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A Letter From The Publisher, Feb. 28, 1955

4 minute read

Dear Time-Reader:

Editors, reporters and newsmen in general are dramatized on radio and television, in movies and detective stories. But oddly enough, the average real-life journalist, while he loves his work, usually does not think that his own profession makes news.

The editors of TIME think differently. That is why we have a Press section where, week after week, we cover newsmen and the story behind the story. More fundamentally. TIME reports news about news because the press is a cornerstone of free, democratic government, and its workings a vital part of modern society.

A working journalist is usually innately shy about being interviewed himself. When we turn the tables on him, some curious things are likely to happen. The reporter being interviewed may get edgy and commit the sin he hates most; ask to read, i.e., censor, the finished copy. Or he may insist on putting the best part of what he says “off the record.” Or, a brilliant questioner himself, he may be struck dumb at being interviewed. By and large, however, most newsmen have the good grace to laugh at such inhibitions when our reporters point out the irony of it all.

TIME does not attempt to report the press as trade news, but as something the readers live with, are influenced by, and curious about. For example, while our political reporters were covering the politics of the 1952 political conventions, other TIME correspondents were keeping an eye out for newsworthy feats of the 3,000-man press corps (TIME, July 21, 1952). Our National Affairs section reported the first H-bomb explosion, but it was in Press that we later described the official bungling in the release of stories and pictures of the blast (TIME, April 12, 1954). Occasionally, we spot a hoax passed off as news, e.g., the widely printed story of a girl who went into a hypnotic trance when a crooner sang a love song. Our correspondent traced the whole affair to a pressagent’s brain (TIME, Dec. 1, 1952).

In addition to exploring behind the scenes, we also report on the state of the press itself. In this connection we are always on the lookout for the capable small-town or country editor or publisher who has lots to say but is hardly known outside his small audience. We note with pleasure that many of the writers, reporters, cartoonists and newspapers that TIME has singled out for praise have later turned up as Pulitzer Prizewinners (including Anthony Leviero of the New York Times; Marguerite Higgins and Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune; Cartoonists James Berryman and Rube Goldberg; and Long Island’s Newsday).

As changes occur in U.S. life and living standards, the press also changes. These changes generate some of the toughest and most important stories. For instance, Washington is now the press center of the world and a Mecca for reporters. Not long ago, TIME surveyed the Washington press corps and was able to report: “Washington is the best covered city in the world.” Another survey was the story of new problems faced by newspapers in the biggest U.S. city (“Trouble in New York”—TIME, Dec. 20).

One of our recent survey stories concerned the Supreme Court’s decision of last May banning segregation in the public schools. The decision made news around the world, and TIME’S editors were interested in finding out how Southern newspapers as a whole were reporting attempts to put the decision into effect. The conclusion of our correspondents and Southern newsmen themselves: the reporting had been only mediocre (TIME, Jan. 17).

The job of putting TIME’S Press section together each week is under the direction of Senior Editor Joe Purtell and Press Editor Dick Clurman. For Clurman, the most time-consuming and necessary part of the job is reading. He reads regularly dozens of U.S. and foreign papers, plus 50 or 60 magazines each week.

In addition, he gets lots of help from TIME correspondents, and part-time correspondents who work on local papers throughout the world. Moreover, 45 TIME editors are former newspapermen and continue to read their old papers in search of story ideas.

I might add that TIME’S readers tend to be careful newspaper readers, too, and generally keep us posted on the state of the world’s press (including TIME) as they see it.

Cordially yours,

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