ON PRESS by Tom Wicker
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Wicker's temperate, searching consideration of the changing state of American journalism since the era of Cold War certainties, addresses the qualms of those who feel the media may have ""gone too far"" as king-maker and whistle-blower. Additionally, Wicker provides a sensitive self-scrutiny of his own progress from the Aberdeen, North Carolina, Sandhill Citizen to a New York Times column. Has the press--glamorized as the celluloid Woodstein, after being Agnew's ""nattering nabobs of negativism""--become reckless and indulged in reporting what might be damaging to the national welfare? Wicker thinks not; indeed a ""robust and uninhibited"" newspaper is still the exception. Despite courageous publishing ventures such as the Pentagon Papers and the Pike Report, despite the new skepticism of ""facts,"" it is easy enough to buffalo the press, he believes. From Vietnam to CIA-FBI surveillance disclosures, Wicker concludes that ""the press has tended to cooperate in its own deception""--that's where the real danger lies. The lingering national security mystique can still mesmerize editors and media executives, as in the Daniel Schorr case. Most invidious of all, Wicker points to an occupational hazard of his profession: the desire to be ""in""--to feel a part of the privileged circle of power. Thus, reluctantly, Wicker ends up taking an absolutist position on the First-Amendment rights of the press--and undermining rumblings about ""responsibility"" and self-censorship. Episode by episode, he reveals the built-in timidity of a press popularly seen as bold.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Viking