Freedom of the Press in Danger
By the fall of 1945, the Second World War was over. All of the Axis powers had surrendered. Troops began to return home. More goods were becoming available. Life was slowly returning to normal. The country seemed to heave a sigh of relief at the thought of living in a world at peace.
But not everyone took a return to normal for granted. Frank L. Eversull, president of the North Dakota Agricultural College in Fargo, was concerned that some of the freedoms our soldiers fought to protect might be in danger. In particular, Eversull was concerned about the freedom of the press. On this date in 1945, Eversull gave a talk to the Moorhead Kiwanis Club. The occasion was National Newspaper Week.
Eversull extolled the virtues of the press. He said that throughout the war, the press was largely responsible for maintaining morale and keeping citizens informed. With the war over, Eversull said that the papers could play a major role in post-war planning and encouraging citizens. He also said that the newspapers had taken the lead in addressing matters such as juvenile delinquency and research.
But in spite of what he saw as improved writing and better editorial style, Eversull expressed concern that the press could slide into printing newspapers of poor editorial quality, perhaps leading to censorship and the loss of freedom of the press. This in turn could result in totalitarianism. Eversull pointed to the amount of space newspapers devoted to “the glorification of sports and athletics.” This resulted in excluding other, more important topics of current events. He said the newspapers were printing “pre-digested news written by columnists who write what they think America wants to hear.” Eversull was especially concerned about the comics page. He said that the comics were his “pet peeve,” and pointed out that research was being conducted to find out what influence the comics had on young people.
Eversull said that intelligent newspapers were vital for a vibrant society. He said he could not imagine anyone running for public office who did not “read and absorb his daily newspaper.” He called freedom of the press “the most potent factor for keeping democracy in America.”
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Fargo Forum and Daily Republican. “Press Freedom Said in Danger.” 5 October, 1945.