Henry Luce's Anti-Communist Legacy:
A Qualitative Content Analysis of U.S. News Magazines' Coverage
Of China's Cultural Revolution
Daniel Marshall Haygood
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Park Doctoral Fellow
700 Bishops Park Drive
Raleigh, North Carolina 27605
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Henry Luce's Anti-Communist Legacy:
A Qualitative Content Analysis of U.S. News Magazines' Coverage
In the winter of 1961, media mogul Henry Luce, still seething over the
successful Sputnik launches by the Soviet Union and the defeat of Richard
Nixon by John Kennedy the previous November, gathered the leaders of his
corporation in the company auditorium and presented a manifesto outlining a
renewed and reenergized mission for his media empire:
And I propose to you that we of Time, Inc. now register in our minds and
wills that from here on out the dominant aim of Time, Inc. shall be the
defeat of the Communist movement throughout the world….Every individual and
every organization in the land can strike a blow for Liberty and against
Communism - now….And to repeat, the climax of the struggle with Communism
will come – soon. It has begun and, in all probability, by 1965 we shall
either have negotiated our own surrender or Communism will have become a
disrupted, discredited and disintegrating force….I propose that the
determination be made now, that it be made here, and that it be made by the
editors and managers of Time, Inc.
If there was anyone left in America who at that time had any remaining
doubts about the intensity of Henry Luce's anti-Communist sentiments or his
willingness to use his media empire to battle the those forces, they were
dispelled with finality by the above grand pronouncement. Luce's comments
were a reconfirmation of his personal and professional conviction that
every element of American society should focus on crushing the Communist
threat. For Luce and his Time, Inc., this battle was simply a continuation
of his own life's mission to shape the world in America's image.
Henry Robinson Luce was born in Tengchow, China on April 3, 1889. His
parents were Methodist missionary educators dedicated to helping the
Chinese to embrace the faith of Jesus Christ and to rise above the
devastating poverty experienced by so many in the Far East at the
time. His experiences in Tengchow helped create a lasting love for China;
a bond that dramatically influenced his personal and professional
life. Young Henry was educated at both the esteemed and exclusive
Hotchkiss School and Yale University. At Hotchkiss, Luce would meet his
future business partner in publishing, Briton Hadden, and at Yale, he would
develop his interest in journalism.
Following graduation from Yale, Luce and his friend Hadden secured enough
money to begin a publishing enterprise. The first issue of Time, with the
Speaker of the House, Joe Cannon, appearing on the front, was distributed
in early March 1923. The magazine's eventual success led to the
introduction of the "March of Time" newsreel and radio program, Life
magazine, Fortune magazine, and Sports Illustrated. As owner and editor
of his publications, Luce was known for his very close and active role in
forging editorial policy and direction via a constant flood of memos,
letters, and meetings. He had a practice of hiring like-minded editors to
assure a consistency of message. And according to many, most consistent
of all was his message about the evils of Communism and its potential
spread around the world, particularly its potential spread to the nation of
his birth, his beloved China.
This paper will look at a whether Luce's influence remained in his
publications even after he left official duty at Time, Inc. Did his
passion and hatred toward Communism still permeate the pages of Time
magazine? Is that reflected in Time's coverage of China during a crucial
period of the country's history when the Chinese Communist program, the
Cultural Revolution, was imposed on the Chinese population?
Among scholars and writers, Luce's life and legacy is crystal clear. Luce
is soundly excoriated for his approach to journalism, his views of the
world, and his drive to spread those views with his arsenal of media
vehicles. And in particular, he is harshly criticized for his role in his
magazines' unconditional support of Chiang Kai-shek and his governing
Nationalist party during the pre-war, World War II, and Chinese civil war
eras. So blind was Luce and Time that they failed to see the increasing
corruption and incompetence of the regime and failed to even consider the
successes the rival Chinese Communists were having rallying the peasants
and fighting against the Japanese.
W.A. Swanberg is one of the leading critics of Luce. The author condemns
Luce for his personal use of his media empire to sway Americans toward
support of the Chinese Nationalists calling the media of Time, Inc.
"propaganda vehicles for the Nationalist government of Chiang."
