A New Deal in Journalism, 1940-1948

By Daniel, Douglass K. | Journalism History, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

A New Deal in Journalism, 1940-1948


Daniel, Douglass K., Journalism History


Milkman, Paul. PM: A New Deal in Journalism, 1940-1948. New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press, 1997. 240 pp. $45.

Most college texts treat the New York tabloid PM as a blip on the screen of media history. They note that founding editor Ralph Ingersoll created it in 1940 to give progressives a voice in the New York press, shunning advertising to allow the staff to remain independent. After losing millions on what Ingersoll optimistically pitched as a sure thing, department-store magnate Marshall Field put his money elsewhere. PM, which averaged 150,000 readers a day, folded even after accepting ads.

Author Paul Milkman, who earned a doctorate from Rutgers University and teaches high school English in New York City, contends that PM was much more than a blip. He credits it with "scores of innovations in newspaper publishing." These included stronger use of news photography, layout and design, color, and graphics as well as championing liberal causes, particularly those of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yet PM: A New Deal in Journalism, 1940-1948 often fails to adequately support Milkman's claims. Its primary sources are numerous interviews with PM alumni and a careful reading of the newspaper. Little use of secondary sources and far too few examples weaken arguments for innovation and provide insufficient context to persuade readers PM was that different from other papers. For example, claims that no other paper covered labor and blacks as well as PM are not based on a thorough review of how such topics were covered by the American press. …

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