For this paper, I am concentrating on articles from

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The historical records of various civilizations provide strong evidence of a continual struggle for balance between good and evil, right and wrong, and of course, war and peace. Most governing organizations and people of our modern times make decisions pertaining to foreign interaction on a daily basis, depending on current circumstances, in an attempt to keep the best interests of the individual nations and the world in mind. It is when those few select leaders come to power solely for personal glorification that that we see this struggle between war and peace begin anew.

A question one might ask is: How do we, as civilized people, learn about war and the effects of conflict? The general public receives information about current events through varying degrees of media coverage. As societies have advanced, so too have the methods of dispersion of pertinent information and the ability of journalists to communicate with the public in a timely manner.

For this paper, I am concentrating on articles from The New York Times featuring comparisons of a week’s worth of news coverage of two different eras. These eras are based on the week following my birthday and my mother’s birthday. The weeks covered are April 3-9, 1980 and March 29-April 4, 1949. The focus of this paper will be journalism and news coverage discussing the continuing pendulum of war and peace in these United States.
MY BIRTHDAY: April 3, 1980

The story that consistently made the headlines from April 3-9 was centered on heated tensions between the U.S. and Iran caused by the capture of U.S. embassy workers by Islamic militants and students. These hostages had been held captive for 151 days prior to the beginning of this week’s news coverage. The New York Times made extensive efforts, throughout this week of coverage, to keep the public up to date with groundbreaking coverage and unfolding issues.

News stories from April 3 consisted of a statement of demand from the president of Iran, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. In a public statement issued to journalists, he said, “We asked Carter to say that he will speak no more about this matter until Parliament convenes and he has sent us a note saying he accepts that.”1 He went on to say that once the Iranian parliament was established, a decision would be made concerning the possibility that the hostages and the American embassy would be turned over to the Iranian government. Mr. Bani-Sadr reported that, although no official statement had been made from President Carter, personal conversations between the two were leaning in a positive direction. If demands were met, Mr. Bani-Sadr would make efforts to convince the Revolutionary Council and the Islamic militants to release the hostages. At the time, it was generally thought that President Carter would be more willing to meet the demands than to take drastic foreign policy measures because of the forthcoming election.

The focus of stories on April 4 centered on the Iranian council’s conclusion that President Carter had not met Mr. Bani-Sadr demands. The council decided that the hostages and the American embassy would not be turned over to the Iranian government. This decision came as a shock to many journalists because Mr. Bani-Sadr claimed that his demands had been met in interviews given to the press earlier that day. The reaction of the council further demonstrated the political struggle in Iran between the president and the clerically influenced Revolutionary Council. The U.S. government’s response to this setback was to continue with the established restrained foreign policy. Analysts believed that the U.S. response would bring further conflict because the Islamic Republican Party could claim that the U.S. government was refusing to meet Mr. Bani-Sadr’s demands.

No news coverage was published on April 5 concerning the hostage situation. April 6 marked the sixth full month of hostage captivity and The New York Times reported on the disappointment of U.S. aides and their belief that the Iranian conflict would continue for some time.

“ ‘I really thought we had it this time,’ one senior official said yesterday, discussing the hopes that were dashed early in the week. ‘But this is about the fifth time this has happened and I don’t know how long it can go on like this.’ A State Department official, who all week had been deeply involved in the ups and downs of the negotiations, said ‘I’m going home to cry’ when asked what he was doing over the weekend.’ ” 2

It was reported that President Carter and the administration were leaning toward initiating both economic and political sanctions against Iran. Analysts feared that these sanctions would do little to ease the hostage situation, but would instead ignite further hatred of the U.S. by the Revolutionary Council.

A primary focus of coverage on April 7 was the report that the Iranian council couldn’t reach a decision about the transfer of the hostages and the American embassy to government officials. They had decided to present the situation to their religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to obtain his views of the situation. Mr. Bani-Sadr was disappointed in the council’s decision. He believed that releasing the hostages would help ease both the internal and external political tensions his country was facing. Reports on April 7 that indicated the Ayatollah was not willing to choose between the heads of the government and the Revolutionary Council were overshadowed by his decision of not supporting the transfer of hostages.

