Embracing the virtues of modesty and humility, the Amish have long deplored publicity and promotion. Nevertheless, media of all types have focused more attention on the Amish in recent years.

Coverage of the Amish by print media began in the first half of the twentieth century. Media coverage increased dramatically in television and film in the last quarter of the twentieth century. The feature film Witness, with its cast of Amish characters, was widely viewed in the United States and abroad. Filmed in Lancaster Countyin the summer of 1984, Witness stirred controversy within the church when Paramount sought help from Amish people.

In recent years, a television series, Aaron’s Way, and several television movies, such as For Richer or Poorer, Plain Truth, Kingpin, Harvest of Fire, and Stoning in Fulham County, have also depicted Amish life with various levels of authenticity. A documentary abut Amish young people, Devil’s Playground, which followed four rebellious teens during Rumspringa in Indiana, eventually appeared on HBO in the summer of 2004. In a five-episode reality TV series, Amish in the City, CBS featured five Amish youths living with five non-Amish youths in a contemporary home in Los Angeles. Prior to the show’s airing, CBS received many letters of protest, including a petition signed by fifty-one U.S. senators and representatives, led by Lancaster County representative Joe Pitts.

The Lancaster Amish received significant national and international news coverage in 1998 when two youths who were raised Amish were arrested for selling cocaine to other Amish young people. The fact that the Amish drug dealers bought the cocaine from members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club, with whom they worked at a construction site, made the story more sensational. To date, the most extensive media coverage of the Amish occurred in the fall of 2006, when a non-Amish neighbor took ten girls hostage in an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, killing five of them and seriously injuring the others.


Additional information

  • See chapter 20, "The Amish in Print," and chapter 21, "Tourism and Media," in Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt, The Amish. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • Valerie Weaver-Zercher, Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • David Weaver-Zercher, The Amish in the American Imagination (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • David Weaver-Zercher and Diane Zimmerman Umble, eds., The Amish and the Media (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2008).
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