THE PRESS, by A. J. Liebling. Ballantine Books, 1961.
From his “Wayward Press” articles in the New Yorker, A. J. Liebling has put together a damning book. But it will hardly surprise his readers who, after all, also read the newspapers, even if with less professional involvement. Nor will it provoke the publishers—America’s House of Lords, Harold Ickes once called them—either to self-appraisal or a mending of their ways. Since the decline of the press has been paralleled by a decline of press criticism, the publishers are not likely to be driven to anguish by one lone voice. More likely, Liebling will be accorded those faint praises the Establishment wisely accords its antagonists.
Only recently has the press felt itself so secure that it would not label the enemies of its privilege as foes of freedom or Communists. Fifteen years ago Robert Hutchins’ Commission on Freedom of the Press, ironically a child of Henry Luce’s beneficence, was urging that the legal liberties of the press should stand unaltered only as its clearly defined moral and social duties were performed. And at the same time, a committee of the U. S. Senate, in the “do-nothing” 80th Congress, was studying the conditions for the “Survival of a Free, Competitive Press,” with implicit and explicit conclusions about government initiatives somewhat like those of the Hutchins’ unit.
Liebling is aware of how far we have come sin...
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