On the press -- straight from the horse's mouth 46 years ago

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"There is no such thing at this date of the world's history in America as an independent press. You know it, and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write his honest opinion, and if you did, you know beforehand it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things. and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allow my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before 24 hours, my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it, and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks. They pull the strings, and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

-John Swinden, 1953, then head of the New York Times, when asked to toast an independent press in a gathering at the National Press Club. At the time the public was excluded from these meetings.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), May 05, 1999


I respectfully disagree, Tom. There was a time when there was a free and independent press. It was when the newspapers were locally owned, reflecting the opinion and feelings of the hometown folk.

Allow me to put here a column I wrote on April 18, 1985 in the Hondo Anvil Herald, a weekly in a town of some 6,000 in central Texas. I wrote the headline, too, and I called it "Killing the goose."

"There was a letter to the editor in last week's paper decrying what the writer claimed were efforts to cut Social Security benefits.

"Near the end of the letter, the writer urged that more attention be paid to the real culprits of the federal deficit--corporate loopholes and deficit spending.

"I would respctfully submit to that writer, as well as to the like- minded, that the federal deficit has grown to gigantic proportions because of profligate government spending ... not because of so-called loopholes.

"While I will agree that the military is often guilty of foolish spending and that it certainly isn't the lean and trim fighting machine it should be, it doesn't deserve the share of the blame it gets all too often.

"Rather, the government's schemes for welfare and giveaways at home and abroad through the years since the Franklin Roosevelt regime have landed us where we are. Common sense would seem to indicate to most Americans that you can't spend more money than you make. Comes the day when the piper must be paid ... and I think I hear the piper now.

"Now, I know these sentiments don't sit too well with the limousine liberal set, and they're certainly entitled to their opinions. What bothers me is that there are a lot of good old everyday hard-working folks who buy the liberal line, simply because they see it on television or read it in the newspaper.

"Too many people, it seems, have forfeited their right to think for themselves, preferring instead to sit mesmerized in front of the tube, nodding their heads when Dan Rather tells them something.

"That, of course, is where we hear the term "loophole." While I've no doubt that a lot of people fib a bit on their income taxes, I look on it as the natural result of an unfair, progressive tax scheme. Cause and effect is a good way to put it.

"Loopholes might be more aptly termed tax incentives, for that's exactly what they are. Certain activities and movements within the system were written into law for a very good reason: to encourage people to put their money into business and industry and, in turn, provide employment and opportunity for others.

"Take away those incentives and you dry up venture capital. Putting money into a new business or expanding an existing one is a gamble anyway.

"Those who advocate removing those incentives should familiarize themselves with the story of the goose and the golden egg ... and what happens when the goose is killed."

There most certainly was a time, Tom, when there was a free and independent press, and it happened long after 1953.

As a matter of fact, I see a renascence now ... here on the Internet.

-- Vic (Roadrunner@compliant.com), May 05, 1999.

'There was a time when there was a free and independent press. It was when the newspapers were locally owned, reflecting the opinion and feelings of the hometown folk.'

I would respectfully submit that under the category of 'hometown folk' the only folk that counted were the powers that be and the editor.

-- Shelia (Shelia@active-stream.com), May 06, 1999.

"The press is free to he who owns one." A.J. Liebling

-- Spidey (in@jam.com), May 06, 1999.

Vic, I thought the quotation interesting in view of the stated position of the speaker. The acquisition of the newspapers in many medium-sized cities by the large media conglomerates, Scripps, Gannett etc. had not then proceeded as far as it has now. Possibly Swinden's office was so high above the street that he wasn't able to recognize the remnants of independent media still existing in 1953.

Some independent voices may still be heard. But they don't reach most people. Some small-town newspapers doubtless remain free, but Shelia's point has some weight -- these papers depend on advertising and aren't likely to chance offending their major patrons. In any case none of them have large circulation and can have little effect on public opinion countrywide.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), May 06, 1999.

I'll tell you the most bought, paid-for, bend-over outfit ever: Cox. To read the Austin American Real-Estatesman, you'd think Norm was the Business editor. Maybe he is.

The most left-wing piece of bird cage lining ever conceived.

-- Lisa (lisa@work.now), May 06, 1999.

Cox is owned by the daughters or granddaughters of the Democratic Party's candidate for (I think) President in 1920 or 1924, whose name was Cox.

It shouldn't be surprising that the Cox papers and radio and tv stations behave as organs of the Democratic Party.

-- GA Russell (garussell@russellga.com), May 06, 1999.

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