Stop the Presses, I Want to Get Off! by Richard Pollak

An excerpt from the book Stop the Presses, I Want to Get Off! by Richard Pollak taken from More magazine examining American media and journalism.

STOP THE PRESSES, I WANT TO GET OFF! Edited by Richard Pollak. New York: Random Press, 1975.

About the Book: Richard Pollak has selected 23 articles from the pages of [MORE] magazine, watchdog of the American media. First published in 1971, [MORE] has been praised for the quality of its criticism and for its behind-the-scenes stories of the journalism business. Included among the articles reprinted in this book are profiles of media personalities such as commentator Paul Harvey, Rolling Stone correspondent Hunter S. Thompson, and author Marshall McLuhan. In a world where "freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one," [MORE] serves as a very necessary social conscience.

From the Book:

Businessmen who opened The New York Times to the financial section on the morning of November 11, 1971, were greeted by a three-column photograph atop the page of Paul A. Salomone, the new president of the New York division of Gimbels. What had Salomone done to merit such prominence on the first business page of the nation's most influential newspaper? GIMBELS WILL PUT STRESS ON ITS "BETTER-TASTE" ITEMS revealed the headline. Salomone, the story below further explained, had announced a trading-up program which "should catapult us into a higher plateau of better merchandise." At the New York City store, this would involve expansion of "town-and-country" wear, including leathers, suedes and knits, and the "at-home" fashions, including robes and "pajama groups."

If the article seems of less than monumental significance, it is nevertheless representative of the Times's coverage of the world of business and finance. The same newspaper that invited government censure and legal challenge by publishing the Pentagon Papers, that as of 1974 had won 40 Pulitzer Prizes for its international, national, and metropolitan reporting..... this same newspaper regularly publishes a business and financial section of astonishing mediocrity. Day after day, it is seldom more than bland, tedious, disorganized and turgidly written rehash of the previous day's handouts and spot news events, mere surfaces and facades bereft of even the most rudimentary analysis, explanation, color or perspective.

Feckless financial coverage, of course, is by no means unique to the Times. Indeed, it is endemic to the press as a whole. Though a few business publications, notably the Wall Street Journal and Fortune, often scrutinize business with commendable toughmindedness, most of the nation's newspapers and magazines seem possessed by acute schizophrenia. Editors whose adrenal glands pump furiously at the prospect of exposing a state senator with his hand in the till for a few hundred dollars steadfastly shrink from an investigation of a possible price-fixing conspiracy among several large corporations with a cost to consumers in the millions. Magazines that will spend months gathering evidence for an expose of a major Mafia leader seem to have little interest in the equally odious machinations of a high corporate executive.

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