Sterling Seagrave, another critic, is similarly harsh in his criticism of
Luce and the uncritical, supportive and voluminous coverage given to Chiang
by Time. In his book, The Soong Dynasty, Seagrave disdains Luce's use of
Time to propagate his views on China. Seagrave's view is that Luce and Time
were complicit in supporting the increasingly corrupt Nationalist regime
and fostering a whitewashed perception of Chiang and the
Nationalists. Crucial to constructing that image of Chiang were the
eleven Time magazine covers featuring Chiang, his wife, or both from April
1927 to April 1955. Plus, the Chiangs were selected as Time magazine's
"Man and Wife of the Year" for the January 3, 1938 issue, which included a
cover and feature article.
Christopher Jespersen writes that Luce and Time portrayed Chiang as
"China's political and spiritual savior" while denigrating Mao and the
Communists. For Luce, Chiang provided the key linkage between the
American people and the United States' willingness to aid China with money
and resources. Perhaps Jespersen's views on Luce are best captured in his
evaluation of Luce's role as a journalist: "He took it as his duty not
simply to relate world events but to educate Americans on their
responsibilities. He was not a reporter; he was a preacher, and he
sermonized on behalf of China."
There are several other scholars who while still critical have slightly
more moderate views on Luce and his use of his media to influence Americans
about China and General Chiang. Patricia Neils, writing in China Images in
the Life and Times of Henry Luce, asserts that it was indeed Luce and Time
that first recognized the potential impact of Chiang for America by
labeling Chiang the "second Sun Yat-sen" and placing him on the cover for
the first time on the April 4, 1927 issue.
Other moderate authors, such as James L. Baughman, note that Luce and Time,
Inc. media were one voice among many but by sheer volume of favorable
coverage were successful in keeping China and Chiang near the top of the
public agenda when there were many competing forces for American government
funds.  Robert Herzstein criticizes Luce for fully supporting Chiang
and his Nationalists even when the corruption and deceit of the regime and
its leaders became clear. Competing alternatives such as the Communists
and their leader, Mao, were all but ignored by the magazine. 
Perhaps Michael Hunt best captures how Luce perceived himself, his media
empire, America's national mission, and journalism's role in furthering
that mission, particularly in the case of China:
As a publisher, he would think of himself as a preacher-educator, imparting
to his readers information but, even more important, moral direction. It
left him with a deep and abiding conviction that China was a fit, indeed
prime target for American uplift. The Chinese hungered for what the United
States had to offer – whether models of political and economic development,
religious faith, or diplomatic and military support – and Americans had a
categorical obligation to satisfy that hunger.
In sum, the previous scholars and authors are highly critical of Luce
himself and his use of Time, Inc. to propagate his worldviews, particularly
in the case of supporting Chiang and the Nationalist party in China at the
expense of rival factions, individuals, such as Mao, and ideologies. But
did these Luce journalistic and nationalistic values so permeate his Time,
Inc. organization that they endured even after Luce left active
participation in the organization?
The question with which this paper is concerned is whether or not Time's
coverage during the early, most intense part of the Cultural Revolution
differs from Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. Specifically, do
Time's portrayals of Mao, the Cultural Revolution, and China itself differ
from those of the other two news magazines thus possibly reflecting the
fiercely nationalistic and anti-Communist views of its founder and owner,
Henry Luce, even after Luce had officially left Time, Inc.?
This paper looks at coverage of China, using the method of qualitative
content analysis, from the three primary news magazines in the United
States, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report, from April 1966
through December 1967. This period covers the initial start of the
Cultural Revolution with the publication of an article in the April 2, 1966
issue of the People's Daily written by Chi Pen-yu entitled "The Reactionary
Content in 'Hai Jui Insults the Emperor' and 'Dismissal of Hai Jui'" until
December 1967, the end of the first full year of the revolution.