The New York Times on April 8 devoted the majority of front-page headlines to the announcement that the U.S. was going to officially instate economic and political sanctions against Iran. This came after the decision of the Ayatollah to keep the hostages under the control of the Islamic militants until the Iranian council could make a final decision. President Carter made an official statement regarding U.S. relations with Iran, which was published in full in The New York Times. President Carter outlined four important steps in dealing with the sanctioned country.

First, the United States of America is breaking diplomatic relations with the Government of Iran. The Secretary of State has informed the Government of Iran that its embassy and consulates in the United States are to be closed immediately….

Second, the Secretary of the Treasury will put into effect official sanctions prohibiting exports from the United States to Iran….

Third, the Secretary of the Treasury will make a formal inventory of the assets of the Iranian Government, which were frozen by my previous order, and also will make a census or an inventory of the outstanding claims of American citizens and corporations and the Government of Iran….

Fourth, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General will invalidate all visas issued to Iranian citizens for future entry into the United States, effective today. 3

The spotlight of coverage for April 9 was comprised of the U. S. asking its allies to also break economic and political ties with Iran in an attempt to put further pressure on the Iranian government to demand the hostages’ release. America’s allies responded cautiously to these requests because they were heavily dependent upon Iran as an exporter of oil. Meanwhile, Iranians in the U.S. were fearful of President Carter’s decision to nullify their visas. Families were scared of deportation because they had nowhere to go. On the Iranian front, the Ayatollah applauded the U.S. decision to sever ties with his country and urged his people to rejoice in this liberation from an industrialized country.

The public was entirely immersed in information of the day-to-day events due to mass media coverage of the hostage crisis. Information was easily acquired by the journalists because of the willingness of public and political officials to address the situation.
MY MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY: March 29, 1949

Coverage on March 29 consisted of the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace, which had just ended a three-day “action committee” meeting. “ ‘It has demonstrated the will of the American people to keep open the channels of communication between the United States and all the other nations of the world,’ the statement added. ‘It has also indicated their desire that all differences be settled by peaceful negotiations. We believe that our government cannot fail to take note of these truths.’ ” 4 Also discussed was the delegates’ upcoming national tour for peace. The delegates were to embark on a cross-country tour to speak at meetings and gather the signatures of Americans who supported peace. From there, the delegates planned to present a document containing millions of signature to President Truman on Memorial Day of that year. Meanwhile, in London, ten Western European representatives edited the constitution for the proposed Council of Europe. All of the represented nations were in agreement with the constitution and wanted to use the council to promote European unity.

A primary focus of news stories on March 30 consisted of the U.S. reaction to the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace. U.S. laws did not allow Communists to enter the country’s borders, but an exception was made to grant visas to allow representatives from certain Soviet bloc nations to attend the conference. After the conference was over, the State Department and Attorney General’s office canceled the cross-country tour for ambassadors from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Yugoslavia, saying that the original purpose of their visa had expired. The ambassadors were instead told to go home.

Journalists reported on March 31 of Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s discussions with other potential signing nations of the North Atlantic Pact. They met to discuss the terms of the treaty, which was to be signed that Monday in Washington, D.C.; the future of Germany’s government was also a topic of discussion. Foreign ministers were in agreement that Germany needed to be brought back into the political workings of Europe, but at the same time needed to be held within certain boundaries to prevent future problems. One Senator from Ohio, Robert A. Taft, was worried that the pact’s bindings would bring the U.S. into another world war because it made the nation morally obligated to become involved if one of the signing nations should be attacked.

News reports on April 1 focused on the Soviet Union’s disagreement with the North Atlantic Pact. Officials in Moscow declared that the treaty violated the United Nations charter and was specifically directed against the Soviet Union and other members of the Soviet bloc. Statements were written and delivered to several nations, including the U.S., and stated

1. The Atlantic treaty has a clearly aggressive character and is directed against the Soviet Union. 2. The treaty runs counter to the United Nations Charter. 3. The Pact violates the Anglo-Soviet treaty, the Franco-Soviet treaty and the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements. 5

The prospective signers of the treaty said the Soviet claim held no ground because the treaty targeted any nation that would attack member nations of the treaty.

