Today and every day, the American people must make decisions on which their whole survival may depend. To make sound decisions the people must be informed. For this they depend on the nation's free press. How well is the nation's press doing its essential job? The people have a right to know the truth. They have a responsibility to ask. The right to question. The Press and the People.
As Moderator, from Harvard University, the winner of the Peabody Award for television and radio journalism, and the Lauterbach Award for outstanding contribution in the field of civil liberties, Mr. Louis Lyons.
The Soviet Union has precipitated a crisis over Berlin and the future of Germany
which threatens world peace. How has our press covered this important story? We have two outstanding guests to discuss this question.
One of our guests was a distinguished foreign correspondent for fifteen years in Europe
, including France
, the Middle East
, and the Soviet Union
. He is now assistant to the Managing Editor of The New York Times, Mr. Clifton Daniel.
Mr. Daniel says, and I quote: "Any number of responsible people will tell you that there is a danger of war in the Berlin situation. If that is so, why do we find so little reflection of it in the news and in the attitude of the American people? There is a discrepancy somewhere – perhaps a vital one."
Our second guest has been a lecturer and writer on foreign affairs, specializing on Germany
, for more than twenty-five years. He was a member of President Roosevelt's first Brain Trust and, during WWII was Deputy Director of the Office of War Information in Europe
. He is author of Germany
: Key to Peace – Mr. James P. Warburg.
Mr. Warburg has said: "Our press has presented all the facts concerning the German problems, but, broadly speaking, the press has until recently editorially supported a bankrupt official US policy."
Berlin has been a headline word, describing the chief threat to world peace, since November 10
. Then Khrushchev notified the Western Powers that within six months the Soviets would withdraw from East Berlin and turn over power there to East Germany
. This would give control over access to Berlin to the Communist regime of East Germany
, which the Western powers don't recognize. It threatens the West's position in Berlin. It's forcing the Western powers to develop a diplomacy to meet this Soviet initiative.
Our question is: Are we adequately informed about this critical issue? How well have our foreign correspondents and our newspapers served us on the Berlin crisis? Well Mr. Daniel, we've just heard you quoted as saying that responsible people feel a real danger in the Berlin crisis, but that this is not much reflected in the news. Won't you discuss that?
Mr. Lyons, not so long ago Senator Mansfield made a very important speech in the Senate on the Berlin issue and our policy concerning Germany
and Berlin, and I want to quote to you briefly a couple of sentences from that speech.
Senator Mansfield said: "I express to the Senate my belief that just ahead lies the most critical period which the United States will have had to face since the conflict in Korea. The crisis is coming in Germany
. Specifically, it is coming in Berlin. Indeed, it may have already begun."
Now, after that statement was printed, I picked up my morning newspaper the next day – I happened to be out of town – I found nothing on the front page of that newspaper that I thought would reflect the sense of crisis about which Senator Mansfield had spoken so forcibly in the Senate the day before. I find that, generally speaking, this is true in the American press.
We are facing some of the gravest issues of our time, and yet one doesn't see these things adequately reported in the newspapers – adequately, in my opinion. But I want to criticize not only the press in that respect but perhaps also our leaders in the Administration and in Congress as well. One doesn't see the seriousness of the times reflected either in the White House or in the halls of Congress.
Thank you, Mr. Daniel, we want to get into that further. But first, Mr. Warburg, you have been quoted here as saying that the press has presented the facts on the Berlin problem, but that editorially it supported what you call a bankrupt policy on the part of our government. Won't you explain that?
Let me say first that I agree entirely with what Mr. Daniel has just said. What I mean by that is, when I say "press," I mean newspapers, radio, and television. And I mean newspapers running all the way from The New York Times to the tabloids that cater to entertainment rather than to information. So you're talking about a wide range. Taking an over-all look, I would say that the press gives the American people, if they are willing to look for it, adequate information about what is actually happening.
It does not give them adequate interpretive comment and, as I said in the statement you just quoted, I think that the editorial policy of the newspapers, with notable exceptions, has supported an official American policy on Germany
which has been bankrupt for five years. We have no opposition press such as there is in Britain
. Consequently, you have no newspapers editorializing about alternative policies. All they do is support whatever the official policy is.
Well we want to get into that some more, Mr. Warburg. But, to give us a factual base, I think it might be well to ask Mr. Joseph Lyford, a former foreign correspondent himself, who has been supervising our research team, examining some forty newspapers a day for the last four months. Mr. Lyford, would you give us a brief résumé of what you find about the news from Berlin?
I think that what we have discovered, in general, is that the reporting on the events in Germany
has been of a saturation type, such as Mr. Warburg has said. There has been plenty of information about diplomatic notes, maneuvers, day-to-day statements of the various powers. However, when we get into trying to find out about the reporting on the position of the Allies, with regard to what the next step is, there is a great deal of contradiction in the press on this.
