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January 1976

The Power and the Profits
by David Halberstam

Journalism at its best is a highly personal art, and radio encouraged individualism. The technology of radio was not complicated or expensive; if a correspondent had a story, he simply went on the air...

Television required so much contrivance. It was a team art, involving producers, cameramen, sound men, levels and levels of technicians, all of whom might distort the effect of the individual journalist ...

Politically, television was simply too powerful a force, too fast, too immediate, with too large an audience, for the kind of easy journalistic freedom that radio and print reporters had enjoyed ... It was as if an unwritten law of American journalism had evolved, stating that the greater the institutional platform, and the more power it has to influence public opinion, the more carefully it must be used and the less it must wander from the accepted norms of American society. It is better to be a little wrong and a little late on a major sensitive story than it is to be too right too far ahead of the rest of the country.

Vol. 237, No. 1, pp. 3371

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