THE PRESS AND THE PRESIDENCY: From George Washington to Ronald Reagan by John & Sarah Miles Watts Tebbel

THE PRESS AND THE PRESIDENCY: From George Washington to Ronald Reagan

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A scholarly dissertation on the historically-troubled relations between presidents and their contemporary journalists. Both coauthors are professors of journalism in New York, and Tebbel's great accomplishment to date is the four-volume History of Book Publishing in the United States. Those who recall Richard Nixon's famous press-baiting may think that that represented a nadir in government-media relations. But as Tebbel and Watts document here, that was nirvana compared to earlier clashes. Starting right in with George Washington, the press assumed its adversarial role, limited in its criticisms only by the sheer august reverence with which Washington was held by the populace. But even with its limits, the press still managed to get under Washington's thin skin enough to cause him to insert an admonitory paragraph in his Farewell Address. John Adams will always be remembered for his Alien and Sedition Acts, which clamped the lid on press criticism in a manner that would be considered downright imperial were it attempted by a modern president. Right down the line, no president was immune to discordancies with the Fourth Estate. Lincoln had his problems with Horace Greeley; the press of Wilson's day were offended by his habit of lecturing to them, and we all know about Nixon. Now the press includes the television journalists, and here Tebbel and Watts fear for the future. In ending their survey with Reagan, ""the great communicator,"" and, as such, a master manipulator of the media, the authors suggest that such manipulation, if not somehow checked by journalists, will cause a resurgence of the Imperial Presidency. This is by academics for academics. Its influence will come later when journalism students assimilate its message and use it as a source in writing their own theses.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1985
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press