Coverage on April 2 consisted of the U.S. reaction to Soviets claim about the North Atlantic Pact being unfair. U.S. officials reiterated that the treaty was not aimed at any specific nation, but against any potential warring nation that would attack a member nation of the pact. Then, and only then, military aid clauses would come into effect against that aggressor to defend and protect the freedom of the treaty members. In addition to the previous claims, the Soviets added threats to cancel treaties with the British and the French if those nations signed the North Atlantic Pact. British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin defended the pact as being a defense mechanism for unified free peoples against totalitarian regimes. He hoped that the signing of the pact would produce permanent peace within a year.

The spotlight of coverage of April 3 consisted of the continuing conflict between the prospective Atlantic pact nations and the Soviets. Diplomatic chiefs of the member nations “gave final approval, without change, to the rest of the treaty and went ahead with plans for signing it here Monday afternoon, undeterred by Russian opposition.”6 The diplomats also confronted Soviet claims that the treaty’s contents pointed directly at them and other members of the Soviet bloc. Diplomats issued a joint statement to the press, which addressed the identical letter delivered to each individual nation. In a short public statement, the prospective members of the treaty claimed that the Soviets had distorted key issues of the treaty in order to misrepresent their intentions and shed negative light on the union.

The focus of stories on April 4 was the preparations of the official signing of the treaty. Twelve nations were to join together in promise and signature to finalize the North Atlantic Pact in the auditorium of the State Department. It was understood that the signing brought about no immediate commitment from the member nations. After signing, the U.S. would then present the treaty to the Senate, and upon approval, President Truman would review the document. Only after all national governments had similarly reviewed and ratified the treaty, would it commit the nations to act together against an aggressor.

Journalists took ample opportunity to report news from the many meetings and public appearances held as numerous foreign dignitaries entered the country for political meetings. Members of the public, no matter where they lived, felt like part of the events because of the numerous photographs taken and widespread broadcasts of key events.


Through researching primary sources in the form of historical newspaper articles, I have studied journalism and news coverage from two different eras. My focus was on the continuing pendulum of war and peace in these United States. This main topic was clearly illustrated by coverage of U.S. and Iranian hostilities during the early 80s and U.S. involvement in peacekeeping treaties during the late 40s.

It is important to realize that no historical event is in itself an isolated incident. Instead, the event is shaped by the events that lead up to it, and by the dominant world view of the time. For this paper, there were indeed key historical events that influenced the policies mentioned throughout the coverage. The end of World War II came just four years before my mother’s birthday, and this global conflict had created a governmental and public desire for peace. This is seen through the two main stories of the week, the Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace and the imminent signing of the North Atlantic Pact. A desire for peace did not totally diffuse conflict among nations. An outcry was heard from the Soviets, who believed that the focus of the treaty was directed towards their borders in a threatening way. My birthday fell during a time in which there were no significant widespread conflicts. Small, localized tensions were brewing throughout the globe and brought clashes upon the United States. It seems that the world had forgotten about its conquest for everlasting peace, as the leaders of a new generation took control of our political dealings. The nations had let down their guard, and slowly, conflict drenched our foreign policy.

Politicians play an ever changing, yet integral role, in helping journalists meet the informational needs of the public. Through my research, I have found that politician participation varied between the two eras. During the hostage crisis of the early 80s, politicians would give just the vital facts to the journalists and it was the reporter’s job to dig in and create a greatly detailed and informative news story. During the late 40s, it was the politicians themselves who got on the airwaves and television sets to address the people of the world. These broadcasts were given by influential political figures and translated into numerous languages in order to allow other countries to tune in. This evolving participation by politicians seems to mirror the momentum of the swinging pendulum of war and peace in these United States.

The New York Times. April 3-9, 1980 and March 29-April 4, 1949.

1 Kifner, John. “Bani-Sadr Reports Message By Carter Agreeing To Terms.” 3 April 1980. The New York Times.

2 Gwertzman, Bernard. “U.S. Aides Resigned to Long Iran Crisis.” 6 April 1980. The New York Times.

3 “Transcript of Carter Statement on Iran.” 8 April 1980. The New York Times.

4 Parke, Richard H. “Delegates to Tour Country Spreading ‘Peace’ Mission.” 29 March 1949. The New York Times.

5 “Moscow Protests Atlantic Treaty As U.N. Violation” 1 April 1949. The New York Times.

6 Lawrence, W. H. “12 Powers Charge Russians Distort Defensive Treaty.” 3 April 1949. The New York Times.

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