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One Day at a Time: Newspapers and the Great Influenza of 1918


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One Day at a Time: Newspapers and the Great Influenza of 1918

Timothy Stephens

The largest death event in history is the Great Influenza of 1918-1919. These influenza deaths occurred while the world was in the turmoil of the Great War. The United States did not immediately join the fighting, leaving the fighting between the European monarchs. One Day at a Time documents how the Influenza was experienced by Americans through their newspapers. There were more newspapers, owned by more publishers, published in more languages, advertising to and addressing more ethnicities than at any other time in U.S. history. Newspapers that were partisan, pervasive and local. Influenza was but one topic and other concerns (the cost and availability of food, immigration, conscription, and racial violence) commanded coverage even as millions of column inches were devoted to the Great Influenza.

About the Author
Timothy Stephens has a distinguished career in public health preparedness. He was a founder of the Emergency Services Coalition for Medical Preparedness. Tim has provided strategic planning and advice to the National Governors Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Ambulance Association, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency among other organizations. He has held numerous executive positions in healthcare organizations at the national level, including the MESH Coalition, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), and the National Association of Public Health Information Systems.

He is a frequent commentator on public health emergencies. He is the co-author of the 2020 book on health conditions and African Americans Section 27 and Freedmen’s Village: The African American History at Arlington National Cemetery.

"A work that encompasses extraordinary research and detailed analysis, One Day at a Time provides a unique perspective of the journalistic journey through one of history's greatest public health disasters. Written as it was actually reported, Tim Stephens has captured the essence of media coverage as the events unfolded, day by day. The historical significance of The 1918 Great Influenza continues to have a profound impact on our lives, our scientific knowledge, and how our nation develops its pandemic response policies. One Day at a Time is an exciting historical read, thoroughly researched. Its chilling facts certainly resonate, as we continue to move through the current pandemic we are experiencing."
John J. Walsh, Jr., Ph.D.
Co-Director, Program in Disaster Research and Training, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

"It is fascinating material and I like the way in which [Stephens] places the US experience of the pandemic into the wider experience of the First World War - which is not something that we know a great deal about over here [in the UK]. It is also immensely valuable to have something that goes so deeply into local community sentiments, which would be very difficult for any later period as the newspaper industry has contracted. In this respect it is an important complement to John Barry's focus on the army and the science in The Great Influenza or Laura Spinney's recent work."
Robert Dingwall, PhD, FAcSS, HonMFPH
Professor of Sociology, Nottingham Trent University, UK

"One Day at a Time offers a welcome addition to the Great Influenza literature with a uniquely comprehensive analysis of the newspaper coverage of the day. Stephens uses newspapers to tell a story of how the events of 1918 were reported for the people living through them. Placing influenza in the context of the many other challenges they were facing, the book shows how extensively the newspapers of the time covered the outbreak, one that has been so poorly taught as an object lesson in the years sense. Juxtaposed against the modern pandemic of Covid-19, its foray into the workings of a now old-fashioned way of sharing the news reveals to great effect the many ways we have, and have not, changed. It places the devastating pandemic in context, addressing media coverage of the many other crises and political movements that confronted the nation at that time—racial violence, prohibition, and of course, the Great War. It provides a sense of hope that we can perhaps come through our own moment of many crises and emerge better for it." 
Ellen Carlin
Center for Global Health Science and Security, Georgetown University

160 pages • ISBN: 978-1-933153-40-7 • $39.00 • paperback

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