Dark Days in the Newsroom: McCarthyism Aimed at the Press

Dark Days in the Newsroom: McCarthyism Aimed at the Press

Dark Days in the Newsroom: McCarthyism Aimed at the Press

Dark Days in the Newsroom: McCarthyism Aimed at the Press

Synopsis

Dark Days in the Newsroomtraces how journalists became radicalized during the Depression era, only to become targets of Senator Joseph McCarthy and like-minded anti-Communist crusaders during the 1950s. Edward Alwood, a former news correspondent, describes this remarkable story of conflict, principle, and personal sacrifice with noticeable élan. He shows how McCarthy's minions pried inside newsrooms previously thought to be sacrosanct under the First Amendment, and details how some journalists mounted a heroic defense of freedom of the press while others secretly enlisted in the government's anti-Communist crusade. Relying on previously undisclosed documents from FBI files along with personal interviews, Alwood provides a richly informed commentary on one of the most significant moments in the history of American journalism. Arguing that the experiences of the McCarthy years profoundly influenced the practice of journalism, he shows how many of the issues faced by journalists in the 1950s prefigure today's conflicts over the right of journalists to protect their sources.

Excerpt

WHEN THE SENATE Internal Security Subcommittee launched its investigation of Communists in the press in 1955, I was about to enter the first grade. Although I was too young to understand the fear of communism, I was keenly aware of the anxiety surrounding me. I have vivid memories of classroom drills that taught us to “duck and cover” beneath our school desks in the belief that the flimsy desks would somehow shield us from the ravages of nuclear fallout. I also remember wailing air-raid sirens that interrupted quiet days as they were being tested in anticipation of war with the Soviet Union. The frequent reminders of the dangers of the 1950s helped sustain public tensions about political conflict.

By the time I reached college age, people were less willing to accept government claims of a Communist threat. Social turmoil brought on by the civil rights movement, urban rioting, the Vietnam War, and Watergate all fed growing doubts about government policies and how those policies were being implemented. Each succeeding crisis seemed to weaken the credibility of government officials and boost public suspicions. When I began my career as a journalist in the early 1970s, skepticism was a driving force in reporting and explaining the news.

It is from this life experience that I approach the McCarthy era. While the pressures of conformity made it unthinkable for any patriotic American to question government authority during the fifties, events of the sixties and seventies provided the basis for understanding the power of . . .

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