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When did the US media go from helping cover up President’s infidelity to dishing the dirt on politicians?

Source: pixelcreatures

 

The US media has long aired dirty laundry on political figures. The accusations of Thomas Jefferson fathering a child with Sally Hemings were made by journalist James T. Callender. Andrew Jackson was attacked for marrying his wife before her divorce was fully official, with one paper in 1828 asking:

Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?

Jackson’s presidency would later be threatened by a scandal involving the wife of an appointee that was married when they first met that played out in the newspapers.

In 1884, newspapers spread the rumors about Grover Cleveland having fathered an illegitimate childThe yellow journalism of the turn of the last century loved a good scandal. In 1942, newspapers printed the scandal of Senator David Walsh visiting a brothel infiltrated by Nazi spies.

This stuff is not new. We didn’t go from a docile press to a scandal-loving one. We’ve always had scandal-loving sheets and newspapers in the corner of one politician or the other. Sometimes the media has worked to hide real scandals, sometimes they’ve fomented false scandals and sometimes they have been on the ball bringing it all to light.

wbmccl

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I wonder if the Cold War didn’t have a role in this – you can’t make the President look bad, that’d give the Soviets ammo! (Or, a more sinister reading, that journalists who blabbed this stuff could end up blackballed/before HUAC/etc.)

Underscorex

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The twin hits of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal did a lot to change the nature of journalism from acceptance of official dictates to looking under every rock for signs of government officials misleading or deceiving the public. The “dirty laundry” aspect followed later, probably because there were more journalists and journalistic outlets competing for the next big scoop.

nosecohn

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I think it started to be commonplace after the Gary Hart campaign in 1988. He openly dared the media to follow him around after reports of infidelity. That was a bad idea, it turns out because the media needed all of a week to get proof.

Nitsua87

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There was a recent piece on NPR about how Gary Hart was the first time the media actively pursued a scandal, yes – but that on another level, Nixon’s relationship with the media set the tone for future interactions.

I think there’s a clear trajectory there w/r/t public and media trust of POTUS – Watergate opened the door, but Gary Hart sort of modernized and sensationalized the process. (There’s also a book or two on how the Monica Lewinsky scandal helped build the hype machine – Gary Hart was the first one to be taken up by the 24-hour news cycle, Lewinsky did the same for the then-new online media)

underscorex

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You might be interested in learning about the history of television regulation. In the past, television broadcasting has been required to justify itself to the FCC, which judged whether it served the public interest. This regulation is no longer in place and abolishing it has had a significant effect on the content of television news.

http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/piac/novmtg/pubint.htm

DopeLikeAPNP

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