COMMENTARY: A look at how different news stories were handled in years past during Vietnam, the U-2 incident, the Bay of Pigs and more

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Commentary – Verbatim: “The anniversary of the atomic bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was marked last week by news stories examining almost every facet of those events.

Curiously, what we haven’t seen is a look at how the atomic bomb secret was kept from the American people. There has been little comparison and contrast of news media behavior at the end of World War II, and media behavior today.

During World War II, the government set up a vast operation to pretty much control what we read and heard about the war, One government organization, the Office of War Information, was engaged in publishing information about the war. Another government organization, the Censorship Board asked for voluntary help from newspapers, magazines and radio stations in keeping various kinds of military in information away from the enemy. And, with a few exceptions, the system worked.

Listen to Dr, Larry Burriss commentary:

 

If, for example, a newspaper had a story it thought might be of value to the enemy, it submitted the story to the board, which then ruled on it. In terms of the atomic bomb, the code simply said there should be no discussion of atomic energy matters. Period.

News organizations used the system because editors realized to flout the guidelines was to invite formal, imposed censorship.

The heart of the code was the understanding the-censorship board would not intentionally mislead the press. The board would not put out propaganda, nor would it try to edit news stories.

The Korean War, the U-2 incident, the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam and Watergate all increased the distrust between the government and the media. In a perfect world the government wouldn’t lie and the press wouldn’t distort. In a perfect world there would be no need for adversary journalism.

We have seen what the use of atomic energy can do, and we have taken steps to control it. Let’s only hope we don’t have to experience a run-away press, or a runaway government information program. – I’m Larry Burriss.”

 

About Dr. Burriss – Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss’ publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.