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Dark Days in the Newsroom

McCarthyism Aimed at the Press

Edward Alwood

Publication Year: 2007

Dark Days in the Newsroom traces how journalists became radicalized during the Depression era, only to become targets of Senator Joseph McCarthy and like-minded anti-Communist crusaders during the 1950s. Edward Alwood, a former news correspondent describes this remarkable story of conflict, principle, and personal sacrifice with noticeable élan. He shows how McCarthy's minions pried inside newsrooms thought to be sacrosanct under the First Amendment, and details how journalists mounted a heroic defense of freedom of the press while others secretly enlisted in the government's anti-communist crusade.

Relying on previously undisclosed documents from FBI files, along with personal interviews, Alwood provides a richly informed commentary on one of the most significant moments in the history of American journalism. Arguing that the experiences of the McCarthy years profoundly influenced the practice of journalism, he shows how many of the issues faced by journalists in the 1950s prefigure today's conflicts over the right of journalists to protect their sources.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. xi-xii

When the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee launched its investigation of Communists in the press in 1955, I was about to enter the fi rst grade. Although I was too young to understand the fear of communism, I was keenly aware of the anxiety surrounding...

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pp. xiii- xiv

Many individuals contributed thoughts, documents, and memorabilia that helped to make this book possible. I am particularly indebted to faculty and colleagues at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication whose scholarship provided a guiding light for beginning this study. Individuals who generously provided...

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pp. 1-11

On Wednesday, June 29, 1955, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee met in the Caucus Room where the flamboyant Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy had held his most sensational hearings in 1953 and 1954. Led by Mississippi Democrat James Eastland and undeterred by McCarthy’s political downfall, the ...

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CHAPTER ONE Awakening the Newsroom

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pp. 12-23

As the nation struggled with the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression in the spring of 1933, reporter Frances Rockmore donned a simple dress and brushed back her hair so that she could blend into the legion of blue-collar ... machine for less than three ...

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CHAPTER TWO The Politics of Anticommunism

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pp. 24-39

AS CONCERN about Nazi Germany escalated in the late 1930s, Congress established the Special House Committee on Un-American Activities. Commonly known as the Dies Committee, after Rep. Martin Dies, the conservative Texas ...

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CHAPTER THREE Prelude to an Investigation

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pp. 40-50

The grand alliance of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain that won World War II began to unravel in late 1945 as the Soviets began to take an aggressive stance against their neighbors. An early...

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CHAPTER FOUR Reds in the Newsroom

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pp. 51-64

THE ANTI-COMMUNIST campaign intensified in the late 1940s as Cold War hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated. The Soviet blockade of Berlin in the spring of 1949 triggered a massive American ...

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CHAPTER FIVE The Specter of McCarthy

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pp. 65-79

Throughout the 1950s federal prosecutors, state investigative agencies, immigration off cials, and members of Congress relied on a variety of sources to fuel the anti-Communist campaign. Among these were ex-Communists who testified against party members...

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CHAPTER SIX Dark Clouds over the Newsroom

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pp. 80-94

BY 1955 THE RIVALRY among congressional investigative committees had grown so intense that they agreed to avoid overlapping investigations. The House Un-American Activities Committee focused on labor issues at hearings held in Seattle, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Fort Wayne, Indiana...

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CHAPTER SEVEN The Investigation

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pp. 95-107

Winston Burdett sat confi dently before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in late June 1955 as a battery of photographers and reporters scrambled into position to snap pictures and listen to his testimony. The cavernous chamber had been the setting for many of Joseph McCarthy’s most...

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CHAPTER EIGHT Deeper Trouble

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pp. 108-121

Journalists who were called to testify at the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee’s closed hearings in December 1955 waited anxiously throughout the Christmas holiday wondering if they would be called to testify in public. On January 3 ...

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CHAPTER NINE Journalists and the First Amendment

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pp. 122-137

A federal grand jury in Washington handed up indictments in the summer of 1956 against Alden Whitman, Seymour Peck, Robert Shelton, and William Price. Each was charged with one count of contempt of Congress for each question he had ...

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CHAPTER TEN Living with the Legacy

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pp. 138-148

The McCarthy era has influenced journalism for generations, playing a critical role in the economic well-being reporters and editors and their ability to defend themselves against government intrusion...

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pp. 149-154

Journalists who stood on moral principle and refused to answer questions before investigative committees during the McCarthy era suffered both economic and psychological hardships. They had been easy targets because the newspaper industry, like the movie industry in the late 1940s, was full of ex-radicals whose...


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pp. 155-190

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 191-194


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pp. 195- 201

E-ISBN-13: 9781592133437
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592133420

Page Count: 201
Publication Year: 2007