THEODORE H. WHITE AND JOURNALISM AS ILLUSION by Joyce Hoffmann

THEODORE H. WHITE AND JOURNALISM AS ILLUSION

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hoffmann (Journalism/Old Dominion Univ.) compellingly argues that one of America's most distinguished journalists used his prestige and eloquence to manufacture influential illusions about great men and events rather than to tell the truth as he saw it. The Jewish son of a radical socialist father and a deeply religious and patriotic mother, Theodore H. White grew up a poor outsider in Boston of the '20s and '30s. Accepted to Harvard but unable to afford it, he worked as a newsboy for two years, reapplied, and was accepted again, this time with a scholarship. According to Hoffmann, these experiences imbued in White a deep desire to be accepted that ""encumbered [his] life."" In China after graduation, White he accepted a job with the Nationalist Chinese Ministry of Information, essentially producing propaganda for Chiang Kai-shek's embattled regime, while also acting as a correspondent for the Boston Globe. Later White became China correspondent for Henry Luce's Time magazine. Hoffmann argues that White compromised his journalistic integrity, writing glowing articles about Chiang despite inner convictions (expressed to friends) that the Kuomintang regime was brutal, corrupt, and incompetent. As the war progressed, his reporting became more truthful, but he ""would discover that after having created a false image in the public consciousness, correcting that image was enormously difficult."" According to Hoffmann, White's work created a consensus in American public life that tended to trust the decisions of the American government during WW II and the Cold War. The culmination of this process was White's involvement in the Kennedy administration (his classic The Making of the President 1960 made a hero of JFK) and his self-conscious creation, with Jacqueline Kennedy, of the myth of Camelot. Hoffmann shows that White's adulatory coverage of subsequent presidents sprang from his love of his hard-won position as a journalistic ""insider"" in the world of policymaking. A fist-rate look at how news--and history--can be created and manipulated.

Pub Date: July 28th, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri