The Press on the Home Front
The last fifty years have taught something to the American press. It has learned that overtone and innuendo sell a lot of papers, that a sex-angle will keep a run-of-the-mill murder story alive for weeks. The right to sensational journalism is indisputable. Newspapers are a business like any other business, and like any other business they depend on public demand. Freedom of the press pre-supposes variety in journalism, and it's the job of the individual to weed the good from the bad. But when the press distorts this freedom by reporting a war effort with the same kind of "color" it applies to Hollywood blurbs, we may question its patriotism and suspect untimely pre-occupation with the circulation-sheets.
Of late, newspapers have been noticeably long on mud-slinging in their news and Washington columns, and short on constructive comment from the editorial page. They abound with insidious feature material to imply that because Mayris Chaney has danced in night clubs she is unfit for civilian defense, that because Melvyn Douglas is a Hollywood box-office star we must discount his impressive record as administrator and youth-sponsor, that because Jane Seaver is an acquaintance of Eleanor Roosevelt she is incapable of work in national morale.
Admittedly, the OCD--like other defense agencies--contains defects which it is the duty of the press to expose. But this expose should be engineered with a constructive purpose in view--the ultimate strengthening of America's war effort. Propagating rumors about what Eleanor privately thinks of William Knudsen not only loses sight of this objective, but actively weakens defense and upsets morale. The shortcomings of OCD and the defense program in general are only intensified by scandal-mongering, where they could be alleviated by specific editorial suggestion. Apparently, the press need be reminded that there are more important ends than selling papers, and that "yellow journalism" may be doing much to sabotage the very freedom under which it thrives.