“Laying Low the Shibboleth of a Free Press: Regulatory threats against the American newspaper industry, 1938 – 1947.” Journalism Studies, 2013.

Victor Pickard

As American newspapers came under various forms of financial strain in the 1940s, arguably the most significant threat facing the industry during this period was an onslaught of media criticism in conjunction with a series of attempted state interventions. This paper fleshes out recurring themes of 1940s media criticism and shows how they coincided with moves toward regulating the press, which had begun in the late 1930s. Using historical methods, including close readings of newspaper, trade press, and activist literature and other materials that shed light on debates around press reform, this critical revisionist history brings into focus a formative period in the American press system’s development. The history that emerges from this archival evidence does not simply bring previously under-researched areas into focus; it also questions the presumed natural laissez-faire arrangement between the American government and the press – an assumption that largely remains intact to this day.

Published in Volume 15, Issue 4, pages 464-480