Guide The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, 1945-1965 (The History of American Journalism)

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It was game over for metro dailies by 1965, writes David R. Davies.
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The Nieman program, begun in the s, brought a dozen journalists each year to Harvard for two semesters of study, and the founding of Nieman Reports provided a regular forum for press criticism from a variety of sources, though mostly from present and former Nieman fellows.

Readers hailed Nieman Reports for filling a void in journalism, by providing at last a journal about newspapers and newspaper problems written by working journalists. The Nieman class of — published a book, Your Newspaper: Blueprint for a Better Press, in late that criticized newspapers for failing to serve readers by serving instead the class interests of their owners.

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Liebling and Don Hollenbeck. Demand for reprints from newspapers and journalism schools required the printing of 7, additional copies, and newspaper executives across the country praised the issue. Reporters and editors themselves, while often resentful of outside critics, nonetheless also viewed newspapers critically. The numerous critics included Ralph L.

Becky Nicolaides and Andrew Wiese

The vehemence of his criticism was surprising, given the traditional close ties between journalism schools and the profession. He accused newspapers of failing to provide readers with adequate coverage of social, economic, and political conditions; of running biased and distorted news; of reflecting upper-class, Republican concerns; of guarding various sacred cows; and of overemphasizing trivial, inconsequential news. He said most rich publishers wanted to serve the public but had to be taught to do so.

The Inland survey had found that most readers believed newspapers to be unfair and subject to pressure from advertisers and big business. A committee of Inland editors proposed and carried out two national advertising campaigns to educate the public about the role of the press in everyday life.

He decried the common practice among newspaper editorialists to comment extensively on non-local issues in faraway places, Afghanistan, say, while ignoring crucial issues at home. Heiskell persuaded the SNPA to pass a resolution lamenting the decline of southern editorial pages. Southern newspapers, he complained, were publishing far too much canned material and devoting inadequate time and resources to the editorial page. Knight, editor of newspapers in Akron, Detroit, and Miami, publicly debated the strengths and weaknesses of chain newspapers at a series of individual appearances and in trade journal articles.

Sulzberger said national chains often failed to become involved in local issues. Knight responded that chain newspapers were often superior to locally owned journals. Press coverage of the San Francisco conference to plan the United Nations and the Bikini Island atomic bomb tests prompted criticism of shallow newspaper coverage marked by sensationalism and speculative, contradictory news stories. Gehman in the Saturday Review of Literature in Such was the tenor of criticism within newspapers in the late s.

Even as newspapers were undertaking wide-ranging efforts to improve, criticism continued, seemingly from all directions. The critics underscored the need for improvements, propelling efforts already underway.

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The self-examination would continue throughout the s, as a heightening of Cold War tensions and the rapid growth of television brought new challenges for newspapers. The criticism and the widespread efforts to improve the journalism profession, many editors believed, were slowly pushing print journalism to become more responsible.

The critics were indeed harsh, but together with other forces they were pressuring newspapers to mature. The emphasis has shifted from scoop to scope. At the same time, journalistic coverage of one of the most important news stories of the early s— the rise of Senator Joseph R. Newspaper-government relations began what was to be a long, steady deterioration. At home, press censorship was entirely voluntary and overseen by the Press Division of the Office of Censorship, itself staffed with journalists on leave from their jobs.

In complying with government requests to withhold information, journalists prided themselves on their contributions to the war effort. Laurence at the close of the war demonstrate the degree of newspaper-government cooperation. His fellow war correspondents were outraged when Kennedy, on May 7, , filed an exclusive story from Paris announcing the end of the war in Europe. He had broken his promise to military authorities to withhold the information until a government-approved release time.

His articles were withheld until after the bombs were dropped in Japan, when his carefully censored articles were published in the Times and elsewhere. Laurence considered the opportunity to work in secret for the government as an honor for both him and his newspaper. For their part, journalists expected easy access to newsmakers and to information. Such access was relatively easy even in wartime, but reporters and editors began to concern themselves with overcoming government obstacles to news as the United States emerged from World War II. Journalists, through their trade associations, threw themselves into an effort to incorporate free press guarantees into postwar charters of the United Nations.

