An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press
In 1943, Time Inc. editor-in-chief Henry R. Luce sponsored the greatest collaboration of intellectuals in the twentieth century. He and University of Chicago president Robert Maynard Hutchins summoned the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, the Pulitzer-winning poet Archibald MacLeish, and ten other preeminent thinkers to join the Commission on Freedom of the Press. They spent three years wrestling with subjects that are as pertinent as ever: partisan media and distorted news, activists who silence rather than rebut their opponents, conspiracy theories spread by shadowy groups, and the survivability of American democracy in a post-truth age. The report that emerged, A Free and Responsible Press, is a classic, but many of the commission’s sharpest insights never made it into print. Journalist and First Amendment scholar Stephen Bates reveals how these towering intellects debated some of the most vital questions of their time—and reached conclusions urgently relevant today.
Stephen Bates is an associate professor in the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies at UNLV. His research focuses on the First Amendment. He is the author of An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press (Yale University Press), as well as books on the history of journalism, political advertising, and religious freedom. His articles have appeared in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Communication Law and Policy, American Journalism, Journalism History, and the International Journal of Communication, as well as the Washington Post Magazine, American Heritage, the Wall Street Journal, and the Wilson Quarterly, where he spent nine years as literary editor. A former board member of the ACLU of Nevada, Bates is a member of the advisory board of the Black Mountain Institute at UNLV. He has been a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Annenberg Washington Program in Communications Policy Studies, and the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. He holds an A.B. and a J.D. from Harvard University.