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The Voice of America

Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism

Mitchell Stephens

St. Martin's Press

The Voice of America Download image

ISBN10: 1137279826
ISBN13: 9781137279828


336 Pages



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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.


Praise for The Voice of America

"Among the celebrated people in America in the 1920s and ’30s were Franklin Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Babe Ruth, Shirley Temple, Jack Dempsey, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby—and Lowell Thomas. All those names still resonate—except Thomas, for decades the ‘Voice of God’ in network newscasting . . . Now Mitchell Stephens, an accomplished chronicler of journalism, has resurrected Thomas."—The Wall Street Journal

"Will take you into the fascinating life, times, and adventures of the man who was considered the most famous reporter of his time . . . If we want to know where our modern media is going, we definitely need to understand where it came from."—Bustle

“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

"An excellent book. Refreshingly honest. Stephens manages to contain that extraordinary life within 400 pages, without becoming his subject's cheerleader. I learned so much."—Bob Edwards, host of Morning Edition on NPR

"This books preserves Thomas's place in American history and will be welcomed by historians and broadcasters."—Library Journal

"A quintessentially American story, Thomas’ combination of P. T. Barnum and Walter Cronkite makes for first-rate reading."—Booklist

"Stephens captures the swashbuckling spirit of this early journalist [ . . . ] an entertaining look at a unique journalist."—Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


A Portrait of the Journalist as a Young Cowboy

Victor, Colorado, the gold-rush town where Lowell Thomas was raised, was a rough-and-tumble place. It had its ambitions: Victor managed to build and sometimes fill an almost-grand,...

About the author

Mitchell Stephens

Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism in the Carter Institute at New York University, is the author of A History of News, a New York Times “notable book of the year.” Stephens also has written several other books on journalism and media, including Beyond News: The Future of Journalism and the rise of the image the fall of the word. He also published Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World. Stephens was a fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He shares Lowell Thomas’ love of travel and had the privilege of following Thomas' tracks through Colorado, Alaska, the Yukon, Europe, Arabia, Sikkim and Tibet.

Richard Moulton

Mitchell Stephens

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