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In mom’s era, the press was tough, balanced

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Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 12:00 am

There weren’t too many women journalists in the 1940s, but my mom was trained as one. She graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Journalism in 1942.

Unfortunately, Mom didn’t have much opportunity to practice her profession. You see, my father was “old school” by today’s standards. He felt it was a personal insult for his wife to work outside the family. That meant he wasn’t “man enough” to take care of her and his children.

Mom fought this cultural battle and finally won in the 1960s. That’s when she got a job as a reporter for a Washington, D.C.-area newspaper.

My mother was quite proud of her profession. But in those days, national news coverage may have been different. Most media people saw themselves as “watchdogs” of government. Today, much of the public perceives them as “lapdogs.”

But is it true?

A recent Rasmussen poll found that only 6 percent of 1,000 randomly surveyed likely voters found the news media to be “very trustworthy.”

Times were different in the 1960s. There was much more investigative reporting done by pavement-pounding journalists. Advertisers didn’t pull their money, and readers didn’t cancel their subscriptions simply because a story was “controversial.” Newspapers were still the primary source for informing the public. Alternative news outlets were quite limited.

Back then, story selection for large newspapers could be more interesting. For example, most editors would not have made a front-page story out of a popular media chef revealing that she once said the “N” word when describing her mugging many years ago.

My mom would have been far more interested in two Internal Revenue Service administrators taking the Fifth. In her time, gangsters who had something to hide used this privilege — not public servants. Mom and her colleagues would have wanted to investigate and find out just what those secrets were.

She would have been outraged by government officials probing into the personal lives of citizens whom they perceived as political enemies. After all, isn’t that what press exposure of the 1954 McCarthy hearings was all about? This certainly would have taken headline news over alternative marriage styles. Mom would not have looked the other way simply because those under scrutiny did not share her political point-of-view.

Mom’s generation would not have gone along with whatever the president said at a news conference. In addition, there certainly would have been more probes as to why our present leader does not meet with the press nearly as much as President Kennedy did.

If four Americans had died in a hostile nation and the story smelled of government incompetence, it would not have been allowed to die on the back page of Tuesday’s paper. The official narrative of “it was a reaction to an unpopular video” would never have been allowed to stand.

Stores about science such as “climate change” would not have been presented with only one side of the story, thus leaving uninformed readers with the impression that there were no legitimate counter-arguments.

Mom has been gone for more than 20 years now, and her press pass was hung up long ago. I’m not sure she’d function very well while working in the national press corps today. Mom was not only an excellent reporter, but highly principled. She believed it was the duty of the media to provide fairness to all sides of important scientific and political issues — not just blindly participate in “me too” narratives, created by the few and powerful.

So, have things really changed over the last 40-plus years, or is it simply “perception”?

You decide.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Eric Barrow posted at 10:55 am on Fri, Jul 12, 2013.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1604

    Talk is cheap. Care to provide an example or is this just the world according to Brian?

  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:31 pm on Thu, Jul 11, 2013.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866

    I see more of how the Left Wing agenda molded how people perceived the Right Wing in Steve's letter than anything else. To this day, it's still the Left Wing that can't handle the fact that Conservatism is still the backbone of this country. Conservatives have mostly been the authors of long term solutions. All the while Liberals being mostly the authors of short term quick fixes that almost always end up creating long term problems.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 12:50 pm on Thu, Jul 11, 2013.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    Dr. Hansen gave up satire a long time ago when someone must have told him he was REALLY, REALLY bad at it - none of his columns were in the least bit humorous.

    Now he has taken up political and social issues and is espousing his right wing views on same.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 9:18 pm on Wed, Jul 10, 2013.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866


    Where's the right wing talking points Ms. Bobin? Evidently you don't comprehend satire.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 7:47 pm on Wed, Jul 10, 2013.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    This column is less about the press being fair and balanced back in mom's "good old days" than it is about Dr. Hansen's right wing agenda and the repetition of right wing talking points.

    I guess good old dad also must have refused to have a television in the house - the biggest up-and-coming means of reporting the news other than newspapers.

    No need for bias - the television made the Vietnam War the first to be beamed into livingrooms nightly and fueled public opposition.

  • Brian Dockter posted at 8:41 am on Wed, Jul 10, 2013.

    Brian Dockter Posts: 2866


    Absolutley. How could one possibly think the news wasn't fair and balanced back then when they were rarely given the other side of the story. They were more likely to take it at it's face value. Now things have changed and we get mutiple angles of a given story reported. Back it the good old days it was almost taboo to report multiple angles of a given story. The Walter Cronkites of the time wanted nothing of it. And, unfortunately, many people today still don't understand if the Fairness Doctrine gets re-enacted we'll have the censorship of the good old days all over again.

  • Eric Barrow posted at 10:27 am on Tue, Jul 9, 2013.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1604

    I get real tired of this good ol day’s mentality what about Randolph Hearst who used dirty tactics and flat out lies to sell papers. He plagiarized other papers and used his paper to influence politicians. Hearst was probably one of the biggest scoundrels ever to own a paper. Hearst died in 1951 so let's stop pretending everything was wholesome as apple pie way back then.


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