Political Pundits, Conventional Wisdom, and Presidential Reputation, 1945-1963
An elite cadre of political journalists shaped presidential reputation in the years between the end of the Second World War and Kennedy’s assassination. These pundits influenced politics in a way that is scarcely imaginable today. Walter Lippmann was easily the most prominent journalist of the 20th century. From the negotiations at Versailles to the Vietnam War, the most powerful people in the world read his columns and valued his insight. Arthur Krock and his colleague James Reston at the New York Times had access to, and the trust of, presidents and government officials of the highest rank. Drew Pearson occupied the opposite end of the spectrum of respectability, but he was perhaps the most popular of all the political pundits. In addition to his newspaper columns, Pearson also had a radio show with millions of faithful listeners. Marquis Childs’ column for the United Features Syndicate ran in all the largest markets in the United States and occupied a prominent place on the editorial page of the Washington Post . Joseph and Stewart Alsop collaborated on their “Matter of Fact” column and were at the center of a Georgetown social scene that included cabinet members, Supreme Court Justices, ambassadors, and foreign heads of state. Taking their experiences and prejudices into account, the elite journalists established the reputations of the presidents in three chronological phases. They formed their First Impressions before the president even took office. The period After the Honeymoon determined the working conventional wisdom of Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. As each president approached the end of his term, the columnists interpreted their Perceived Legacy . Taken together, the elite political journalists shaped and distorted how the interested public understood the deeper significance of contemporary events until Kennedy’s death. By the end of the 1960s, the pundits had lost the ability to create conventional wisdom. But between the deaths of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, they reigned.
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:political pundits journalism 1945 1963 truman eisenhower kennedy
Date of Publication:01/01/2004