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Looking Back at News Management

By admin Published: November 21, 2011

I was flipping through Steven M. Gillon's book "Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War," which looks at Roosevelt in the hours immediately following the attack (and will also be a History channel special). I found this passage of particular interest:

"Roosevelt exercised nearly complete control over the flow of information. With the exception of a few radio reports that made it to the mainland, there was little or no independent information about events in Hawaii. ... Unlike the Kennedy assassination, or the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, when television spread the word around the country and the globe within minutes, news about Pearl Harbor spread slowly, trickling out over the radio in the afternoon. The attack took place during the traditional Sunday dinner hour on the East Coast and in the Midwest, which meant that most people did not have their radios on. . . . It was not until later in the afternoon, when the 'extra' editions of daily newspapers hit the streets with their screaming headlines, that the entire nation learned of the assault.

"Nonetheless, FDR was still able to deceive the public and Congress about the extent of the carnage. Although the president had detailed damage and casualty reports by the end of the day, he refused to release them -- not only to the press but also to lawmakers in Washington. He deliberately downplayed the effectiveness of the Japanese attack . . . "

Could you imagine any of that happening today? I keep imagining people's phones lighting up when the first news of the attack came through.

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