Missing a Massacre
Seymour Hersh was surprised by a representative officer’s reaction when he asked about the My Lai massacre: “I’ll never cease to be amazed that it hasn’t been written about before.” In an article adapted for CJR’s Winter ’69-’70 issue, Hersh wrote that “the notion that those men thought that the press had somehow fallen on the job is, well, significant.” In early September 1969, the AP briefly reported that Lieutenant William Calley would be charged with the murders “of an unspecified number” of Vietnamese civilians. It brought no follow-up. Hersh got on the story after a late-October tip; rejected by both Life and Look, Hersh published with the left-leaning Dispatch News Agency.
• Christian Science Monitor’s Robert Cahn, reporting on national parks, wins the first Pulitzer for work on an ecological issue.
• The Saturday Evening Post, once America’s most popular weekly magazine, suspends publication.
• Scanlan’s Monthly publishes Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” the first work described as Gonzo journalism.
• Newsweek’s female employees complain they are “forced to assume a subsidiary role,” and file a landmark discrimination suit.
A Pleistocene Pamphlet
The May/June ’71 CJR had a critique by eight female student journalists of a pamphlet from the Associated Press Managing Editors dripping with sexism (example: a woman’s sensitivities mandate “one-fourth of the criticism” given to male reporters). That fall, CJR ran the APME’s official response, contending the students’ feminism was “a hobbyhorse teetering to destination nowhere”:
A woman’s womanness shows up consistently… . In the newsroom she does extremely well on bread-and-butter news stories and often is unexcelled on features delineating people’s doings. If you assign her to unravel a complicated financial story she is apt to fall apart… . Women become excellent copy editors. They are patient, careful, cheerful, and the repetitive nature of the work does not seem to bother them.
We had no right not to print it. How could we say to ourselves that we have this information, which we do not consider classified, not bearing on military security; it is a treasure house of, not secrets, but insights into the process of government, and then say, sorry we’ll keep it to ourselves. That is not what the American press is all about.
—New York Times editor A. M . Rosenthal, interviewed about the Pentagon Papers,
Cable TV could change the way Americans live.
By installing a strip of copper wire within an sheath only slightly larger than a lipstick tube, one can bring to every home two-way, broad-band communications that can provide a whole galaxy of news services. These could encompass facsimile reproductions of documents, including possibly newspapers, magazines, and specialized information services
—from Stuart F. Sucherman’s “Cable TV: The Endangered Revolution,”
• CBS airs “The Selling of the Pentagon,” an exposé of the military’s taxpayer-funded public relations apparatus.
• The Supreme Court’s Pentagon Papers decision forbids prior restraint on publication without evidence of “grave and irreparable” damage to national security
Scribes Unite! (And Criticize.)
Newsrooms were not immune to the upheavals of the late sixties and seventies, as reporters agitated for greater power within their news organizations, and for aggressive and more inclusive journalism. One result: more than a dozen short-lived regional journalism reviews, which gave journalists, at some career risk, a platform to pique their employers. In special sections in 1971, ’72, and ’73, CJR published the best of their work. The movement that inspired the publications proved to be as ephemeral as the outlets; a writer in CJR’s November/December ’76 issue noted that, by then, “the reporter power ‘movement’ seemed little more than a memory.”
• Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward produce first joint Washington Post story on Watergate burglary.
• Branzburg v. Hayes hints at a constitutional basis for a journalist’s testimonial privilege.
• Tom Wolfe publishes The New Journalism anthology.
• Lansing, Michigan’s ACLU chapter begins a successful drive to have WJIM’s broadcast license revoked for blacklisting local politicians from TV coverage.