Within twenty-four hours after submitting his budget, the governors had to use television to defend the fee increases. He hoped to forestall a legislative revolt, but his appeal was limited to his television audience and curtailed newspaper coverage. Almost certainly, he would have gained additional support from New York City newspapers.
III. The marketplace of ideas
Officials, political parties, and organized factions use newspapers (and other media) in a variety of ways to put ideas before the public. The formal statement, the official leak, the trial balloon, argument, gossip, and complaint—all serve to market ideas long before any official action is taken. During the newspaper strike, much of the marketplace was closed.
Civic and minority groups complained they were silenced. Dr. George H. Hallett Jr., of the Citizens Union said the strike had a “paralyzing effect on civic activity.” John M. Leavens of the Citizens Budget Commission said the strike “stopped the clock on public business.”
Milton M. Bergerman, chairman of the Citizens Union, was more specific. He said: “We are in a situation in which the nation’s second biggest government, the two-billion-dollar-a-year-plus government of New York City, is operating in the dark, making important and even grave decisions without the benefit of full public discussion and the airing of all sides and shades of public opinion.”
Others raised this point before the Board of Estimate at its January 24 meeting.
“Why do this during the newspaper blackout?” asked attorney Leo Klauber when the board renewed a city lease for the Transit-Mix Corporation, a manufacturer of ready-mix cement, over objections of tenants living in the adjoining Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village housing developments.
Among organized factions—minority groups, special interest groups, and pressure groups—the feeling was strong that their respective points of view were being stified by the strike.
Vito P. Battista of the small United Taxpayers Party complained that the strike was “horrible because things are going on all over the community and we can’t make our position heard.” Roger Starr of the Citizens Housing Council, which often tilts with Mr. Battista, agreed with him for once: “It’s impossible to function in the field of public opinion during the strike.” He complained that the Brooklyn Eagle was running a series of stories on crime in public housing that was “inept, inaccurate and prejudiced.” He said: “Without the regular newspapers, there’s no place where I can answer.”
Even picketing at City Hall did not seem worthwhile without the regular newspapers. Groups wishing to hammer home a point picket because they are assured of coverage. City Hall was picketed just three times in the first two months of the strike and the strike was in its thirty-seventh day before the first such demonstration was staged by the Black Muslims.
The Congress of Racial Equality said the strike hindered its boycott against the Sealtest Milk Company, begun on January 12 in protest against alleged segregation in employment practices. A spokesman said; “It has been difficult to make people aware of it.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said its annual report was “blacked out.” The Commerce and Industry Association called the strike “very disadvantageous” to its efforts to arouse public opinion on public policy. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith called the strike “disastrous.” Oscar Cohen of the league said that it found radio and television inadequate to propagate abstract ideas.
For years, governors of New York have been “leaking” to the press portions of their annual messages in advance of delivery to the legislature. Leaks normally begin during the Christmas holidays but were postponed this year until January 2, partly in hope the news strike would have ended. The leaks got scant attention in New York City.
The New York State Log of The Associated Press reported that the governor’s office also postponed for a few days, because of the strike, its announcement of the appointment of Donald S. Hostetter, a former FBI man, as chairman of the State Liquor Authority. The Authority was under investigation and criticism and the Governor’s office evidently wanted the widest possible coverage of this step to “clean up.”
The offering of names for appointive office is often done through newspaper stories. The little-publicized resignation of James Felt as chairman of the City Planning Commission, following the death of the Expressway plan, left groups interested in finding a fitting successor without the usual channels for assisting the mayor in a choice. C. McKim Norton of the Regional Plan Association arranged a meeting of a group of community leaders to discuss the matter over coffee on the morning of January 7.