The goal was to thwart the growth of totalitarianism by spreading democracy through an international free exchange of information, and the establishment of the United Nations seemed to provide an opportunity to lower the many barriers to a free press worldwide. Publishers wanted foreign correspondents to have easy access to news in foreign countries, unrestricted by any foreign censorship. In , three editors representing ASNE toured the world to survey press freedoms and were disappointed at their findings. General Assembly. The Soviet Union was a particular opponent of the U.

He believed that the overall growth of government had increased secretiveness, particularly as power had increased in the s and s in the executive branch, with its numerous administrative agencies and bureaucracies. New York Times correspondent Hanson W. Military officials had tried to suppress, for example, news articles 34 The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, — about the building of a new missile center in El Centro, California, and the development of new missiles. In one instance FBI agents had questioned the publishers of Aviation Week about its articles on the development of a supersonic plane, even though the plane was based on a Russian prototype.

National security could be protected, he said, not by military censorship but by responsible journalists, just as in wartime. Such secrecy also showed a marked increased in the postwar years, journalists believed. The federal Board of Reserve was holding secret meetings.

The Department of State was withholding a large volume of material from reporters. The U. At the local level, a school board in Torrington, Connecticut, closed its sessions and its minutes to the public. Pawtucket, Rhode Island, officials refused to release tax abatement records. The governor of Arizona was declining to release public reports.

Harold Cross, the media lawyer ASNE had hired in to survey the growing secrecy and suggest how newspapers should respond, noted this trend in a report to the association during his first year on the job. For most of his thirty-five years in newspaper law, Cross said, he had encountered few cases involving access to information.

When the U. Board of Parole flatly refused to supply records requested by the Louisville Courier-Journal, the ASNE committee intervened and the records were released, but under protest. Just as a government grown larger and more complex had forced changes in newswriting, it also forced changes in how reporters dealt with sources.

David Lawrence, a newspaper columnist and publisher of U. Journalists now found themselves dealing more and more with intermediaries— public relations people—and thus more subject to manipulation. Philip W. The order, Executive Order , was released September 24, , for use by forty-five civilian government agencies to classify information into categories of top secret, secret, classified, and confidential, the same categories the military used.

Information must be protected, he said, that might otherwise be published by the news media and provide assistance to the Communist enemies in the Cold War. His press conference of October 4, , was devoted entirely to a defense of the order, and the White House issued a memorandum explaining that the directive did not amount to censorship. Truman met with a delegation of APME editors to discuss their concerns on October 17, but neither side budged in its position. Campaigne complained of the order. Pope said in The Milwaukee Journal had printed a fourteen-part series on news suppression by Wisconsin officials.

The Los Angeles News had printed a yearlong series of reports on school boards that operated in secrecy.

History from the newspapers - 1854 newspaper articles

It would prove, however, to be the last war in which print reporters had primacy over their media rivals. As David Halberstam has observed, neither television nor radio covered Korea. The United Nations authorized a multinational force, led by the United States, to repel the invasion.

General Douglas MacArthur was named commanding general, though Truman relieved him of duty in for ignoring White House directives.

The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, 1945-1965 (The History of American Journalism)

About 36, American troops, as well as eleven journalists, died in the two years it took to negotiate peace. Since officials controlled information at the source, reporters complained they had no clear idea of what could be reported. The military provided far less information than correspondents wanted, and facilities for the press to send their stories back home were meager, particularly at first.

For a short time, reporters had the use of just one telephone, and even then their calls were subject to interruption by Army officials, who had top priority. Marion P. Commanders had authority to retaliate against reporters who broke their rules, and several reporters were briefly barred from the front. His political rise, like the growth of government secrecy, was tied to an increasing Cold War emphasis on national security.

McCarthy prompted newspapers to change their practices even as most journalists shared his distrust of communism and the Soviet Union.

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Central to this view were a virulent hatred of communism, faith in the superiority of capitalism over other political systems, and a deep 40 The Postwar Decline of American Newspapers, — distrust of the Soviet Union and its satellites. Such a worldview had its roots in the anticommunism that followed World War I, deepening first in the world crises of the s and s and then in the Cold War years.

Anticommunism was particularly receptive to publishers of most daily newspapers, pro-business by disposition and distrustful of any threat to laissez-faire capitalism, including many of the reforms of the New Deal. The newspaper challenges of covering the political developments of the s and s, then, can only be understood against the backdrop of Cold War events.

Journalists did not respond to McCarthyism or indeed to other Cold War developments to be described in subsequent chapters in a vacuum.