There are exceptions – one of the very excellent pieces of work in analyzing the different views on Germany
has been a piece by Arthur Olson
, The New York Times correspondent in Bonn. On November 30
he discussed some of the viewpoints and the problems involved.
The whole layout of the Times in that situation was excellent. It had a color story by Flora Lewis from Berlin, and it had a piece by Harry Schwartz examining the basic documents behind the struggle for Germany
We've had other good in-depth type of examinations. Paul Ringler of the Milwaukee Journal just this month did an excellent piece on the changes in policy that are in the offing. And we have had some very perceptive background pieces by the Chicago Daily News Foreign Service, particularly William Stoneman
, who is the London
correspondent for the Daily News, and David Nichol, who is in Bonn.
These last two gentlemen are featured in a very interesting pair of stories in December
in which they examine the German
problem from two different capitals and come to completely different conclusions as to the gravity of the situation. Mr. Nichol says this is the gravest crisis since Munich
, and Mr. Stoneman
concludes that in London
the English think there are many other more urgent problems.
To go onto to one or two other subjects which seem to bear with great importance on this, the reporting out of London
and Washington, Berlin and Bonn, has been very extensive. But with regard to the other capitals that are important – Moscow, Paris
– we have had very little. I think that one of the few examples of a report out of Paris
on background – I'm afraid we are going to have to go back again to The New York Times – a piece by Drew Middleton.
, describing the Paris
attitude. And a very excellent and perceptive piece – the only piece we seem to have found out of Warsaw
– by The New York Times correspondent, A. M. Rosenthal. The only other thing that I would like to point out is with regard to the question of the gravity of the situation. If we were to generalize from what we have read over this period, it would seem that, with some notable exceptions, the danger, the real danger of war, such as Mr. Daniel has mentioned, does not seem to be coming through. It seems to be treating the Russian maneuvers as somewhat of a bluff.
Thank you, Mr. Lyford. Well, Mr. Daniel, you mentioned Senator Mansfield's speech, which was perhaps the latest important contribution to this issue. You said you were out of town that day. If you'd been in town you would have found that your own paper, the Times, led with that. And that Mr. Arthur Krock's column in Washington
was on it, and then the next day, Saturday the 14th, the Times' lead editorial was on it.
But if you had been in town and seen the Tribune, you wouldn't have found it on the front page at all, a one-column head on Page 7. If you'd been in Boston
you would have found the Herald, which has the Times service, gave it a front-page, eight-column banner, but that the Globe put it inside in a small item at the bottom of Page 7.
, the next afternoon – another news cycle – made it part of their top story, which was a round-up on Berlin. Well this suggests a very uneven handling of major news on this issue by the newspapers, and suggests a good deal depends on what paper a fellow reads as to whether he takes seriously what The Times must have taken seriously – an alternative policy suggested by a Democratic leader on foreign policy. I'm sure you think about these things, what do you think about that?
Mr. Lyons, I would not attempt to say, I wouldn't want to say, that the display given to a particular statement by a particular Senator, by a particular newspaper such as The New York Times, was necessarily the only way in which to consider that–
I just suggested the wide difference in the way it was considered.
Yes. The disparity was just the thing I wanted to address myself to. The fact of the matter is that The New York Times made this speech by Senator Mansfield its principal story of the day. More than that, printed a full page of text from Senator Mansfield.
Now, why would any newspaper think that a speech by one Senator on one single subject was worth this much attention? I suggest that they thought this because this Berlin issue is a tremendously important issue in our lives. It involves, it's one of the key issues in our relationships with the East and it involves –
And Mansfield is the assistant leader of the Democratic majority and a leading figure on the Foreign Policy Committee.
Of course. It involves the security of Europe
. We are dealing with a man who is apparently speaking for a very large part of the responsible leadership of the majority in the upper house of our national legislature. Now, I don't know, this is not a sensational story. This is not a kidnapping, it's not a shooting, it's not an airplane crash. But it does involve issues and problems perhaps greater than any of these things that I have mentioned.
Well, Mr. Warburg, what would you say has been responsible – so far as you can see it as a critical reader of many newspapers and a specialist on the German
problem – of the failure of the public to appreciate – as you and Mr. Daniel seem to feel they largely have failed to appreciate – the gravity of this Berlin issue?
Well I think it's a thing that is difficult to put, hang on one hook. It's partly due to the fact that the public isn't interested. It's an extraordinary thing that there is a much wider interest in danger of war at Quemoy than there is over Berlin. I've spent the last ten years trying to get people to realize that the German
situation is probably the critical situation in the Cpld War.
You don't think that this fact has been going on for ten years accounts, perhaps, for a weariness of the public with it, perhaps even of news editors' feeling, you know, getting bored with it?
