• Alex Jones dissects Louisville Courier-Journal owners’ decision to sell in “The Fall of the House of Bingham”.
• Bill Cox, managing editor of the Honolulu Star Bulletin, reveals he has AIDS.
• The Miami Herald cripples Gary Hart’s presidential campaign by reporting on his infidelities.
• The Federal Communications Commission repeals the Fairness Doctrine, saying it is unconstitutional and ineffective.
Amid the chain consolidations of the eighties, Doug Underwood’s March/April ’88 CJR article, “When MBAs Rule the Newsroom,” captured an uneasy time. Editors “have begun to behave more and more like the managers of any other corporate entity,” focusing on marketing, readership surveys, budgeting, and management training. Underwood wrote that many reporters, used to employers that nurtured idiosyncrasies, independence, and irreverence, now felt unwelcome. Journalists complained that stories unappealing to target demographics were being given short shrift, and that personnel concerns were eating up midlevel editors’ time at the expense of copy. A seasoned Seattle Times reporter said he was denied a promotion after a company psychologist judged him a poor fit for the era, concluding he showed “little interest in paperwork or bureaucratic routine.”
• The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes “The Color of Money,” a series on redlining and a hallmark in datadriven reporting.
• Supreme Court’s Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier decision curtails student journalists’ free-speech rights.
• The New Yorker publishes Janet Malcolm’s “The Journalist and the Murderer”.
• Time Inc. and Warner Communications merge, creating the world’s largest media company.
Since Oliver North’s trial, I have talked to more than a dozen of the reporters who have methodically tried to connect the dots to fill in the Iran-contra picture. Their strongest complaints were reserved for their peers—those editors and colleagues who treated the subject of constitutional violations as academic or, worse, trivial, precisely because Congress had not responded with outrage. The press seemed to share, rather than challenge, Congress’s willingness to pass the buck.
—from Scott Armstrong’s “Iran-Contra: Was the press any match for all the president’s men?”
• PBS airs “Inside Gorbachev’s USSR,” a series by Hedrick Smith and Martin Smith detailing perestroika.
• Bloomberg expands its information services to include Bloomberg News, a financial wire service
Where is the right place to cover a war? After the Gulf War had ended, CJR’s May/June ’91 issue presented at least four perspectives. Christopher Hanson of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer joined a Pentagon-controlled (and censored) press pool usually far removed from the battle, sarcastically noting that “at least we got to be part of the big adventure.” New York Times reporter Chris Hedges described quitting the pool system to become a “unilateral,” and donning a uniform and a military haircut to blend in among soldiers “who violated orders to allow us to do our job.” Another article judged CNN correspondent Peter Arnett’s decision to report from Baghdad under the thumb of Saddam Hussein’s press minders as a “close call.” And Michael Massing argued that the press’s front line ought to have been in Washington, where there was digging to be done: “This war needed fewer David Halberstams and more I. F. Stones.”
• There Are No Children Here, Alex Kotlowitz’s book about a family in a Chicago housing project, is published.
• In Masson v. New Yorker, the Supreme Court finds that quotations that distort the speaker’s meaning can be defamatory.
• Philadelphia Inquirer investigative team Don Barlett and Jim Steele publish “What Went Wrong,” their look at America’s weakening middle class.
• Arthur Sulzberger Sr. appoints Arthur Sulzberger Jr. publisher of The New York Times.
• Kevin Carter photographs a vulture stalking an emaciated Sudanese girl.
• Riding the Silicon Valley wave, Wired launches and breaks even in its first year.