|Ad for Scripps-Howard Newspapers: September 1936 Fortune Magazine|
For my birthday this year, my wonderful friend Gabrielle sent me a copy of FORTUNE magazine that came out the month I was born. It features cover articles on the emerging powerhouse of Japan, full-page ads for American steel companies (now outsourced outside USA), heavy industry (now mostly outsourced), insurance companies, post-Prohibition whiskies and quaint old cigarette ads (Kool, Camel and Lucky Strike). But my favorite read was a two-page spread by media giant Scripps-Howard, picturing some "teeming refuse" from an unnamed "dictator-ridden" region of Europe. A male representative of the teeming refuse (TM) speaks first and is then answered by the voice of Scripps-Howard (SH). I reprint the exchange here without comment, inviting the reader to come to his own conclusions concerning the progress of America's "unshackled press" during the 80 years since this ad was published.
You can't fool us! We're the World's
most Fortunate People!
An American reporter interviewed a typical family in a dictator-ridden European country, from which liberty had been banished. Hands gnarled from bitter toil, cheeks sallow from privation, clad in tatters, this family looked at our reporter with genuine pity, "You are an American" How sad!" they said. "We know that hundreds of your people are being shot monthly by capitalist controlled police. We know that thousands of your workers are dying from hunger. We know that no one in your country has the comfort and security we have. We know all these things because we read them in our newspapers, which speak the truth because our government publishes them!"
Fantastic? Not at all. That family can be found in several countries today where leaders -- lustful for power -- have learned the force that lies in ability to control or to fabricate what passes as news.
Dictatorship thrives on studied misrepresentation. It can't exist where the average citizen is given an accurate picture of local and world affairs.
Herein lie the strength and the hope of America. This country is no Utopia; it makes many mistakes and tolerates many temporary injustices. But, thanks to an unshackled press and the right of every man to speak his mind, this nation is never in the dark concerning its shortcomings and maladjustments.
Here, in this country, the people may learn the facts, Knowing them, and once aroused, there is no illness -- political, social or economic -- our people cannot ultimately cure by the orderly and wise action of their own system of government.
Today, with democracy under fire, the Scripps-Howard Newspapers pledge themself anew:
First, to give their readers clear, impartial, accurate news on both sides of every vital question.