Well, that's possibly so, I, actually I don't think it is the reason. I think that, back ten years ago when Mr. Acheson went to Congress and proposed stretching the Atlantic Treaty into a commitment to defend all of Western Europe
at its frontiers, and then assured the Senate that we would not rearm Germany
I spent days and days before the Senate Committee and writing books, articles, everything else, trying to make people realize the danger of rearming the Germans, and that it was inevitable once you said you would defend West Germany
. This aroused very little interest at that time.
Well, Mr. Daniel, we mentioned Senator Mansfield's speech out of Washington
as a key in this Berlin crisis, which suggests that all the news on Berlin doesn't come from Berlin, and indeed we know it was precipitated from Moscow. Now the Times has a great corps of foreign correspondents in all capitals. But tell us how many newspapers really have organized foreign-correspondent services and what do the other newspapers do about foreign news?
Mr. Lyons, before we leave Mansfield, may I comment on The Times editorial on this Mansfield speech, because I think this bears on what we are talking about.
I said at the beginning that I think the newspapers have by and large supported the official policy. Now to me the important thing in the Mansfield speech is not, it was important that he saw this as a very serious crisis, but to me the important part was that here was an important Senator saying that the old policy isn't good enough and that we've got to bring some new imaginative ideas to bear.
And this I think was properly emphasized by the Times. On the other hand...
That indeed was apparently what they saw as the important subject in the news, perhaps a breakthrough on our policy [inaudible] alternative.
That's right. Now the other thing where I disagree with the Times editorial in that it pointed out, with some misgiving, that in several instances Mansfield's constructive proposals were identical with or very similar to those of Mr. Khrushchev. Now, this is part of the Cold War fear psychosis, which all of our newspapers have indulged in. It doesn't follow that because the Russians want something that we would be crazy to want it too. It is quite possible, in my judgment, that common sense might lead both of us to want the same thing.
Well let me say, ask something else, perhaps Mr. Daniel could get in on this. You spoke of an alleged similarity between some of Mr. Mansfield's proposals and those that come out of Moscow. But as I understand it, Europe
has been talking a good deal about the so-called Rapacki plan coming out of Poland
, and also George Kennan's ideas, which were voiced in Europe
, although they came from an American. Would you say, Mr. Daniel, that we have had much reporting about these other plans, any of them as a possible alternative to our policy?
Let me try to answer both your questions, your previous one and this one, at one time.
First of all, there are only about half a dozen newspapers in the United States that maintain foreign staffs of their own. This leads the newspapers to take, rely entirely on the Associated Press and United Press International for their news about events abroad.
It seems to me that the editors of American, of the American newspapers have thereby very largely abdicated their right to think about foreign news, to plan their foreign news reporting, to take any responsibility for it whatsoever. They simply select the best of what the AP and UP, in their opinion, supplies to them, print that in the paper, and seems to, it seems to me, give very little thought to the content and import of the news.
Now this brings about perhaps what you have just mentioned. Official statements, official declarations from our State Department, from Moscow, are reported very fully, because these are the centers from which, where there's controversy, these are the places where the controversy is centered, in those two capitals.
But something from Warsaw
, they don't have power – the AP and UP perhaps have correspondents there; I know one of them does, but I am not sure both of them do – Warsaw
is a minor capital, nobody gives much thought to it. The Rapacki plan has pretty well been ignored, not only by the public, I repeat this again, but pretty well been ignored by our State Department and our Administration as well. Whether you like the plan or not, it is a significant contribution to the thinking on this issue, and I regret to say that it hasn't been thought about very much by anybody in this country.
Well, we can have a great volume of stories to the general effect that the Allies are standing firm on Berlin. But what do you say as to the amount of reporting we have had of important differences that sometimes emerge over, among the Allies about German
reunification, and even differences, as I understand it, within Germany
as between Adenauer and Mayor Brandt, for example. What about our reporting in this...?
Well, let me say that we are speaking here about the role of the press in these issues, and I would direct my reply to you to what the press has done in this, or what the press I think should do in such cases. The principles on which the American press operates are well established and well known to everybody and if they were carried out fully we'd never have the kind of complaint I think you are making here.
It is the duty – and understood by all newspapermen – it is the duty of editors not merely to print one side of an issue, one side of a story. They have a duty to go around, behind the news and look at it from all angles and from all sides. I think on this issue, as on so many others, we have neglected that.
We print what Mr. Dulles says, we print what Mr. Khrushchev says, we print a little bit, a little tiny bit, of what Mr. Rapacki says. But we never really look at the news in the round, if I may say so, or look at it whole. And if we did so, these issues, these conflicts that you speak of, would readily appear.
Well Mr. Warburg, to take that up, it rather suggests a question, how independent can a national press be of its own government when it's dealing with a crisis with a foreign government. For instance, how much of our news about the Berlin question consists almost wholly of statements by the Secretary of State and other political leaders? What do you feel about the adequacy of this news and the independence of the press?
