ISBN 0394712412 - Great non-fiction is something I'm always looking for, especially about unknown or little-known stories. Freedom of the press in the U.S., much appreciated and much taken for granted, is a great subject! This book, however, not so much.
In 1924, Minnesota was the not-terribly-proud home of the Rip-saw, a tabloid-esque newspaper that just happened to offend people in power. This led to the passage of the Public Nuisance Law, a law that - clearly - violated the First Amendment by limiting what newspapers could print. For reasons beyond (modern day) comprehension, that law came in under the radar. Even local news didn't cover the passage. No one much cared, or realized, that freedom of the press in Minnesota had been stifled until 1927. That year, the Saturday Press, published by Jay Near and Howard Guilford, came under fire. By the time the story played out, Bertie McCormick of the Chicago Tribune had taken up the cause of the Saturday Press and the case for freedom of the press was on its way, in a protracted legal battle, to the United States Supreme Court.
This is a fantastic and important story, peopled by interesting characters and happening during one of the country's most violent but mythologized eras. Prohibition, gangsters, shootings in the streets. Politicians, a wealthy and well-known publishing family, the spiritual parents of tabloids. A defining moment in the freedoms of America. And the book is boring. Boring! How is that possible!? The blame there, obviously, goes to author Fred W. Friendly. Never before have I read a book so full of potential that was so boring I could've stopped reading at any point. The book is only 180 pages long, with 63 pages of acknowledgments, bibliography, source notes, court records and an index. The brevity of the book would make it seem improbable that there would be time to be dull, but Friendly found it.
As a last note, if you're going to buy a copy, I'd avoid the 1981 paperback edition from Vintage Books / Random House - the spine's glue on several copies has dried out and the covers fall off. Personally, I'm going to give ISBN 0873514947 Newspapers on the Minnesota Frontier a whirl and see if that's better.