Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Media and Substance

I'm reading Dean Acheson's Present at the Creation. I'm about a third of the way through, and it's slow going. But I found this complaint, which seems quite current. Under "Problems of Negotiation," we have "The Press."
What I tried to do in the press conferences was give the men who covered the State Department a somewhat broader view of the purpose and significance of the great policy decisions than most of them had. With some distinguished exceptions, such as Paul Ward of the Baltimore Sun and John Hightower of the Associated Press, they were inclined to bring to the reporting of foreign affairs the same nose for controversial spot news that they had learned to look for on the City Hall and police-court beats. This did the country and their readers a disservice. In reporting news about the North Atlantic Treaty they tended to speculate on what countries might or might not be invited to sign it, what territory it might cover, what commitments might be made. None of these matters was ripe for decision. What I hoped to get them to discuss was the dangers the treaty was aimed to meet, how they could be met or avoided, the relation of the treaty to other measures contemplated - in other words, the place of the treaty in the developing strategy of the West...What most of my hearers would have much preferred would have been comments on the attacks made on these measures by their opponents. That would be news!
The year was 1949.

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