The Press and Public Opinion

The PressIn the development of opinion, newspapers play an indispensable part. Without them, democracy could not endure in large countries like the United States and Canada, for, aside from local areas of small population where events become a matter of common knowledge through the personal intercourse, people are almost entirely dependent upon the newspapers for political information. “The newspaper is,” says Walter Lippmann, “in all literalness the bible of democracy, the book out of which a people determines its conduct. It is the only serious book more people read. It is the only book they read every day.” Nearly everyone has a favorite paper upon which he relies for information and from which, perhaps without knowing it, he borrows his opinions. It may, among serious-minded people who have made a wise choice, become a household institution, an intimate friend capable of inspiring personal attachment and strong regard. Great indeed is the power of the press—and the responsibility that goes with power. In the past its influence, exerted on behalf of self-government and social justice, has often seemed vital. There are many papers today that possess and merit public confidence. But on the whole a feeling of distrust and apprehension has somewhat shaken the credit of the press.

—Howard R. Penniman
American Parties and Elections (1952), pp. 86-87

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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