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It was a big weekend for the University's Nieman Fellows--79 of them past and present. Under the energetic leadership of Louis M. Lyons; curator of the Nieman Foundation, the newspapermen raced through three days of seminars, dinners, Derby parties, teas, and assorted reunions with President Conant, Deans Landis and Williams, and other faculty members.
High spot of the convention, however, was Saturday's meeting with Russian journalists, Ilya Ehrenburg and Konstantin Simonov, currently touring the United States as a sort of two-man information team. The Niemans took advantage of their trade: what started as an after-dinner speech turned gradually into a mass press conference.
Ehrenburg and Simonov were probably among the toughest assignments the assembled reporters ever had to cover; for they weren't propagandists--that would have been easy. Many of the on-lookers, trained to expect a set pattern in Russian visitors, were jolted at the start by the striking difference in the two visitors' approach.
Ehrenburg was the reporter. Haggard and looking fully his 55 years, not quite right in his shiny worsted, he was rather more bitter than serious--hitting at "the reactionary bourgeois press" (among other things) with tongue in cheek, but not for fun.
No one could took more like a play-Wright than Simonov, the prize, winning dramatist. Tall and filled-out, with slicked hair and a small moustache, he relaxed in his custom-looking gray flanuels and checked sport jacket. Both smoked at undernourished-looking cigars, spoke through interpreters (though Ehrenburg threw in some French for spice).
What made the two Russians strange and a little difficult for many to understand was their standards of patriotism, a standard that must have left the United States before the turn of the 18th century. Someone asked Ehrenburg whether or not he could safely criticize a decision of his government.
"Journalists in the USSR have an inner censorship," he said. "We realize that our position is like the position of of other countries at war. Our people are united. We are as positive of our course as you were at Pearl Harbor. It is our newspaperman's credo to support his country despite what he thinks."
Ehrenburg was strong, too, on the subject of Fascism. "We don't want to impress our ideas on anyone," he said, "Those in the United States who attack the Soviet are really not anti-Russian; they are pro-Fascist and anti-American. We must agree on the answer to one question: 'do we want Fascism?' Fascism is a cuit of brute force which says one nation is better than another because of the color of its skin or the shape of its nose."
Simonov added a word about national policy in answer to a question about the chauvinism of the Russian press: "If I thought American press slander of the U.S.S.R. were typical of the United States, I should never have come to visit you.
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