The following is a press release by the Journalism History podcast and features communications professor Dale Cressman
Richard Nixon’s battles with the media have been well documented in history, but a new podcast episode with a Brigham Young University professor explores the little-known story of his tangled relationship with a then-underdog of TV news, ABC.
Dale Cressman, an associate professor in Brigham Young University’s School of Communications, discusses his research “Agnew, ABC, and Richard Nixon’s War on Television” in the latest episode of the Journalism History podcast.
Less than a year into Nixon’s presidency, Vice President Spiro Agnew launched a series of attacks on television journalists, accusing them of being biased and having too much power. Since 1960, Nixon believed the press had an active role in his political career and its sole purpose was to criticize him.
“Right from the beginning, they had this plan that they would criticize, they’d get on reporters, they would call up their bosses and complain about every single story,” Cressman said.
As the smallest, most vulnerable network, ABC found itself at a confluence of relationships with the administration: It employed both Nixon’s favorite and least favorite anchors, as well as a highly placed executive who lent sympathy and assistance to the White House. James Hagerty, Dwight Eisenhower’s former press secretary, was then president of ABC News.
Because the government licensed and regulated their stations, the television networks considered Agnew’s statements, and other White House criticisms, to be threats.
“It’s fascinating to hear Cressman explain how Nixon’s anti-press policy developed over time, step-by-step. Analyzing episodes in media history such as this one can really help us understand the relationship between press and politics in the present and how we might respond to today’s challenges,” said show host Ken Ward.
Journalism History is a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to reexamine the stories you thought you knew and the ones you were never told. Hosted by three professional media historians and listened to in 96 countries, Journalism History is available wherever you find podcasts. Transcripts are available at https://journalism-history.org/podcast/.