The Media And The Military

After more than 130 years, the fundamental dispute between the American media and the American military has changed hardly at all. The essential argument is still about access. How much should the press be allowed to know and see of the conduct of battle?Read more »

The Public Schools And The Public Mood

Since the birth of the nation, the public’s perception of the quality of public schools has swung from approval to dismay and back again. Here an eminent historian traces the course of school reform and finds that neither conservative nor liberal movements ever fully achieve their aims—which may be just as well.

In a historic meeting at Charlottesville, Virginia, last September, President George Bush and the nation’s governors promised to revitalize America’s public schools by establishing “clear national performance goals, goals that will make us internationally competitive.” Their language recalled the document that had inspired school reforms earlier in the 1980s, A Nation at Risk.Read more »

When Our Ancestors Became Us

In 1820 their daily existence was practically medieval; thirty years later many of them were living the modern life

It is a commonplace that the American Revolution determined the political destiny of the country. Far less noted is the fact that the Revolution’s consequences, profound as they were, had little, if any, impact on the daily existence of most Americans. The social structures and economic realities that had determined the everyday lives of the British subjects living in the colonies continued to determine the existence of the American citizens of the new Republic.Read more »

How Media Politics Was Born

To keep Upton Sinclair from becoming governor of California in 1934, his opponents invented a whole new kind of campaign

The American political campaign as we know it today was born on August 28, 1934, when Upton Sinclair, the muckraking author and lifelong socialist, won the Democratic primary for governor of California. Sinclair’s landslide primary victory left his opponents with only ten weeks until election day to turn back one of the strongest mass movements in the nation’s history.Read more »

How Pure Must Our Candidates Be?

The distasteful questions we ask our presidential hopefuls serve a real purpose

Has the press gone too far?” is a question that has been asked more frequently in this presidential campaign than any other. At a time when politicians are being canvassed on their love lives, their acquaintance with marijuana, and the originality of all their sayings, the question seems to answer itself. The “character issue” has become, in many people’s eyes, a hunting license. The prey are intimidated even when they are not eliminated, made to seem vulnerable, “on the run” instead of running for office.Read more »

Where The Media Critics Went Wrong

The early critics of television predicted the new medium would make Americans passively obedient to the powers that be. But they badly underestimated us.

Way back when I was a teenager, it was common knowledge that the mass media—newly reinforced by television—were generating mass conformity, mass passivity, and mass “loss of autonomy.” They were even producing a new kind of dismal American, a truly ominous being, grimly referred to as “mass man.” In other words, it was common knowledge that the one thing we could not expect from the forth-coming 1960s—still hidden then in the womb of time—was exactly what we got from that turbulent era: a vast revival of political activity, a vast throwing off of the chains of conformity,Read more »

The Big Leak

So big was the leak that it might have caused us to lose World War II. So mysterious is the identity of the leaker that we can’t be sure to this day who it was…or at least not entirely sure.

Blazoned in huge black letters across page one of the December 4, 1941, issue of the Chicago Tribune was the headline: F.D.R.’S WAR PLANS! The Times Herald, the Tribune ’s Washington, D.C., ally, carried a similarly fevered banner. In both papers Chesly Manly, the Tribune's Washington correspondent, revealed what President Franklin D.Read more »

The Street

A knowledgeable and passionate guide takes us for a walk down Wall Street, and we find the buildings there eloquent of the whole history of American finance

One of the pleasant burdens of friendship, and of living in a renowned and intimidating great city like New York, is that friends planning to visit will ask me to show them the sights of some quarter of town, most usually in the borough of Manhattan, county of New York. Read more »

The New Sherman Letters

Extraordinary correspondence, never published before, takes us inside the mind of a military genius. Here is William Tecumseh Sherman in the heat of action inventing modern warfare, grieving the death of his little boy, struggling to hold Kentucky with levies, rolling invincibly across Georgia, and—always—battling the newspapermen whose stories, he believes, are killing his soldiers.

William Tecumseh Sherman,” announced The New York Times near the end of the Civil War, “has surpassed all newspaper correspondents in writing about military affairs...for conciseness, perspicacity and comprehensiveness with brevity he is the perfect model.” One Associated Press reporter went so far as to say that the man would have been an even better war correspondent than a general. Read more »

The Blighted Life Of The Writer, Circa 1840

The urge to create literature was as strong in the mid-1800s as it is today, but rejections were brutal and the pay was even worse

How does the writing life in preCivil War America compare with that of the 1980s? If you had picked up the New York literary newspaper The New Mirror on Saturday, January 6, 1844, you would have read: “The prices paid now to acceptable magazine-writers are very high, though the number of writers has increased so much that there are thousands who can get no article accepted.Read more »