posted October 20, 2010

Author Eric Burns to Discuss Emergence of Television in the 1950s

Hope College will feature author Eric Burns with a presentation based on his latest book, "Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television's Conquest of America in the Fifties," on Thursday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. in the Maas Center auditorium.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Burns, a cultural historian and former television journalist, drew on his credentials for his book on how television was first invented, with a chronological history of social events that affected its further development in the 1950s. As television invaded living rooms of millions of anxious American families, actors became unlikely heroes to awestruck viewers, dominating their leisure hours, taking advantage of their innocence, and influencing how consumers spent their extra money. Burns provides an analysis, explaining just how the industry exercised unprecedented power over the average American's thoughts about news events such as the McCarthy hearings, social changes such as civil rights protests, and the roles of women and African Americans. This highly researched book contains a combination of serious topics and humorous anecdotes, plus a bibliography.

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of "NBC Nightly News" has said of the book, "Eric Burns, a bona fide TV historian, has pulled off a difficult task - he has brought our early, grainy television history to life in living color."  Actor Richard Thomas praised the book, noting, "Eric Burn's book is delightfully entertaining and richly informative. As a lifelong consumer and perpetrator of television programming, I consider it essential reading."

Burns' recent books also include "All the News Unfit to Print: How Things Were and How They Were Reported," "Virtue, Valor and Vanity: The Founding Fathers and the Pursuit of Fame," and "The Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco." Among others, he has written for the "Reader's Digest," "Weekly Standard," "Family Circle," "TV Guide" and "the New York Post."  Beyond writing, Burns has hosted many shows, including Fox News Watch (a weekly, media review), CNBC's "Talk Live" and A&E's "Arts & Entertainment Review." Burns has also been a freelance writer, playwright and media consultant for National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

"Washington Journalism Review" has described Burns as one of the best writers in the history of broadcast journalism.  Winner of numerous awards, he most recently received the Eudora Welty prize for his newest play, titled "Mid-Struit" and directed by Michael Guidry. "The Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol" was named one of the best academic press books of 2003 by the American Library Association.

The presentation is hosted by the college's department of theatre with support from multiple other departments.

The Maas Center is located at 264 Columbia Ave., on Columbia Avenue at 11th Street.