Focus Magazine And The Misrepresentation Of Facts By The American Press – A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past, Circa October, 1938…

July 26, 2019

Our current president’s repeated remarks that today’s press grinds out “fake facts” is really nothing new. For generations the American press has been accused of producing biased information  – we’ve all heard the phrase “Freedom of the Press belongs to those who own the Press.” That being said, Mr. Magazine™ delved into his Classics Vault and brought up the October 1938 issue of Focus magazine. The editor’s letter centered on a contention made by the Newspaper Guild that 95 percent of the American press, at that time in journalistic history, were guilty of misrepresentation of facts, reporting on the statement that Jews in Austria were never murdered, they committed suicide and that the dispatches from the Government in Spain  altered and changed to read “Reds” when written about.

It’s a founding father thing, if you ask Mr. Magazine™. I’ve always believed that to give one’s opinion as a journalist reporting and writing a story, you’re becoming an opinion columnist instead of a non-biased reporter. My professor at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism told our class on day one, “when a journalist gives his or her opinion, he or she is no longer a journalist.”  Something to think about as the age we live in is slowly becoming the age of opinions, speculation, and predictions. Is this journalism? Your “opinions” on this, at least, would be most welcomed. The floor is yours…


October, 1938

Vol. 1, No. 5

The Newspaper Guild contends (and who should be in a better position to know?) that 95 percent of the American press is guilty of downright misrepresentation of facts. Dispatchers from Spain are altered so that Government is changed to Reds; Jews in Austria are never murdered – they invariably commit suicide.  Even columnists such as Westbrook Pegler,  Heywood Brown and Hugh Johnson have learned that the moth-eaten phrase “freedom of the press” does not apply to them. The general magazines have never even attempted to take the side of “the people” because so far it has not been considered a paying proposition. Spasmodically a new magazine appears on the publishing horizon boasting itself the mouthpiece for the “underdog.” But somewhere along the route from the editorial offices to the printers the advertising department talks turkey. And that is that.

Despite an even dozen competitors Focus stands alone in the picture field as a magazine which tries to deal with today’s vital problems. This distinction is founded on a specific editorial policy which reflects not only the editor’s point of view, but also a rapidly shifting political scene crystallized in the tug of war between reaction and big money interests as against democracy and the interests of large masses of inarticulate people. Our political convictions are simple: they stand for what is best in American life and for the achievement of what has become known as the American dream – freedom, peace and plenty.

This may sound like a fourth of July speech. But at a time when democratic institutions are threatened by a host of anti-democratic forces, repeating these ideals is a reaffirmation of faith in the principles on which this country is founded. We have seen what has happened in Spain and in Austria. Anyone who thinks those things cannot happen in this country is either a fool or the unwitting puppet of reaction.

The Shame of Kansas City is the kind of story Lincoln Steffens startled the nation with thirty years ago. Today it is even more significant. The Pendergasts and the Frank Hagues are dangerous symbols to be obliterated and quickly if democracy is to be preserved or reclaimed.

Climaxing a series of exciting incidents, such as being indicted, threatened, and such, the editor was beaten up the other day. But not in retaliation; he merely got a little too enthusiastic about the boxing story in this issue and permitted Jack Dempsey to use him for the purpose of explaining various punches. Jack is a realist. But to clown with Dempsey, even though it requires some manipulation to return to normal later, is to see why he is the most popular fighter who ever lived.

Our National Mutt Show is booming. We did not realize there were quite so many choice pooches on the continent. But there is still time to cut yourself in on the prize money. So read the rules on page 42.

Leslie T. White


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