Notes on News Magazines' Coverage of the Cultural Revolution
Covering China during the Cultural Revolution was a massive challenge. For
all three news magazines, reporting operations were based in their Hong
Kong bureaus. These bureaus typically had two to three reporters, an
interpreter, and a secretary. For the most part, North American reporters
were not allowed in China because the country had employed a set of severe
restrictions against entrance. Thus, basing someone in China for American
publications was virtually impossible. On the other hand, Europeans, for
example German and Italian reporters, were able to cover the country basing
their efforts in Beijing. There was one exception, Canadian David
Oancia, who was the only non-Communist North American reporter allowed to
use the mainland as a base. Occasionally, he contributed to Time
magazine. Otherwise, American reporters, unless the person happened to be
the famous Communist sympathizer, Edgar Snow, had to sneak in the country
using a tourist visa for entrance.
Thus, in order to provide content for the magazines' coverage of China and
feed the burgeoning American appetite for news about China, stories for the
news magazines had to be pieced together from various sources such as
official Chinese government publications like the People's Daily, Chinese
radio broadcasts, the accounts from tourists and refugees, and reports from
European correspondents. Stanley Karnow, who covered China as a Time,
Life, and Washington Post correspondent, also cited Red Guard publications
such as pamphlets, posters, handbills, and newspapers as providing insight
to the chaotic events occurring during the Cultural Revolution. For
Time magazine during the 1960s, there were three reporters, based in Hong
Kong, pulling together this information and providing the coverage of China
for Time readership: Frank McCulloch, Karsten Prager, and Arthur Zich.
Findings - Time Magazine
There are several key findings that stand out about Time's coverage of
China in 1966 and 1967. First, while this study is not intended to measure
quantity of coverage, it is instructive to note that there is an article on
China appearing almost each week during the time period under study, thus
placing China high on the American public's agenda. This high level of
coverage is notable because of the difficulties confronting the media in
covering China. Clearly, Time was intent on telling the story of China and
the Cultural Revolution to the American people. The volume and consistency
of coverage is similar to Time's coverage of China during the late 1940s,
perhaps a remnant of the Henry Luce legacy that remained over the years.
Second, holding true to its stated mission written over forty years ago,
Time's coverage of China during this time period of study is highly
personality driven. For the most part, the story of China and the
Cultural Revolution is told through the lens of the leading individuals of
the government. Many of the articles focus on Mao and other leaders such
as Lin Piao, Liu Chao-shi, and Chou En-lai. For Time, these are the faces
of the China and the Cultural Revolution. Plus, a significant amount of
the coverage is devoted to describing the internal conflicts among the key
leaders in the government. For example, for the September 9, 1966 issue,
Defense Minister Lin Piao is featured on the cover and in the accompanying
five-page article, which details the situation in China and emphasizes the
emergence of Piao over Lui Shao-shi as heir apparent to Mao. This practice
of placing key leaders on the cover is certainly not unique for Time as
this particular cover marks the fifteenth time a Chinese Communist leader
or collection of leaders has been featured on the cover of Time since the
Communist party takeover in October 1949.
Third, the substance and tone of the coverage is straightforward, objective
and for the most part free of the verbal stabs and editorializing for which
Time was so criticized for its coverage of China during the 1940s. Gone
are the shameless, condescending descriptions of Mao and the Communists,
the gushing coverage of Chiang and the Nationalists, and the general
flouting of journalism's most cherished tenets. In short, the coverage
appears to be agenda-free.
Finally and perhaps most important for this paper, Time's construction or
portrayals of Mao, China, and the Cultural Revolution differs only slightly
from the other news magazines. This consistency of coverage among the news
magazines either indicates a common journalistic approach to the subjects
or the absence of a predetermined agenda driving the coverage.
Mao is no stranger to the covers and pages of Time magazine. From October
1949 to January 1967, Mao appeared on the cover and in the accompanying
feature article a total of eight times. For this study, once Mao
reemerged from his six months of isolation in 1966, Time portrays him
as the undisputed leader of China and the inspirational force and driver of
the Cultural Revolution. Gone almost completely are the acerbic
references, denigrating descriptions, and snide characterizations of Mao
and the Communists that were so prominent in Time's coverage during the
1930s and 1940s.
