Sentinel under Siege: The Triumphs and Troubles of America's Free Press

By Stanley E. Flink | Go to book overview

11
THE BOTTOM LINES

The press has been talking for years and years and years about getting more minorities in the news room. So they're up to 7%. Big deal! Until you get minorities to some adequate degree reflecting the society at large, I don't think we can report black America or Hispanic America or Asian America. So that's number one. And I guess I just simply agree, as I did twenty odd years ago when the Kerner Commission brought out its report, that we are still doing a lousy job in covering these problems.

-- Osborn Elliott, former dean, Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University; editor in chief, Newsweek

The Civil War had, among its side effects, enhanced the idea of "war correspondence." Large newspapers in Europe and the United States would never again neglect the appeal of stories "from the front" wherever military conflict took place. The ingredients were death and heroism, strategy and resistance, patriots and villains. War stories increased circulation, making the presses run overtime. Blood and thunder enhanced profits. The potential for enormous daily sales had been analyzed by opportunistic publishers in urban areas. The elements of mass appeal were still easily measured. In addition to war, there was crime and corruption, violence and scandal. Such ingredients sold well and always would. Another lesson had been learned, perhaps too well. Inaccuracy and fabrication required neither apology nor redress unless a victim could afford a good lawyer, and libel or slander could be convincingly demonstrated. To say that all major papers were irresponsible would, of course, overstate the case. What became clear was that the standards of the expansive newspaper industry were uneven, ill-defined, and too frequently dominated by competitive venality. For the thoughtful, educated segment of the public that was willing to look for and read a higher level of editorial product, the small, "quality" magazines began to appear and, inevitably, over the last two decades of the nineteenth century included among their concerns a critical examination of the mass

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Sentinel under Siege: The Triumphs and Troubles of America's Free Press
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - IN SEARCH OF A ROLE 5
  • 2 - THE PRESS AND THE LAW 18
  • 3 - MALICE WITHOUT WIT 29
  • 4 - POMP AND PROVENANCE 45
  • 5 - PRACTICING FREEDOM 70
  • 6 - THE LIMITS OF LIBERTY 78
  • 7 - CRAFTING A CONSTITUTION 87
  • 8 - SAFEGUARDING LIBERTY 95
  • 9 - ENLARGING THE FOURTH ESTATE 100
  • 10 - THE BLOODIEST WAR 112
  • 11 - THE BOTTOM LINES 120
  • 12 - TURNING AWAY 140
  • 13 - THE FIRST AND THE FOURTEENTH 149
  • 16 - TRASH AND FLASH 172
  • 17 - THE IS AND THE OUGHT 180
  • 18 - THE CRITICS 188
  • 19 - FEAR AND LOATHING 197
  • 20 - THE WEIGHT OF OBLIGATIONS 209
  • 21 - THE PARADOX OF SELF-GOVERNMENT 218
  • 22 - LIBEL AND LIABILITY 234
  • 23 - FREE AS THE AIR 244
  • 24 - TRAINING THE WATCHDOGS 256
  • EPILOGUEO: PATHFINDING 262
  • Notes 271
  • SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY 301
  • ABOUT THE BOOK AND AUTHOR 309
  • Index 311
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