but to keep it under discussion to the extent that it’s possible and to take opportunities as they come along. And never say no, or rarely say no to options, to offers to discuss it in the media, I think, is vital. And finding opportunities means to be a bit imaginative, to look for anniversaries, to look for pegs in which elements that you have written about are discussed in some fashion or another or are– you can contribute to the national discussion or the broader discussion about, about these events and the O.J. trial, the Clinton impeachment. I’m often eager to add my voice to the conversation that’s going on about these and other elements that can be traced to 1995.
Nick Hirshon: 01:14:00 Sure, I mean, as you say, I just think a book, what’s the point of a book if it’s not going to be read, if it’s not going to be discussed? That’s the whole point of making this contribution. Otherwise it was just for us, just for that we could get promoted or tenure, you know–
Joseph Campbell 01:14:12 Now that that’s unimportant. Not that that’s unimportant, but you can do that and promote the book and have it live on beyond just the library shelves or as an online entity. I think it’s– these can live on and live on for years after the publication date. We’re talking about 1995 twenty-five years later, five years after it was published. It’s an example of just how these books and research projects have a life that can be longer than the author anticipates.
Nick Hirshon 01:14:50 Certainly. Thank you for coming here. And before we go, I’d like to ask you one question that we always end with on this podcast and that is why does journalism history matter? That is the name of our podcast, of our journal. And you’ve committed a lot of your time, your career to this. So why? Why does journalism history matter in your opinion?
Joseph Campbell 01:15:04 It’s interesting and it interests people who are scholars. It interests people who are non-scholars. It is, it is part of who we are. It is part of who the field is. It tends to be almost, almost tempted to say it tends to be neglected by practicing journalists. The journalists tend not to know much about their past, about how they got to where they are today. I’m talking about it as a field, not as an individual, but the field has a rich history and a controversial history and in many respects a misunderstood history. And I think that journalism historians have an obligation almost to, not only to write the record, but to clarify the record and to reilluminate elements of the past. So the journalists today have a better understanding of where the field has come from and maybe where it’s headed.
01:16:02 I’m not always a big fan of saying history can guide us into the future, but there is that potential and it’s not to be ruled out. Fundamentally it’s something that interests us as journalism historians. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t just a fascination. And after all we’re dealing, generally speaking, with interesting characters. Sometimes they’re wild characters, sometimes the, the events themselves are pretty wild. These are interesting events. And if we can shed light on them, if we can bring deeper and more accurate understanding to these events, I think we are doing an important task. We’re fulfilling an important job. We’re fulfilling an important obligation to ourselves, to the field, to the academy and to the profession. So those are, those are thoughts that I like to share about why, why do journalism history.
Nick Hirshon: 01:17:10 And I would also just add that it’s great that you’re doing history of recent events, because I feel a lot of people have that connection. A lot of our listeners right now grew up in this time or were maybe, you know, ready well into their careers at this. They remember these things playing out. So history seems much more real when you do have some of those faint outlines in your mind of oh yeah, that’s right. I watched the O.J. Simpson trial. I remember seeing the Bosnia talks on TV or hearing about Oklahoma City for the first time. And also as you’ve done with your research, that means that some of the resources are more readily available sometimes. Or that means that you can interview people who are still alive who were part of that. Yes, sometimes there is a criticism that we’re doing this a little bit too soon and we don’t yet know the full impact of these events ’cause that’s going to play out over a few generations. Perhaps if you were doing research about something a century ago, you’d have more of that crystallization of what eventually happened, but the availability of things at the time that might later on fade away and certainly the people at the time are not going to be around forever. I think it’s important to kind of document that before it’s lost.
Joseph Campbell: 01:18:03 I agree. The recent past is fascinating. One drawback of researching the recent past is that you run into people who, a lot of people who remember the past, the recent past and are inclined to be critics as well, so you have far more critics from people who remember the history than, than say a hundred years or so ago, and so everybody’s a critic when you’re dealing in the recent past, it seems. It’s also true that you do need critical distance. You do need the passage of time to begin to assess the impact and significance of particular events or particular developments, particularly individuals or a particular year. But some years you know right away are going to be remembered as important, as vital, as decisive years. And 1995 has some of those elements. The Oklahoma city bombing, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, the emergence of the internet, looking back twenty years, twenty-five years, you have a sense that yes, these are important events and they are going to continue to influence American life and American history for quite a while. So critical distance is great, but, and you do need it, that’s for sure. But sometimes you just know it’s going to be important. People knew that 1968 was going to be a, you know, a vital year, a decisive year, a memorable year.
Nick Hirshon: 01:19:31 Certainly. Well. Thank you for taking us back on this journey to a time a lot of us remember to the days of pogs and the Macarena and Brad Pitt as the sexiest man alive, and also all of these other seminal events that you’ve done so much research on. Thank you, Joe, for joining us on the Journalism History podcast.
Joseph Campbell: 01:19:49 Thank you, Nick. It’s been a real pleasure. I enjoyed chatting with you.
Nick Hirshon: 01:19:53 Thanks for tuning into this episode of the Journalism History podcast, and additional thanks to our sponsor, American University’s School of Communication, and to Taylor and Francis, the publisher of our academic journal, Journalism History. Until next time, I’m your host, Nick Hirshon, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow, “Good night, and good luck.”