Herbert J. Gans was born in Cologne, Germany in May, 1927 and came to America after he fled to England in 1940 to escape from the Nazism in Germany. He graduated from the University of Chicago and received his M.A in Sociology and Social Science in 1950. He then went on to receive his Ph.D. in Planning and Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957. Soon after graduating from the University of Chicago, Gans worked in both private and public agencies as a planner. He also worked at HHFA as the predecessor of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. From 1953-1964 Gans worked at the University of Pennsylvania as a lecturer and went on to become the Association Professor of Urban Studies. He later joined Columbia University as Professor of Sociology and then in 1985 became the Robert. S. Lynd professor. He also served as the 78th president of the American Sociological Association.
His teaching and research has been concentrated in urban and community studies including poverty, anti-poverty planning, social planning, social policy, ethnicity, equality and stratification, the news media, the mass media and popular culture.
Herbert Gans has written several books and articles including the book Deciding What’s News, which includes the chapter, our article, Values in the News. Gans spent time at four major television and newsrooms, watching, learning and talking to the journalists who choose the news we read every day. The book was published in 1979, and Gans found himself writing during the time of events including the Vietnam War, Watergate, urban ghetto disorders, protests and Martin Luther King, Jr. Gans took a sociological look at the country’s news, which answers the question of why there are so many urban society, poverty and minority references in the article.
Many reviews of the book are available and most of them are positive. Despite the book being outdated and repetitive, many claim it to still have relevant meaning and that the message still rings true with the journalism community today. Based on the author’s expertise of sociology, the way he described what he put in the book, why he put it in and why he chose to not include other things proves to be a strong backing for the article. Gans clearly took a view of journalism from a sociologist’s perspective and his motivations behind the article, and the book, seem to be purely academic and informative. Overall, the audience should remain open-minded to his ideas of the need of views from multiple perspectives in the news (covering news that matters to all Americans). Audiences should feel confident in the details provided as Gans cited a variety of actual news reports that appeared in the 1960’s and 1970’s and has been studying the news along with urban and community studies even before that time.
Gans’s traumatic past, in fleeing Nazi Germany, seems to have instilled a lifelong passion to study and improve social inequities that is evident in his career and body of work.