The Press: Intellectual Prostitutes

by Hardly Waite


Responding to a toast to the "free press,"  near the end of his illustrious career, John Swinton, former Chief of Staff of the New York Times, told an assembly of newsmen at the New York Press Club:

     There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an
     independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you
     who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know
     beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for
     keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with. Others
     of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who
     would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the
     streets looking for another job.

     If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper,
     before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of
     the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to
     vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his
     daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting
     an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men
     behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and
     we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the
     property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes. 

When recently I  heard a National "Public" Radio commentator deny that any content-limiting pressure whatever was imposed upon NPR personnel, I said: "Ha, Ha, Ha."


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