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Book Review

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A Free and Responsible Press appeared in March, 1947. Three years and $215,000 earlier Chancellor Hutchins had selected the Commission, at the suggestion and with the support of Henry R. Luce. Five of its thirteen members had significant connections with the Chairman's University of Chicago; indeed, the flavor was dominantly academic. However, it included a poet turned administrator (MacLeish), and two men of affairs, albeit with scholarly backgrounds (Dickinson of the P.R.R., Ruml of Macy's). There was also a small expert staff. The results could have been sensational. To the Commission's eternal credit, they were not. They could have been, and were, careful and thoughtful. They could have provoked a great debate. They did not. The Luce press, naturally, gave the Report a big play. The rest of the press threw rocks at it. The rest of the literate public ignored it, except for the students of the various fields examined: newspapers, radio, motion pictures, magazines and books. They, and the critics in the working press, had a variety of complaints, some of which will be examined herein.

The occasion for this review and those that follow is the completed publication (save one) of a series of special studies which fill out the bare bones of the Report. The Report aimed at brevity, and was damned for achieving it. In the compass of a pamphlet it reviewed principles, standards; technology, controls, performance of the media of mass communication, and it made recommendations for their protection and improvement. Consequently anyone whose specialty was slighted was at liberty to cry "elliptical," "telegraphic," and to ask wistfully what they did with the $215,000? (In the interests solely of complete disclosure of meaningful facts, I would like to know myself.)

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