Study Guide

The Fountainhead Journalism

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Half of the book's major characters are journalists or are somehow connected to the journalism field, which probably means something. This book seems all about the architecture at first glance, but the power of the written word plays a huge role in the novel. Unlike architecture, which has the champion Howard Roark in its corner, journalism doesn't really have a hero. Unless we count Gail Wynand as a hero… and his truly heroic action is giving up journalism all together. So what's the deal?

Journalism, like architecture, is an influential form of communication and self-expression in the novel. The journalists we see all let some of their individual selves bleed through into what they produce. Toohey infuses his pieces with his own manipulative philosophy. Dominique lets her admiration for Roark come out in roundabout ways. Even Wynand, for all his pandering to the public, reveals something of himself.

"News," Gail Wynand told his staff, "is that which will create the greatest excitement among the greatest number. The thing that will knock them silly. The sillier the better, provided there's enough of them." (3.1.173)

Wynand's cynical spiel here reveals something of Rand's own view of journalism in this era. If you think the American press has problems today, you should check out the press in the early twentieth century. Unbiased journalism wasn't always widely practiced—in fact tabloids, propaganda papers, papers bankrolled by wealthy politicos, and "yellow journalism" (overly sensational journalism) was pretty widespread. Yellow journalism didn't really disappear as the twentieth century progressed (news today can attest to that fact) but it definitely hit an infamous peak around the turn of the century. You can read more on the history of the press in America here.

Rand was responding to a lot of aspects of American journalism's history in The Fountainhead. She was also tackling issues she saw in Europe and in the state-controlled media outlets of Soviet Russia. Rand used the journalism we see in The Fountainhead to criticize the way media outlets could easily become biased, uninformative, and ultimately harmful. The press in this book has the power to attack people, to destroy people, to sway public opinion in bad directions, to misrepresent things, and to ignore important events.

So what does journalism represent in the novel? Overall, it represents the power of the spoken word and the danger inherent in communicating ideas. Journalism is a key component of the book's philosophical ideas, the book's theme of communication, and the book's view of America and American corruption.

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