The exception to this characterization of Mao as preeminent leader is
during the six-month period in which Mao retreated from public view. Here,
Time speculates in a number of issues on his health and his status as
leader within the government. Time writes, "Last week, Sinologists were
speculating that Mao was seriously ill. At 72, Mao is ailing and
overweight, smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, and suffers either from
Parkinson's disease or the symptomatically similar aftereffects of a
cerebral hemorrhage. He is also believed to have a liver
ailment." There are also several articles that propose various
scenarios regarding challenges to Mao's rule such as the internal
government positioning done by Liu Shao-shi and Lin Piao to be Mao's
successor. This sort of speculation by Time was not uncommon during the
early part of 1966 when many were guessing about Mao's status.
Once Mao reemerges in May 1966, he is clearly positioned on the pages of
Time as being in full control of the government and country. In
reinforcing Mao's renewed presence and power, Time readily reports on Mao's
famous swim in the Yangtze supported by glowing comments from observers on
the excellent health of the leader. Time even records that the ever
genial and genteel Mao politely offers a young lady instruction in the
proper techniques of the backstroke. Further, Time writes that Mao's time
away from public view was simply used to study China's current economic,
political, and social situation in order to formulate a plan with which to
move the country forward. In sum, according to Time, the great leader
simply stepped away temporarily, perhaps on a sabbatical-like absence, to
recharge and rethink his plan for the long-term good of the country.
Additionally, Mao is portrayed by Time as a shrewd strategist. Having
grown frustrated with the morass of bureaucrats ensconced comfortably in
government positions and shrouded with privilege and access, he outflanks
them by going straight to the youth to execute his revolution. He alone is
portrayed as the creator and mastermind behind the Red Guards. Time
establishes this solid link between Mao and the Red Guards referring to the
Red Guards as "Mao's Red Guards," "Mao's own forces of Red Guards," or
"Mao's fulminating Red Guards" Ultimately for Time, Mao is the master
However, perhaps the magazine found it difficult to refrain completely from
its old habits from the 1940s as Time does treat Mao irreverently at
times. In a section labeled "Puffed Mao," regarding his return to public
life in May 1966, Time writes, "Mao's reappearance also had some spurious
elements to it. Out of sight for six months and reportedly ailing from
either a stroke or a heart attack, the Chinese ruler suddenly turned
up….Despite his hearty grin, Mao seemed unnaturally bloated." It
should be noted again that this sort of characterization is unique for the
coverage during the mid 1960s.
Ultimately, Time firmly places blame for the entire revolutionary fiasco on
Mao. "Much of the damage to China's position has been done by Mao's
inflexibility. The Puritanism and self-hypnosis that were born on the Long
March and nurtured in the caves of Yenan have become an obsession. Aging
and ailing, Mao now insists on seeing his philosophy through to the final
victory – or final defeat."
And most revealing for Time, is the fact that almost all the coverage
dedicated to China is mainland or Mao based. There are very few articles
or even references to Chiang Kai-shek and Taiwan in the content of Time
articles reviewed for this paper. When considering the massive investment
made in covering Chiang during the 1940s and the sheer amount of coverage
dedicated to Chiang and the Nationalists, this is a highly revealing
finding. Mao and his revolution have in effect marginalized Chiang and his
Nationalists on the pages of Time.
While Time had been reporting for several months on the events gripping the
country, the first specific reference to the "Cultural Revolution" was in
the August 26, 1966 issue. And the magazine provides an early
prognosis for the revolution's prospects determining that it is a poor
substitute for the real problems plaguing China. Time writes, "The Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution was the product of desperation and is
unlikely to solve Red China's problems of backward industries and a
famine-prone agricultural system. It seems incredible that Mao might have
forgotten so soon, but the last time Red China tried a Great Leap Forward,
it set the country back a full ten years." This assessment by Time
begins a long running commentary on the ills and consequences of the
Specifically, Time continues this coverage in weekly pieces as well as in
several feature articles. For example, the cover of the September 9, 1966
issue frames the event as the "The Chinese Nightmare." This issue includes
a multi-page article that describes the Cultural Revolution as a
"convulsion of historic proportion." Providing vivid and real life
examples of the hysteria, Time writes:
There, the Red Guards were running riot. Into a Canton barbershop burst a
squad of Red Guards, accusing the barbers of using 'capitalist-smelling'
pomade. The barbers struck back, and two teenage Guards fell, slashed to
death. In a Peking side street, a woman wept as her neighbor was led away
– but she was weeping for joy. The old man had once hired her for the
humiliating duty of wet-nursing his children. To compound the nightmare,
the Red Guards were striking at many of the things that the Chinese have
always respected. Buddhist shrines were defaced; schools were ordered
closed for six months (to revise curriculums along purely Maoist
lines). Respect for womanhood and religion was forcibly forgotten.
