There is much discussion today about the role of the media in American society, particularly given the notion of so-called “fake news.”
Conservatives for years have complained about an institutional liberal bias among reporters. The rise of the New Media over the past two decades has greatly affected more traditional outlets, particularly newspapers whose circulation numbers have declined.
Now, Richard Nixon, the nation’s 37th president, had quite the relationship with the media throughout his career. From the Fund Crisis of 1952 to his failed gubernatorial campaign in 1962 to Watergate in the mid-1970s, Nixon often found himself at the center of intense press scrutiny.
In his 1990 memoir, “In the Arena,” he offers an interesting take on the media and its evolving position within society:
Many in the media keenly cultivate their unpopularity, affecting the posture of idealistic mavericks who have elected themselves to protect the public from unscrupulous officials no matter what the cost. Some would argue that if press people don’t mind being despised, that’s their business. I do not agree. The press used to consider itself part of the fabric of society, with a shared stake in America’s prosperity, the health of its institutions, and the success of its initiatives around the world. When they had to criticize, they did so as part of the team. But today the media consider themselves outside of and above society at large, looking down haughtily as they fire their thunderbolts at the rest of us. Frequently it appears that the media’s excesses are weakening the fabric of soeicty rather than strengthening it.
What is perhaps most remarkable about his observation is how it still sounds relevant 27 years later. Whatever one’s thoughts on Nixon as a person, a politician or a president, he was an astute observer of politics and society.
A reading of his works through the lens of 2017 proves that.