• U.S.

The Press: The Colonel’s Caucus

2 minute read

To Owen J. Roberts, lately a Supreme Court Justice, the situation called for an extra-legal wisecrack. Easing into his speech at last week’s annual membership meeting of the Associated Press, he twinkled: “I look upon you as in a certain sense malefactors. . . .”

There were nervous titters at this reference to the beating the A.P. had taken at the hands of the Supreme Court (TIME, July 2). The A.P. had obediently amended the bylaws that had enabled members (like the Chicago Tribune’s Colonel Robert R. McCormick) to keep competitors from getting A.P. news. Ex-Justice Roberts—a member of the Court minority that had sided with the A. P.—wisecracked: “[I am told that] the association [has] purified itself—all except Colonel McCormick. . . .”

He was right about the Colonel. That afternoon lean President Robert McLean adjourned the A.P. meeting. Colonel McCormick, standing by the microphone with his spectacles dangling from one ear, promptly boomed: “The meeting will come to order!” A.P. members, now sitting in carefully prearranged rump session, winked at each other. The unpurified Colonel then put forward a resolution that the A.P. itself did not want to endorse officially: urging Congress to put press associations beyond the reach of antitrust laws.

The representative of the New Dealing New York Post did not want to endorse it either; he took a walk. Mark Ethridge of the Louisville Courier-Journal warned fellow publishers that it would “have a sour effect on the public, on the ground that the press was seeking special privilege.”

But a goodly section of the U.S. press was seeking exactly that: the McCormick plot to override the Supreme Court was jammed through by a 114-to-30 vote.

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