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months of the Communist régime the public has been led to believe that it was on the verge of falling. One after another of the anti-Bolshevist leaders was reported as about to win his campaign. Day after day, the news as reported in the American press was colored by the hopes or policy of the correspondents, or of the managers of the Associated Press, or of the newspaper-owners, or of all together. How much conscious suppression and distortion of the news there was, an outsider can not judge. To a large extent, no doubt, all of these people were gulled by their hopes. But the point is, that there were other newsgatherers in the field who had other reports to make, which time proved to be more accurate. These reporters had no way of getting their news and their prog. nostications before the public.
Now this it not in the least an argument for Bolshevism. Bolshevism is obviously quite alien to Americanism. The point is, that however we dislike Bolshevism, we ought to be able to get the truth about it from our newspapers. At least, we ought not to be so steadily and persistently misled as we have been. Time after time, the reports and prophecies of our greatest newspapers turned out to be mistaken. This means that with respect to one of the most critical events going on in the contemporary world, the American people could not get correct information.
This instance has been specifically cited, because a very searching non-partisan investigation was made of the distortion of news of the Russian situation, and the facts are easily accessible. But a similar untrustworthiness could be shown to exist in the reporting of many matters where strong feelings and vital interests are involved.
It may be that much of the trouble resides in the lack of adequate training of reporters and correspondents. But if the newspaper owners demanded accuracy and impartiality, “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” they could certainly come much nearer to getting it. We must not be surprised that many people today are speaking of the “kept press." Not only the socialists and agitators, but many people of very respectable views. It would be easy to quote page after page of the most vigorous indictments from the pens of ex-newspaper men. It is easy to get greatly excited over the unfairness and unreliability of our most efficient and honored newspapers. It is more to the point to ask, what can be done about it?
The main trouble obviously lies in the fact that the control of our press is highly autocratic. A more democratic control would serve at least to correct the bias and neutralize the selfish interest of the present owners. If the newspaper men themselves, the editors and reporters, were allowed to determine the policy of the paper, with regard to news and editorials, we should doubtless fare better than we do. But after all, a comparatively small group of men would still have a dangerous power. The public as a whole must reserve the right to ultimate control of that great public institution, the Press. It is as important, in its way, as the public schools. The only ultimate solution can be a Press which is, by law, made omnipartisan. Its columns must be open to reports of facts and expressions of opinion from every stratum of public opinion.
One way to attain this democratic ideal would be to require that a certain number of columns should be at the disposal of each of the national parties, and perhaps of other important groups, such as employers' associations, the trade-unions, an association of college-graduates, etc. These columns must be uncensored by the newspaper owner or editor. In this way facts and opinions that seem important to any respectable group could be got fairly before the public, and every newspaper would become, instead of a more or less unrecognized organ of private opinion and selected news, a real open forum for discussion of contemporary affairs, a way by which the members of a democracy may talk to one another and learn of everything important that is being done and said.
There are various ways in which the impartiality of the Press could be secured; there is no space here to discuss their relative advantages. Every reform, however, must recognize that the Press is an institution of public service. Its potentialities for the education of the people are almost limitless. It could be used to create an intelligent democracy, by voicing the various existing opinions upon every problem and noting accurately all relevant facts. If this ideal can be attained under the individualistic system of private ownership, well and good. But if the owners of the Press and of the great newsgathering agencies persist in using their power irresponsibly, for the furthering of their own particular views and interests, the public will find a way to limit or end that power. A “free press" must be taken to mean not a press that any one who can afford to can buy and run as he chooses, but a press free from dictation at the hands of any interest, free to serve the people as a whole. Nothing short of that will realize our ideal of Democracy in journalism.
Theodore Roosevelt, The New Nationalism: The Public Press.
DEMOCRACY IN INDUSTRY
The ideal of Democracy demands that every adult human being should have a voice in every decision that directly affects his welfare. Toward this ideal the impulses that we may group together under the term “The American spirit" have been pushing us. But powerful forces have been blocking the way. The discovery that politics can be made to yield a substantial livelihood to the "insiders" has gone far toward thwarting the popular will and nullifying the achievement of political democracy. The discovery that the Press can be bought up by a few people and used to push their personal and class interests, and the causes in which they believe, has gone far toward robbing the people of a Press really free to tell the whole truth and to express all shades of opinion.
But the Ballot and the Press are, after all, primarily means to an end—the control by the people, for the people's good, of the conditions of their life. And there is a discovery that has done more to thwart democracy than either of the two we have mentioned—the discovery that industry and commerce can be largely bought up and controlled, in their own interest, by a comparatively few rich men.
So Big Business has arisen, feudal in its conception; a great mechanism whereby a small class of men have, within certain legal limits, complete dictation over the main activities of the country and the conditions amid