Author: Jean

The History Behind the Disasters

The History Behind the Disasters

The Times podcast: Masters of Disasters: Broken records!

On his podcast, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg looks back on a century’s worth of disasters that changed American life and culture and reveals some of the history underlying them.

Rutenberg takes listeners on a journey through the major events of the 20th century — Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War and other events — that changed the course of life in America and the world. He talks with people who were directly involved, including New York Times reporter James Reston, who was killed in an early morning raid on North Vietnam by U.S. forces.

Rutenberg also looks back on significant events from a century earlier, including the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1912 Panama Canal tsunami.

As you hear from people who are just part of history but not the history that changed the world, you will also see how the news media and people have changed. You’ll hear how the first network news broadcast to broadcast live (a newsreel) didn’t show the events. The way journalists and people today see events might not be the same as they did 100 or 200 years ago. (More about that later.)

Rutenberg’s podcast also features stories from the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that are part of the oral history project he is working on with Columbia University, which has gathered interviews with newspaper editors and reporters. It’s a massive undertaking to record the stories in their entirety. You can listen to the podcast here.

When I heard the title of these books, I thought of the story behind them. They are not just about the disasters and history that changed the lives of people in America but also of how those people tell the past and how we interpret it.

“I felt a lot of that,” Reston said recently, recalling his upbringing in Baltimore, where he was a regular at Howard University until his family decided to move to the South to escape the Jim Crow laws. Once the family was established in the South, he said, Howard’s student president invited him to be the first African-American reporter on campus.

Like many people, he felt a strong responsibility to tell the story of what happened at that time, including the fact that the United States was still a

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