Tom Hanks Portrays a Professional Newspaper Reader in "News of the World"

In News of the World, a 2020 American Western film co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Paulette Jiles, and starring Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel, Hanks portrays an aging Civil War veteran who must return a young girl, portrayed by Zengel, who was taken in by the Kiowa native American tribe, and raised as one of them, to her last remaining family. The girl had lost both her birth and Kiowa families. Eventually, after several dramatic adventures, Hanks' character adopts the young girl.

Relevant to HistoryofInformation, Hanks' character, a former newspaper editor and publisher who lost his business during the Civil War, portrays a professional newspaper reader, who travels from town to town reading the news to illiterate people who pay 10 cents each to hear him read and tell news stories, which he sometimes embellishes. As such, the film indirectly emphasizes illiteracy, and underemphasizes, or under-dramatizes, the percentage of people who were literate in the U.S. in the period immediately after the U.S. Civil War, and who could read the huge number of small and large circulation newspapers published around the country. The film shows examples of actual American newspapers from the period, or close facsimiles, from which Hanks reads to his audiences.

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