Can you trust the author?

September 2, 2011

Apparently not. And I owe Stephen Bates an apology.

Mr. Monck,

I just purchased a copy of your book Can You Trust the Media? I found your discussion of the 1940s Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press on p. 165 particularly interesting. You write:

“The report, A Free and Responsible Press, was published in 1947 and was an astute, articulate and impassioned indictment of the mass media. It asserted that the press is free for the purpose of serving democracy and that a press that shirks its democratic duties will lose its freedom. The report calls on the press to improve itself in the name of morality, democracy and self-preservation…. Over the half-century since Hutchins, the report has shaped academic thinking about journalism, but the practice of journalism carries on untouched. A flawed success as an analysis, A Free and Responsible Press has proved, as a call to action, a magnificent failure.”

In my 1995 monograph on the Hutchins Commission, published by Northwestern University’s Annenberg Washington Program and available online, I wrote:

“A Free and Responsible Press offers an astute, literate, and impassioned indictment of the nation’s mass media. The 133-page report contends that the press is free for the purpose of serving democracy; a press that shirks its democratic duties will lose its freedom. The report calls on the press to improve itself in the name of morality, democracy, and self-preservation…. Over the half-century since, the report has appreciably influenced academic thinking about journalism, but not journalism itself. A flawed success as an analysis, A Free and Responsible Press has proved, as a call to action, a magnificent failure.”

Any comments?

Stephen Bates

Yup. It should be a quote. Simple as that. Instead it’s an attempt, not even completed, to rewrite something that someone else had succinctly expressed. Lazy and dumb. In the process of shuffling text between Sydney and London without exercising due care and attention I recklessly trampled on Stephen Bates’ work.

His original piece is here:
http://www.annenberg.northwestern.edu/pubs/hutchins/hutch01.htm

The Hutchins Commission Report is here: http://www.archive.org/stream/freeandresponsib029216mbp#page/n17/mode/2up

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