THE ADVERSARIES: Politics and the Press by William L. Rivers

THE ADVERSARIES: Politics and the Press

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Rivers' The Opinionmakers (1965) was a vigorous journalistic foray through American history, Washington press rooms, and columnists' cubicles about the men who purport to report the news. This further inquiry into the state of the fourth estate shapes up as more of a classroom project: Rivers propounds a thesis (the ideal relationship for government officials and journalists everywhere is that of adversaries), thirteen of his students at Stanford turn in corroborative or semi-corroborative case studies, and teacher ties it all up with some guidelines that wriggle and jiggle but hold the thematic ground. In his editorial accompaniment to the examples of timorous and temerarious reportage (some local, some national, a few foreign), Rivers deplores both ""the sweetheart system"" of cronyish complacency and, on the other extreme, know-nothing belligerent oppositionism. But, for the sake of democracy, it's far better to err on the side of recklessness than fecklessness: ""The only way for a reporter to look at an official is skeptically."" Rivers also reviews the government's advantages in the information war, the tenuous position of TV reporters, the free press-fair trial conflict, and the questions posed by media conglomeration. Besides capitalizing on student labor, Rivers draws extensively from other commentators on journalistic practice and government encroachment and decorates his chapter-heads with pithy quotes from varied sources--e.g., ""There are more muckmakers than muckrakers"" Drew Pearson. (All this borrowed material, well nigh half the book, is indented.) An epilogue gives battle to Agnew's recent assaults on news reporters. Good copy.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1970
Publisher: Beacon