Time's framing of the Cultural Revolution is not just about the chaos of
the moment. The magazine insightfully recognizes the impact this mass
destruction will have on China's future economic prospects, from both an
industrial and agricultural standpoint. The following succinctly captures
the magazine's assessment of how the revolution will affect the future of
China. Time writes, "To the men who care about China's future and want to
bring it into the modern world of comparative well-being and technology,
the revolution threatens to sweep all the painful achievements of nearly 20
years into the dustbin and consign China to a dark age of mindless communal
litanies and Mao sun worshipping."
Perhaps Time's view of the chaos gripping China is best summed up in the
pithy phrase the magazine uses to describe the revolution in its November
1966 issue, the "Great proletarian traffic jam."
While Time's coverage of the country itself is largely centered on the
extraordinary political and social events convulsing inside the country,
the magazine also devotes numerous pages to the resulting isolation from
its natural allies and the fear this internal upheaval has engendered among
The destructive nature of the Cultural Revolution has caused many of
China's Communist allied nations to shun the country, thus isolating it
from the rest of the Communist world. For example, Time echoes the intense
criticism emanating from Eastern Europe. In an article entitled,
"Appalling & Alone," Time writes:
As no other major nation in modern times, Red China stands alone, with
other Communists countries possibly even more appalled by its actions than
anyone else. Even the Communists of Eastern Europe, who in the past were
content to condone China's aberrations in order to gain more leverage from
the Sino-Soviet split, are now roundly denouncing the Red Chinese as
"insane." Hungarian Communist Boss Janos Kadar calls the events in China a
"national tragedy." East Germany has accused the Red Chinese of
"encouraging the cult of Mao to boundless excesses." 
Clearly, among their Communist brethren, China is without sympathizers,
even horrifying the Soviets. "The Russians were almost breathless in their
shock at the events in China. Pravda and Izvestia were providing some of
the most detailed – and accurate – reports as the Red Guards continued
their odd operations. The whole Cultural Revolution, charged Izvestia last
week, is a 'monstrous discreditation of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism.'"
Another important element in Time's characterization of China is the
possible consequence to others of the potential collapse of the country's
social order. Time positions China as having been plunged into total chaos
and confusion. Insanity rules and disorder reigns.  This chaos not
only has immense implications for the lives of the average Chinese, but for
the people of other countries as well. In essence, the danger is
heightened because it represents the threat of spilling over China's
borders and possibly affecting neighbors.  Time writes that China is
basically an insecure regime, bound on constantly criticizing other
countries and armed with a potent collection of atom bombs. Having
agreed at the 1955 Bandung conference to seek "peaceful coexistence" with
its fellow Asian countries, China now is perceived as the boisterous bully,
an unruly country ready to swing its nuclear elbows around the Asian
neighborhood. Time's sentiments about China are best captured by the
description, "thrashing Goliath."
Findings - Newsweek
The Newsweek coverage is best defined by its focus on the events and
actions of the Cultural Revolution, which is in contrast to Time's emphasis
on personalities or telling the story of the revolution through
individuals. In other words, the Newsweek coverage is similar to what
would be expected in newspapers; the straight reporting of events as they
occur. It provides a fairly straight chronology of events; a series of
reports revealing news as it happens. This is not to say that Newsweek
does not provide any personality features or in-depth information on the
Chinese leadership, but its reporting is a reflection of the more
event-based, linear approach toward covering the revolution.
Perhaps what is most revealing about the coverage are the similarities
between Time and Newsweek in portraying the key figures and
occurrences. There is very little difference in how both news magazines
frame Mao, the Cultural Revolution, and China. This is not surprising
since all news magazines, given the strict rules regarding American
reporters' access to the mainland, were forced to rely on similar sources
for information. Other than reporting the weekly news, the magazines were
limited in their abilities to break big stories unless those stories came
through the predictable channels, generally available to most news providers.
