Rutgers professor receives prestigious literary award for 'Republic of Spin' book


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School of Communication and Information professor David Greenberg will receive the Orwell Award for his work on “Republic of Spin.”


David Greenberg, a professor in the departments of History and Journalism & Media Studies was awarded the National Council of Teacher of English Orwell Award in October for his book, Republic of Spin. 

The annual award is given to writers who make a remarkable contribution to the analysis of public discourse and societal issues. 

“It came as a complete surprise. It’s nice to receive recognition after many years of hard work,” Greenberg said.

The award is in honor of acclaimed British novelist and essayist George Orwell. Orwell’s body of work challenges the principles of language and the ethics of political systems, he said.

Greenberg said he admires Orwell and his work, describing him as "in the pantheon of secular saints." Being able to receive an award with his name on it was an immense honor for the professor, he said.

Greenberg’s book covers more than 100 years of politics, and the evolution of the spin machine in the White House.

Spin refers to a set of tools and techniques to shape politicians images and messages, and the enterprise of how politicians form their public persona.

The book covers the techniques various presidents have used over time to increase their image, from Woodrow Wilson holding the first White House press conference, to Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous fireside chats to George W. Bush staging his "mission accomplished" photo-op on an aircraft carrier.

Greenberg worked on "Republic of Spin" for more than half a decade, growing from a fascination for politics and media. The idea for this book came after writing his first book about Richard Nixon, titled "Nixon's Shadow."

The professor said he realized people resented Nixon was due to the fact that his public presence was seen as a facade. The American people saw him as a fundamentally phony politician, using new methods like television, advertising and public relations to promote a false version of himself.

Greenberg then realized creating a public image for a politician was not a new thing. 

“After finishing the book on Nixon, I also had come to see that this didn’t start with Nixon. It had a deeper history, and I wanted to understand when did presidential politics become so obsessed with spin, with image making, with message crafting” Greenberg said.

From here, Greenberg set off to understand the evolution of spin in the White House. He wanted to find out when presidents first started to hire professional speech writers or and pollsters to understand public perception. 

Greenberg described Trump’s use of rallies and press conferences as opposed to giving a speech after winning a primary as a major key to his campaign, allowing the now President-elect to suck in more air time from outlets like Fox News or CNN.

“It’s part of modern life that we learn about politics through our media. I think Trump did use the media in some ways that were innovative, in some ways that helped. His use of twitter helped him gain a real following among journalists, even among journalists who did not like his politics or his persona still found him newsworthy to follow," Greenberg said. "Trump could issue out a tweet and get a news story out of it."


Jacob Turchi is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.


Jacob Turchi

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