The Press and World Affairs

The Press and World Affairs

The Press and World Affairs

The Press and World Affairs

Excerpt

The scientific study of public opinion is still in its infancy. To the development of that study I believe that Dr. Desmond has made a contribution of signal interest and illumination. He has the advantage of a practical newspaperman's first-hand experience of how news is gathered and presented, as well as the academic training necessary to assess the meaning of that experience. His book brings a wealth of material for the student of affairs, here, as I believe, gathered together in reasonable compass for the first time. To have organized into a coherent and orderly whole this massive body of facts will, I think, be everywhere recognized to be a service of outstanding importance.

The reader will not go far in Dr. Desmond's pages before he sees that getting the truth in foreign news is a matter of intricate complexity. There is unconscious deception in reporting, as well as conscious deception; which of the two is responsible for the greater amount of false judgments it would be difficult to say. It is clear enough that the simple hopes of a "free" press as a source of right opinions, hopes with which Jeremy Bentham and his disciples started, are unlikely to be fulfilled in any period of time we can foresee.

There are four things which need to be understood by the average reader of the newspapers: (1) that there is no government in the world not engaged in "weighting" the news in its own interest; (2) that there are many news-gathering organizations, some of which add their own bias to what they report; (3) that correspondents have what Mr. Justice Holmes called their "inarticulate major premisses" which necessarily color the reports they send; and (4) that the editorial offices have also their own special values to contribute to the work of selection and presentation of news. Once these points are generally appreciated, per-

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