Regarding the portrayal of Mao, most of the same qualities and attributes
used by Time to characterize Mao are also used by Newsweek. Mao is clearly
the preeminent leader of the country, the author and force of the
revolution, and carries the responsibility for the hysteria
unleashed. There is perhaps one subtle difference in the
coverage. Newsweek tends to emphasize the role and influence of Mao
Thought versus Mao himself. For example, the magazine explains the ideas
of Mao Thought and the persuasive, if not hypnotic, hold it has over the
Red Guards and others. The magazine recounts the amazing feats that can be
achieved if properly infused with the wisdom of Mao. Armed with the
potency of Mao Thought, locomotives run faster and steady, burn wounds heal
faster, rice is cooked quicker, the table-tennis team improves, and chicken
feathers can ascend to heaven. Thus, for Newsweek, it is not so much
Mao himself being central in the news but how his thinking and words are
shaking the foundations of the country.
Similarly, Newsweek frames the country and the revolution in much the
same way as Time. The country is portrayed as a caldron of confusion and
contradiction destabilizing the entire economic, political, and social
infrastructure. If there is a difference in coverage, and it is a slight
one, it is that Newsweek goes just a bit further in classifying the mayhem
of the revolution as being close to "civil war." Indeed, other
adjectives used to describe the situation reinforce Newsweek's portrayal as
more dire than Time such as "a vast and ominous tumult" and "complete
Additionally, like Time, Newsweek casts China as the Asian problem child,
armed with the nuclear weapons and likely to threaten adjacent countries,
particularly the Soviet Union. Newsweek writes, "Nowhere was the concern
for the chaos in China more evident than in the Soviet Union, which shares
a 3,000-mile border with China and whose leaders have looked on with rising
apprehension as Peking's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution progressed
steadily from one extreme to the next."
Findings - U.S. News & World Report
U.S. News & World Report's overall approach to the coverage of Mao, China,
and the Cultural Revolution is fundamentally different from that provided
by Time and Newsweek. U.S. News & World Report coverage does not focus on
the individual players in the drama. It is not about personalities. The
coverage is also not focused on following and reporting each event as they
occur from week to week; the coverage is not designed for a reader to
follow events chronologically. U.S. News & World Report provides readers
with something very different than what both Time and Newsweek offer.
Overall, the coverage from U.S. News & World Report is about providing
in-depth analysis and placing events in a much larger frame or context in
which these events are occurring. Specifically, there are three elements
of the coverage from U.S. News & World Report that stand out. First, the
coverage centers on analyzing events rather than the simple reporting of
events. For example, U.S. News & World Report explores the potential
threat of China to the countries of the world in a piece entitled, "How
Dangerous is Red China?" It looks at the country's relationship with both
the Untied States and Russia, its growing isolation vis-à-vis other
Communist countries, the stability of the Red Army, the potential for
economic and social implosion, and the prospects for bringing China into
the United Nations. The piece is a careful analysis incorporating
facts, data, and quotes to support the assertions made. Substantively and
tonally, this coverage is in a different category from that of Time and
Second, the information about China is presented from a geopolitical
perspective. The coverage is not China centric, but more of how events in
China affect its relationship with other countries. In one article
featuring an interview with Colonel Michel Garder of the French Institute
of Strategic Studies, growing tensions between China and Soviet Russia are
explored with a special emphasis on how this growing division will affect
the United States. And then in December 1966, in an article entitled,
"Communism: World's Greatest Failure," U.S. News & World Report looks at
how the chaos of China plus the troubles of other Communist nations or
parties have exposed the fundamental weaknesses of the ideology and present
opportunities for the democracies of the world.
