The emerging theme this week has been storylines and their effects on narrative histories.

I found an interesting essay on how reporting can become seriously warped by attention to story development.

>>When journalists make story choices, they favor narrative elements that are most likely to advance a coherent, dramatic story into the future. In some cases, those choices produce stories that ignore potentially damning evidence to the contrary. These cases typically involve looking away from sources less likely to deliver future installments, and favoring (usually official) sources more prepared to deliver regular updates. [...]<<

What this means in commercial ACW history writing is that those historical developments with the greatest continuity and the longest plot lines that have literary merit are the featured historical events of a given period, especially because good stories attract broad audiences. The rule for popular journalism, cited in the paragraph above, certainly applies to writers of history whose essays would blend seamlessly into any newspaper features section.

The essay cited notes that once committed to a story line, the journalist tends to suppress facts or story elements distracting from the main plotline. This is actually how I got into Civil War history in the late 1990s: (a) buying into major narrative themes and then (b) discovering through variant readings a steady stream of information rupturing the major narrative themes.

One man's complaint is another's source of amusement.

(For the whole essay, click here. Its antiwar perspective is less valuable than the specific points it makes.)