The Use and Misuse of the Press I
Much was written during the 1930s and after about the friendly relations between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the press. Columnist Westbrook Pegler was typical in finding Roosevelt a marked contrast with Hoover in those relations. "The Roosevelts," he wrote, "put on a show with, apparently, never a dull minute. Though it may be impossible to hold public affections through four years on card tricks and dialect stories, it remains to be seen how long the act will continue to amuse and divert." Roosevelt would "get better than an even break in the papers" because he was liked by the press corps, especially by the women journalists. 1
Six weeks into the New Deal, Pegler found the Washington press corps so thoroughly captivated by Roosevelt's charm that "if Mr. Roosevelt should heave out an old shoe there would be those in Washington who would have the same shellacked and gilded and hang it on the wall and kiss it every night before bed." This popularity was in part responsible for the absence of press criticism of the New Deal, but Pegler also attributed it to the people's unwillingness to face harsh realities and to the tendency of journalism to "adjust harsh facts to the fond desires and illusions of the readers," or to postpone "the truth until the citizens have begun to realize it themselves." 2
Retrospectively, another observer wrote four years later that the press had given more favorable publicity to Roosevelt than to any President, practically doing a Buddha before the man." Every fish caught by the president, every sneeze, every "banality," had been worth a headline. "The wonder," he wrote, was "that newspaper photographers have not run out of [flash] bulbs, due to the
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Publication information: Book title: The Critical Press and the New Deal:The Press Versus Presidential Power, 1933-1938. Contributors: Gary Dean Best - Author. Publisher: Praeger Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1993. Page number: 1.
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