Journalism Reflects Our Culture

Mencher, Melvin
December 2004
Nieman Reports;Winter2004, Vol. 58 Issue 4, p50
This article presents the author's views on the future of American journalism. Journalism is no more in a survival mode today than it was 52 years ago when Louis Lyons and my Nieman classmates worried about how a compliant and objective press was helping Joe McCarthy savage the body politic. Attitude? Anyone recall Westbrook Pegler excoriating Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband? Or Colonel Robert McCormick's Chicago Tribune and the Hearst newspapers on the New Deal? A colleague at Columbia University who worked for the Journal-American in New York told me that the Chief, as William Randolph Hearst was known, instructed his staffers that Roosevelt's New Deal was to be called the Raw Deal. Journalism survived them, as it did the partisan press, yellow journalism, and fiction-writing journalists to whom the reporter's notebook was incentive to invention. If you take time to look at what journalists are doing these days, you would be encouraged. Are there problems? Obviously: We have a failing educational system in which college freshmen work at the level of yesteryear's high-school juniors. Cash-hungry media owners find that paranoid journalism sells well. The stream of well-prepared young men and women from journalism programs--about three-fourths of new hires are journalism graduates--is thinning, as are the ranks of newsroom veterans who had been hired to mentor journalism students but now cannot meet the doctorate requirement.


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