In mom’s era, the press was tough, balanced - Steve Hansen - Mobile

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


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.