To the Foundation of a School for Publishers

An excerpt from A.J. Liebling’s 1975 revised edition of The Press, his compilation of Wayward Pressman columns and other press criticism:

When I put together The Wayward Pressman (1947), the first collection of the Wayward Press pieces I do now and then for The New Yorker, I dedicated it, “To the Foundation of a School for Publishers, failing which, no School of Journalism can have meaning.”

Nobody has responded to that appeal, either. My advice apparently has no weight with Megabelodons. But I read last year in the New York Times that Mr. Newhouse, the journalist chiffonier I have already had occasion to mention, has set aside $26,000,000 to be used, after his death, for the foundation of a School of Communications. The change in title from the old-fashioned school of journalism underlines the decreasing role of newspapers in the future as envisaged by a busy paper-jobber. The institution will not be called a School of Information, either, I noted without astonishment, or a School of News. Communication means simply getting any idea across and has no intrinsic relation to truth. It is neutral. It can be a peddler’s tool, or the weapon of a political knave, or the medium of a new religion. “Journalism” has a reference to what happens, day by day, but “communication” can deal, just as well, with what has not happened, what the communicator wants to happen, or what he wants the dupe on the other end to think. Its general and increasing substitution, in the schoolmen’s jargon, for harmless old Journalism disturbs me….

Q—What do you do for a living?

A—I am a communicator.

Q—What do you communicate? Scarlet fever? Apprehension?

That’s why I’m naming a dog for him someday.

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