March 27, 2015

On March 27, 1947, the press reported on the Hutchins Commission report about the media.

Robert M. Hutchins, the president of the University of Chicago, served as the chair of the 1940s Commission on the Freedom of the Press. Time magazine’s Henry Luce suggested the creation of the commission and provided $200,000 in grants.

They evaluated the print and broadcast media as well as motion pictures. Their final report, “A Free and Responsible Press,” concluded that freedom of the press was in danger.

The commission cautioned against ownership concentration, rising costs, and the media’s preoccupation with sensational news. They felt that the media needed to take more responsibility for its actions.

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The Internet Archive has posted a copy of the Hutchins Commission’s publication, “A Free And Responsible Press, the report of the Commission on Freedom of the Press.”

This how the report begins:

“The Commission set out to answer the question: Is the freedom of the press in danger? Its answer to the question is: Yes. It concludes that the freedom of the press is in danger for three reasons:

First, the importance of the press to the people has greatly increased with the development of the press as an instrument of mass communication. At the same time the development of the press as an instrument of mass communication has greatly decreased the proportion of the people who can express their opinions and ideas through the press.

Second, the few who are able to use the machinery of the press as an instrument of mass communication have not provided a service adequate to the needs of society.

Third, those who direct the machinery of the press have engaged from time to time in practices which the society condemns and which, if continued, it will inevitably undertake to regulate or control.”

See Also:

— “A Free and Responsible Press. A Review of Free Press Report.”
Nieman Reports, April 1947.

— “Press Reaction to Hutchins Report.”
Nieman Reports, July 1947.

— “Book Review: The Commission on Freedom of the Press.”
By Ralph S. Brown Jr., Yale Law School, Faculty Scholarship Series, January 1948. Copy posted by Digital Commons.

— “The Hutchins Commission, The Press and the Responsibility Concept.”
By Margaret A. Blanchard, Journalism Monographs, May 1977.

The following quote about the report comes from a Walter Lippmann column published in The Emporia Gazette:

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