NYU professor Mitchell Stephens’ recent article in “Politico” is headlined “Goodbye Nonpartisan Journalism. And Good Riddance.” Stephens says that “journalism in the United States was born partisan and remained, for much of its history, loud, boisterous and combative. He says that this changed in the 1930s and 40s beginning with influential radio newsman Lowell Thomas who “intuited that the best way to hold [his] large audience was to avoid excessively offending any major political group. He tried to play it, as he put it, ‘down the middle’ ... “And Thomas’ main successors in the role of national newsmen—David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw—aimed for somewhere around “the middle” too.
Stephens goes on to say that “American journalism has been changing in front of our eyes. And even after historians have taken over from reporters the task of investigating the depredations of the Trump administration—the old “on-the-one-hand-this, on-the-other-hand-that” style of journalism is not coming back. The condition that created it—a limited supply of news organs, which sought large audiences by not offending—is gone. Its weaknesses are manifest. … Better that journalists surrender the old pretense to objectivity entirely.”
Mitchell Stephens is author of The Voice of America: Lowell Thomas and the Invention of 20th-Century Journalism He is a professor of journalism at New York University.