Studies in Newspaper and Periodical History: 1995 Annual

By Michael Harris ; Tom O'Malley | Go to book overview

Left gradually gave way to general items in such areas as international affairs and the economy. This, in turn, prompted a qualitative change in the tone of the remaining items on the New Left -- one that indicated a heightened sense of estrangement over time. The one-time trumpet of the Left had, for all purposes, become mainstream.

Commentators maintain that the mainstream media in our society specialize in conveying national ideology; they don't challenge the main structures, ideas and established institutions to which their fortunes are attached. 53 Although the magazine did remain honest and, to an extent, critical of society, its reporting frame changed from one of advocacy to one of mere description of changes proposed by elements of the New Left. Nonetheless, as Donald Pember argues, "It no longer seems to be on the edge of a counterculture movement, but then there may not be a counterculture or movement to be on the edge of anymore." 54

Social changes notwithstanding, it's clear that Rolling Stone's market success was closely paralleled by a distinct mainstream thrust in its editorial scope and content. By leading toward conformism and providing little basis for a critical underground appraisal of society, Rolling Stone was effectively helping maintain the social status quo upon which its growing market share was based.

It seems, then, that the role of audience dynamics is immutable. A magazine seeking to exploit mass markets must necessarily espouse a relatively conservative, inoffensive viewpoint with respect to leftist politics. Such market forces bind much more powerfully than those related to history or advocacy. Further research should assess similar changes in coverage associated with other U.S. underground publications that survived the Vietnam War era.


NOTES
1
By the 1960s, the social base of this oppositionary "New Left" movement had shifted away from farmers and laborers to blacks, students, youth and women. See Todd Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 2.
2
Edwin Emery and Michael Emery, The Press in America ( Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1978), 379.
3
Lawrence Downie, The New Muckrakers ( Washington, D.C.: New Republic Press, 1976).
4
Michael Schudson, Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers ( New York: Basic Books, 1977), 187.
5
Gitlin, Whole World is Watching.
6
Emery and Emery, The Press in America,379.
7
Robert Glessing, The Underground Press in America ( Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), 7.

-196-

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