Well, I think you have raised the extremely interesting question, and that is the question of what I would call a distorted form of patriotism. You take, for example, at the time of the Quemoy crisis which by the way is not solved but is dormant at the present time, because we don't do anything about these crises unless they erupt.
At that time there was one member in the House of Representatives, Henry Reuss of Wisconsin
, who got up and questioned the wisdom of our policy and was told that this was an inappropriate moment to do it. In the Senate there was the usual handful of Democratic mavericks who spoke up, but not very loudly.
The whole atmosphere was as if we were already at war. The same thing was true at the time of Lebanon
. Now I think it's the duty not only of the press but of the citizen to speak up in a time like this before you are committed to war. Contrast this attitude with what happens in England
, where you have an opposition giving tongue loudly when a first step in the wrong direction is taken, as they see it. And very often influencing policy.
...add something to that, Mr. Lyons? I think Mr. Warburg has an interesting point that perhaps should be underlined. We are all familiar with the attitude taken by statesmen such as Winston Churchill who say – or our own statesmen – who say that politics stops at the waterline, that once you are abroad you support the policy of your government, or at least you don't criticize it in the presence of foreigners.
I think we might also say that debate on foreign policy stops at the point of open conflict. Up until the time when we are actually in war or on the verge of war, it seems to me that it is not only permissible but it is our duty as citizens and as newspapermen – if we talk particularly of the press – journalists, if we are talking of the press, radio, television - it's our duty as journalists and as citizens to be constantly questioning our leaders our, and our policy to make sure that what we are doing is the proper thing for the best interests of our country and of the world as a whole. I personally don't consider it unpatriotic to disagree with Secretary Dulles. I don't consider it unpatriotic to disagree with Senator Mansfield. In fact, it is our duty to disagree with them if we
sincerely believe they are wrong.
And I'm sure you would say, our duty also to report major disagreements that involve our allies, and suggest that there are quite other views about some of these things.
There is a mistaken belief on the part of newspapermen that for some patriotic reasons or other – maybe it's simply loyalty to a given political party or given political creed or loyalty to a, to our country – that we mustn't print certain facts that might embarrass our government. It may be that those facts are the very ones that our people need to know most in order to come to a clear decision about our policy.
Well Mr. Warburg, you have said that we do better on news than on editorial position on our foreign policy. What would be some of the questions that you would like our editorial writers to raise about our policies?
Well may I just for a moment stick to the news part?
It seems to me that what Mr. Daniel has just said is the principle which is more notable by its non-execution than by its execution; and I think this is largely due to the fact that our government itself has indoctrinated people, rather than informed them, for the last five or six years.
People are handed all kinds of bedtime stories about how successful we are and about how the Communists have had to throw away their Bible and start all over again. When you have the highest officials of our government saying this sort of thing, it's rather difficult for the press to do anything but report them. And because of the distorted patriotism, which we mentioned a minute ago, there are very few people who do question these statements. I certainly don't want to take a knock at any individuals, but the fact is that the highest officials of our government have deliberately overstated our strength, overstated the weakness of the adversary, and understated the critical time in which we live.
Well this is, Mr. Lyons, if I may say so, this is where the press comes in – this is one of the most important functions of the press – to make sure, as I said earlier, that we don't accept these things on face value but we go around behind them and look at them from the other side to see whether they are in fact correct.
For our last question, I don't want to overlook that other great medium of communication that has such a impact on all our lives. Both NBC and CBS have a great corps of foreign correspondents. What would you say briefly, gentlemen, as to how you'd evaluate what television has done for us in this Berlin crisis?
With the exception of the Sunday oasis, which comes at a time when most people are doing something other than looking at television, I would say their contribution was nil.
I think, Mr. Lyons, that Ed Murrow, appearing on this program, used another expression for that. He called it the Sunday ghetto because these programs were relegated to that time of day, because there was plenty of free time to present these programs. That is the measure, I think, of the failure of television, and I don't say that as a newspaper man but as a citizen and as a viewer.
Thank you, gentlemen. I look forward to continuing this discussion with you in our next program. We shall continue this discussion of the foreign correspondents next week and try to go beyond the Berlin crisis. As we have seen, we have had massive reporting about Berlin. The real problem has been to digest and understand the volume of dispatches and to keep the issue in perspective.
A larger question perhaps is whether we have been fully informed about the difficulties that have raised disagreements among the Western powers; whether we have been told enough about any alternative to our own State Department's position. And the question raised: Can the press be independent enough of its own government to explore for us the problems that the diplomats naturally want to smooth over? If not, of course we're going it blind, and seeing only one side of issues which we should understand in their completeness. And, this - going it blind - of course, we can't afford, for the peace of the world may depend on our decisions. Until next week at this time on The Press and the People, this is Louis Lyons.