JUNE 23, 1955
NEW YORK—There was a column in one of our metropolitan newspapers last week dealing with a subject that has been of concern to a great many of us—broadly, censorship.
It sometimes seems to me that too much gets into our papers. So many of our statesmen seem to talk as though they were talking only to an American audience, seeming to forget that our reporters send news all over the world, and that there is no such thing except an American audience. Whenever anyone in public life speaks, he speaks to the world.
Then occasionally it seems to me that we rather recklessly hand out information about defense preparations, for instance. It is quite true that Russia, as an example, probably has enough agents in this country to inform her on whatever she really wants to find out. But the communists might have a little more trouble in getting the information they want if it would not be given out by someone connected with military preparedness or in some speech where sometimes there seems to have been little communication between one government department and another as to what it is unwise to divulge.
What the columnist I am talking about was concerned with is the fact that our American people are being denied necessary information on which to make up their minds about policies. In other words, it is implied that a legitimate newspaper reporter could no longer get from public officials information that the people of the United States have a right to know.
It would certainly be a pity if the people of other countries knew things about our policies and plans and our own people were kept in ignorance.
Any part of censorship means that people are really afraid to talk on a friendly basis with honorable newspaper people who want to make up their minds reasonably about the issues before the country. I have always found that one could talk off the record with newspapermen and women and have one's confidence completely respected. And I think this is a valuable custom because it gives background to writers so that they can make their stories more intelligent.
The people of our country should not be kept in the dark as to the real reason certain things are being done.
It is true that many of us who have been in politics a long time and have kept in close touch with public affairs may be able to discover for ourselves the underlying reasons for actions taken by the government. But I think it would be unfair to expect this of the average citizen.
That is one reason why columnists and feature writers, as well as those who just report the factual news, are important in the field of public information. Any censorship, therefore, may be harmful, and I would prefer to take a chance in having more revealed to the enemy than to feel that our own people who have to function, if a democracy is to function, are kept in ignorance.