“My Mini-Watergate”
After CBS News’s Daniel Schorr obtained records of a 1971 FBI investigation of him done at White House demand, he wrote about them in CJR’s November/December ’74 issue, suggesting the episode had presaged the dirty tricks that eventually brought President Nixon down. Conducted under the laughable premise that the frequent Nixon antagonist was up for an executive appointment, the incident was incorporated in the House Judiciary Committee’s articles of impeachment. In 1973, Nixon was caught on tape downplaying, but admitting, this abuse of power: “We just ran a name check on the son-of-a-bitch.”

Jann Wenner seems anything but the embodiment of a counter-culture rock publisher. Indeed, in a dark blue suit, neat haircut, and gold wedding band, sipping Ballantine’s scotch, he looks like a slightly mod salesman for Merrill Lynch. Except that in the middle of an interview, he finished off the scotch, opened his leather attaché case, took out a small paper bag, poured some white powder onto his hand, and started sniffing it. “I hope this doesn’t start making me yak,” he commented rather disarmingly.
—from Peter Janssen’s “Rolling Stone’s Quest for Respectability,”
January/February ’74

• NPR reads 22 hours of Watergate-related White House tape
transcripts on air.

• The Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times’s joint operating agreement is the first antitrust exemption approved under the Newspaper Preservation Act.


• Sidney Schanberg reports for The New York Times from Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia.

• The Robert MacNeil Report, forerunner of the PBS NewsHour, debuts.


• Reporting from the 33,000-circulation Niagara Gazette boosts early investigations of toxic Love Canal site.

• Church Committee on Intelligence Activities claims 50 journalists on CIA payroll—subsequent reporting suggests number as high as 400.


Collective Response
On June 2, 1976, Don Bolles was mortally wounded in a Phoenix hotel parking lot when six sticks of dynamite exploded under his Datsun. In response, the Investigative Reporters and Editors professional organization, which Bolles had helped found a year before, sponsored The Arizona Project, a five-month collaborative effort to investigate the murder and organized crime in the state. Executives at the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times said they didn’t believe in group journalism, and declined to detail reporters.They, along with Bolles’s paper, The Arizona Republic, also declined to publish the resulting 80,000-word investigation. Melvin Mencher dissented in CJR’s November/December ’77 issue, claiming the team had exposed a corrupt “way of life long gone in most of the country,” and thereby “demonstrated the practicality of the team method,” setting the stage for today’s blossoming of collaborative reporting.

Mother Jones reveals that tens of thousands of fire-prone Ford Pintos were knowingly sold.

Washington Journalism Review, later renamed American Journalism Review, launches.


• The Chicago Sun-Times publishes investigation of payola and bribery at the Mirage, a decoy tavern set up by the paper.

The New York Times starts a stand-alone business section.


White Out
In CJR’s March/April ’79 issue, Pulitzer winner Nick Kotz investigated the “shockingly slow and unacceptably limited” progress in integrating American newsrooms. Two-thirds of the nation’s 1,762 dailies still had not hired one non-white journalist; of the paltry 1,700 minority journalists, only 59 held positions of assistant city editor or higher. Kotz suggested that hiring editors wanted recruits with experience on smaller papers, but failed to recognize that such papers might be the most resistant to hiring minorities. The most diverse newspapers owed their success to internal advocacy by minority journalists, who pushed affirmative efforts “to seek out—and when necessary—train promising candidates.”

The Progressive prints “The H-Bomb Secret” after a six-month court delay on the grounds the article would reveal classified information.

Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network is founded.


• “Jimmy’s World,” Janet Cooke’s Pulitzerwinning profile of a heroin-addicted African-American child, later revealed as a fabrication, is published in The
Washington Post

• The Privacy Protection Act prohibits searches of newsrooms or reporters.


Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.