opinions &. ViewsnA Tale of Two Ef (ph)ronsnNora Ephron: Scribble Scribble:nNotes on the Media; Knopf; NewnYork.nby Kenneth KolsonnWhen Thomas Jefferson and AlexandernHamilton squared off “like twoncocks” in Washington’s first cabinet, itnwas understood that the ground rulesndid not prohibit the press from beingnemployed as an instrument of partynwarfare. Accordingly, Jefferson andnJames Madison brought Philip Freneaunto Philadelphia to edit the NationalnGazette, and Hamilton countered bynhelping John Fenno bail out his Gazettenof the United States. During most ofnthe nineteenth century the Americannpress remained unabashedly partisan, anreflection of the quaint notion, prevalentnin those days, that free trade innideas has a way of redounding to thenpublic good.nThis mentality was successfully challengednby progressivism, a movementnanimated by a distinctly antipartisannspirit. The progressives argued thatncities should be run not by mayors, butnrather, by city “managers.” Indeed, thencountry was not to be run by politiciansnof any stripe, but by experts in the sciencenof administration. The progressivesnsought to replace the spoils systemnwith the “merit” system; patronagenwas to give way to desert; the bossesnand grafters were to be sacrificed to thencause of “good government.” America’snnewspapers, having swilled a deepndraught of this progressive bumbo,nsolemnly took the pledge to abandonntheir partisan ways and to maintain anscrupulous neutrality in their coveragenof public affairs. Thus, it came to benunderstood that in order to be a goodnjournalist one had to be “objective,”nDr. Kolson is a political scientist whonteaches at Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio.n6nChronicles of Culturenthat is to say, one had to be a moral andnpolitical eunuch. Ultimately, journalismncame to be thought of as an honorablenprofession, requiring four years ofnapprenticeship at an institution ofnhigher leaAing, or at least at a schoolnof journalism.nTo the progressives it must havenseemed incontrovertible that “objective”nreporting was possible, and thatnthe best newspaper was the one thatnwould most dispassionately publish allnthe news fit to print (another idea thatnstrikes sophisticated moderns as almostncomically facile). But the bubble ofnneutrality was easily burst. For onenthing, critics pointed out that there isna limit to how dispassionate a journalist—indeednany person—can be. AsnDavid Brinkley has observed, beingnperfectly neutral is tantamount to beingna “vegetable.” On this subject Mr.nBrinkley has displayed a candor uncharacteristicnof American journalists,ngoing so far as to confess: “News isnwhat / say it is. It’s something worthnknowing by my standards.”nCritics have also observed that thosenwho report the news are likely to beninextricably mired in an incestuous relationshipnwith those who make it, andnin the United States that usually meansnwith public officials, patricians, plutocrats,nand a motley menagerie of peacocksnand popinjays. When this becamengenerally understood—during then1960’s—the myth of neutrality was debunkednonce and for all. It was thennthat the political left accused then”straight” press of complicity in a “System”nthat was, it alleged, racist, venal,nviolent, and corrupt; in a word, “obscene.”nHow were honorable and conscientiousnjournalists to respond to such annindictment; journalists such as WalternCronkite, for instance, whose tendencynto get choked up at state funerals andnon assignment at Cape Canaveral hadnnnput the lie to his claim of “neutrality” 7nOne thing was clear: there was nongoing back to the blatant partisanship,nor “Remember the Maine”-style chauvinismnof the good old days. That wasnpasse, even at the Chicago Tribune. Butnif the American press was not to benopenly partisan, if it could not be neutral,nand if it was not to be implicatednin an odious “System,” what was it tondo} The question was rendered all thenmore imponderable by the circiunstancesnof the day. If striving for neutralitynwas futile, then how was a responsiblenjournalist to cover such eventsnas the war in Vietnam, race riots in thencities, or violent protest on collegencampuses? The short answer is thatnwhen the gauntlet was laid down, anmad scramble ensued as mainstreamnjournalists tried to prove to their accusersnthat they had not “sold out” tonthe “System.” And when the press lostnits inhibitions about exposing its biasesnit revealed itself, not as a cacophonousnassembly offering ideas for trade inna competitive marketplace, but as anchorus warbling a single insistent note:nliberalism.n1 f there was ever any doubt that thenpress constitutes one pillar of the EasternnLiberal Establishment, that doubtnwas erased by publication in 1971 ofnEdith Efron’s The News Twisters (LosnAngeles: Nash Publishing). Her analysisnof network coverage of politics duringnthe 1968 presidential campaign lednher to the following conclusions:n—The networks actively slanted theirnopinion coverage against U.S. policynon the Vietnam war.n—The networks actively slanted theirnopinion coverage in favor of thenblack militants and against thenwhite middle-class majority.n—The networks largely evaded the issuenof violent radicals.n—The networks actively favored then