Year of Media Decision
Thirty years ago American political life was all relentless, painful, and confounding: the Tet Offensive brought new intensity to the Vietnam War; President Lyndon Johnson would not seek re-election; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were assassinated; student protests rocked France; a Soviet invasion ended "socialism with a human face" in Czechoslovakia; the Mexican government massacred scores of peaceful demonstrators; and Richard M. Nixon was elected president. Any one of the events of 1968 bears claim to historical significance. Together they set off shock waves that divided Americans into new and contending categories: hawks and doves, old and young, feminists and chauvinists, straights and hippies, blacks and whites, militants and moderates. As citizens alive to their own time and as reporters responsible for making sense of it, journalists did not stand aside from the conflicts of 1968. In their lives and in their work, they grappled with momentous issues—war, politics, race, and protest.
The contributors to 1968: Year of Media Decision establish not only what journalism meant in 1968, but also gauge the distance and direction that news reporting has traveled since then. There are contrasting essays by David Halberstam, a former war correspondent, and Winant Sidle, a retired major general; former reporter and author Jules Witcover, Jack Newfield on Robert Kennedy's final hour, Curtis Gans on the "Dump Lyndon Johnson" campaign, Dan T. Carter on George C. Wallace, Tom Wicker on Richard Nixon, and Robert Shogan on the new political order. In "Race" Pamela Newkirk discusses the origins and impact of the Kerner report. Robert Lipsyte explores the 1968 Olympics. Robert Friedman details the Columbia University strike, Claude-Jean Bertrand examines the French protests, and there are essays by Mary Holland on Northern Ireland, Madeline K. Albright on the press of the Prague Spring, Suzanne Levine on "the bra that was never burned," and Raymundo Riva Palacio on the Mexican media.
With the perspective of thirty years we can see that the events of 1968, which once seemed to erupt out of nowhere, were the consequences of powerful trends. At the same time gauging the distance between then and now can help make it clear which aftershocks of 1968 are with us and which collectively, have disappeared. This volume tells us important things about not only where journalism has been but where it is going.