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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