The Path to Public Service at SEAS
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Mr. Grove Patterson, editor of the "Toledo Blade", has set forth the functions of the press in an engaging manner. Foremost in his list is the requirement that newspapers should furnish an accurate information service.
This desideratum is the most important of the whole speech. If the editorials of the press are unsatisfactory, the subscriber can exercise the privilege of thinking for himself. If a paper does not popularize science, the amateur investigator can turn to scientific magazines. But accurate news is essential to the formation of unbiased judgement.
In his speech, Mr. Patterson treated the cramming of news concerning criminals with a levity and lack of logic pardonable only because his audience the New York State Publishers' Association, was already on his side. As an opening thrust, he classed crime news critics as the most avid of crime news readers. Having gained polite applause, he left the subject with the remark that the English press published more penal news than the American.
These two assertions do not pardon the paper which spreads divorce in three inch headlines, savors the front page with a murder, and polishes off the whole with a hero story of bandits beaten off. Such news helps no one save the scandal monger.
As important as giving political accounts an equal chance with those of the criminal is the need of freeing news from editorial bias. Amidst the cross purposes of advertisers, parties and causes, this requirement is an ideal doubtful of realization. Although unwarrantedly bitter, Upton Sinclair of "Brass Check" fame has shown beyond possibility of a libel charge that the opinion of all papers save a chosen few are definitely dominated by the influences of corporation and business.
Against moneyed power, the individual crusader for uncontrolled news can have little hope of success. Either he can enter on a lone attempt to reform the press, or, he can content himself with the laissez faire reflection that since interests are rich enough to control a paper, all sides are represented in the daily orgy of propaganda.
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