The Voice of America
Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism
Author: Mitchell Stephens
**WINNER, Sperber Prize 2018, for the best biography of a journalist**
The first and definitive biography of an audacious adventurer—the most famous journalist of his time—who more than anyone invented contemporary journalism.
Tom Brokaw says: "Lowell Thomas so deserves this lively account of his legendary life. He was a man for all seasons."
“Mitchell Stephens’s The Voice of America is a first-rate and much-needed biography of the great Lowell Thomas. Nobody can properly understand broadcast journalism without reading Stephens’s riveting account of this larger-than-life globetrotting radio legend.” —Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of Cronkite
Few Americans today recognize his name, but Lowell Thomas was as well known in his time as any American journalist ever has been. Raised in a Colorado gold-rush town, Thomas covered crimes and scandals for local then Chicago newspapers. He began lecturing on Alaska, after spending eight days in Alaska. Then he assigned himself to report on World War I and returned with an exclusive: the story of “Lawrence of Arabia.”
In 1930, Lowell Thomas began delivering America’s initial radio newscast. His was the trusted voice that kept Americans abreast of world events in turbulent decades – his face familiar, too, as the narrator of the most popular newsreels. His contemporaries were also dazzled by his life. In a prime-time special after Thomas died in 1981, Walter Cronkite said that Thomas had “crammed a couple of centuries worth of living” into his eighty-nine years. Thomas delighted in entering “forbidden” countries—Tibet, for example, where he met the teenaged Dalai Lama. The Explorers Club has named its building, its awards, and its annual dinner after him.
Journalists in the last decades of the twentieth century—including Cronkite and Tom Brokaw—acknowledged a profound debt to Thomas. Though they may not know it, journalists today too are following a path he blazed. In The Voice of America, Mitchell Stephens offers a hugely entertaining, sometimes critical portrait of this larger than life figure.
St. Martin's Press