The “mainstream media,” much maligned by many of those who call themselves conservatives, could be defined generically as traditional forms of communication such as newspapers, radio and television as opposed to social media on the internet.
The term, abbreviated MSM, can also refer collectively to the various mass news media that influence a large number of people and both reflect and shape prevailing currents of thought.
Not many, if any, critics of the mainstream media include the cable channel Fox News in the mix, and I often wonder why.
Fox News, whose talking heads are among the most vociferous critics of MSM, is itself the most watched cable channel, according to reliable surveys of viewership.
Throw in Facebook and Twitter, where some people get most of their information, true or false, and I wonder if there is a mainstream media anymore.
If there is, the New York Times would have to be a part of it. Certainly MSM critics place it there.
I doubt that the majority of those attending last month’s venerable Neshoba County Fair, where conservative Republicans usually get the most applause in the political speaking, are aware that a native son once was the executive editor of the liberal-bent New York Times.
To be totally accurate and not given to “fake news” as our oft inaccurate president deplores, Turner Catledge was born on March 17, 1901, on his grandfather’s farm near the community of New Prospect in Choctaw County, according to his autobiography “My Life and the Times,” published by Harper and Row in 1971.
But at the age of three he moved with his family to Philadelphia in Neshoba County and it was there that he got his first newspaper job with the weekly newspaper “The Neshoba County Democrat.”
He later worked in Tunica and Tupelo in Mississippi before working in Memphis and then Baltimore, Washington, Chicago and New York.
He was managing editor of the Times from 1952-1964, at which time he became the paper’s first executive editor. After his retirement in 1968, he served briefly on the board of The New York Times company as a vice president.
I read his 1971 autobiographical book years ago and still have a copy which I scanned the other day.
It’s both entertaining and informative, and some parts of it are a reminder that the more some things change, the more they remain the same. Or as another distinguished Mississippian, William Faulkner, put it in one of his novels, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Consider this paragraph in Catledge’s book about his Memphis days which began in 1924.
“Memphis was the murder capital of America, perhaps of the world. For the decade ending in 1910, the national average for cities was 7.2 homicides per 100,000 population. Memphis led the nation with a rate of 47.1 - more than six times the national average. In 1916, Memphis had 134 homicides, giving it a rate of 89.9 per 100,000, more than double the rate in Atlanta, the next-ranking city.”
Memphis currently has a reputation as one of the top 10 - Forbes ranked it fourth - dangerous cities in America with a murder rate in 2016 of nearly 30 deaths per 100,000 before all the figures were in.
In another chapter of the book Catledge addresses how Times executives dealt with staff members who it was disclosed had prior links to the Communist party which in those days was worse than being called a liberal.
“A Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, headed by Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, began public hearings into the alleged influence of Communists on American newspapers,” Catledge wrote, adding in a later paragraph:
“The hearings patently were politically inspired. Eastland, a segregationist and a reactionary, was using his investigative power to try to smear the nation’s leading liberal newspaper.”
Both Catledge and Eastland are gone now, but if they were still around, I suspect Eastland would get a warmer reception at the Neshoba County Fair than the almost native son who presided over the New York Times newsroom.
Charlie Dunagin is editor and publisheremeritus of the McComb Enterprise-Journal.