Friday, March 17, 2006

Freedom of the Press: A Minority Opinion

Between conformism, McCarthyism and the cultural bald spot that were the Eisenhower years, the mental climate of the 1950s was not healthy. The press reflected it—not because it was healthier, but because it was more choir than critic. Sounds familiar? The great I.F. Stone, America’s first blogger, wrote this column about the media in November 1955. Curiously, when he refers to Washington’s power structure “managing” the news, he cites James Reston, the late New York Times reporter, editor and, columnist, decrying the practice. But Reston was one of the worst offenders of news-management. His shoulders were rubbed raw over the length of his long career from hobnobbing with politicos and currying favor with presidents like a courtesan in Louis XIV’s court. His likes are now a Washington epidemic, with Fox News as an institutional incarnation of news management. Substitute spin for slant, and Stone’s piece could have been written yesterday by digby or Media Matters.

Freedom of the Press: A Minority Opinion, by I.F. Stone, November 14, 1955