Saturday, 27 October 2007

Remembering Walter Lippman

From Sidney Blumenthal's afterword for a reissue of Walter Lippman's "Liberty and the News," to be published this month by Princeton University Press.

Journalism and its discontents

"Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was the most influential American journalist of the 20th century. Born into one of the German-Jewish "Our Crowd" families of New York City, he began his career as a cub reporter for Lincoln Steffens, the crusading investigative journalist, then became one of the original editors of the New Republic, and was recruited to write speeches for President Woodrow Wilson and help formulate his plan to make the world "safe for democracy," the Fourteen Points. In the 1920s, Lippmann became editorial director of the New York World, then a major daily newspaper with a Democratic orientation. When it folded, the New York Herald Tribune offered him a column, which, with the Washington Post, served as his journalistic base for almost 50 years.
Among his varied roles, Lippmann was the original and most prescient analyst of the modern media. His disillusioning experience in World War I prompted the first of three books on the subject, "Liberty and the News," followed in rapid succession by "Public Opinion" and "The Phantom Public." In them Lippmann deconstructed the distortions and lies of government propaganda eagerly transmitted by a jingoist press corps, the "manufacture of consent" and the creation of "stereotypes" projected as false reality.

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