Third, from the standpoint of content, there is a tremendous emphasis on
China's development and testing of a nuclear arsenal and the impact that
program will have on the United States. Granted, the other news magazines
covered China's testing of atom bombs, but these reports were often
embedded in articles about other issues. U.S. News & World Report elevates
the issue of the development and testing of nuclear weapons to a major
focus. In one article, the magazine explores the question of whether the
United States should spend thirty billion dollars on the construction of an
anti-missile defense system, the "Nike-X" system containing "Nike-Zeus and
Sprint solid fuel missiles," that could save millions of American lives in
the case of a nuclear attack by either the Soviet Union or China. The
article points out that one of the key drivers in this debate are the
emergence of China as a nuclear threat since the country has successfully
tested several atoms bombs, coupled with the country's ambitions to move up
to the hydrogen bomb class.
Another way in which the U.S. News & World Report coverage is different is
the use of third party expertise in its reporting on China. This tool adds
the crucial element of credibility to the magazine's coverage. There are a
number of examples of this. In the November 7, 1966 issue, in a piece
called, "A First-Hand Report on Red China Today," there is an interview
with Miao Chen-pai, a defector from China. In July 1966, the Defense
Minister of "Free China," General Chiang Ching-kuo, provides his thoughts
on the tumultuous events going on in the mainland in "Why the Turmoil
Inside Red China?"
Regarding the portrayal of Mao, simply by virtue of the lack of volume of
coverage of Mao compared to Time and Newsweek, there is a much less vivid
picture of the man. Certainly, there are several characteristics that
emerge out of this coverage. While there is much less of the speculation
about Mao's status during the period in which he retreated from the public
view, U.S. News & World Report does interpret events slightly differently
than the two rival news magazines. The magazine asserts that Mao is
rapidly losing power to rivals in the party and claims that Mao's close
associates in the party are using his "thoughts" to create a cult of Mao,
which will allow them to maintain their prestige, position, and power in
the government. U.S. News & World Report labels this effort as the
"deification" of Mao. "If Mao's 'godliness' is established, the reasoning
goes, no Chinese will dare go against his 'thought' – or his anointed
successors – any time soon….Mao's deification is expected to continue
against the background of an orderly transfer of power to his
friends. For this reason, U.S. experts see little chance of change in
Chinese policy after Mao is completely out of the picture – no change for
at least five to 10 years."
In U.S. News & World Report, the most prominent characteristic of Mao is
his willingness to lead his country away from the sphere of global,
Soviet-led Communism. This portrayal is consistent with the editorial
focus of its China coverage stressing broader geopolitical issues. The
magazine writes that Mao is directly challenging the Soviet leadership.
Regarding the reports on China and Cultural Revolution, the magazine
provides similar downbeat assessments of those provided by Time and
Newsweek. However, there are several subtle differences. U.S. News &
World Report portrays the country's situation as being perhaps more dire
and hopeless than the other news magazines. For example U.S. News & World
Report succinctly writes, "Red China is a mess." And that the Cultural
Revolution is a "disastrous failure." Plus, the future is even bleaker
with the country "fast approaching national disintegration….The downward
plunge into anarchy has not been arrested, and the near future remains
obscure." But unlike the other two news magazines, U.S. News & World
Report recognizes that other problems are at work. Citing the relentless
growth in population, the magazine concludes that the country will soon
have to struggle to feed almost one billion people. Plus, the
transportation system has been disrupted, industrial production has slowed
due to problems such as strikes and work stoppages, and agricultural output
But the crucial difference is that while Time and Newsweek cite the
Cultural Revolution as having generated the chaos that has sent the
country's prospects spiraling downward, U.S. News & World Report blames
Communism in general. In other words, the reader is left with the
impression that even if the Cultural Revolution had not occurred, this
massive country would still not be able to manage itself, particularly in
the areas of the economy and feeding its own people. "Russia, too, after
nearly 50 years of trial, has found that Communism is a failure as a system
that cannot compete with a modern system of private enterprise to produce
and distribute goods for masses with rising aspirations." Perhaps the
following statement captures the magazine's sentiments best: "Big cracks
are turning up in a Red empire once supposed to be marching to world
conquest. Troubles in one country after another reveal failure on a
colossal scale, a steady decline in Communism's appeal to the masses of the
Summary and Conclusions
Three general findings emerge from this content analysis. First, perhaps
driven by their respective missions or by market realities, the general
character of the coverage by the three news magazines differs. U.S. News &
World Report has carved out a niche in the news magazine market by
positioning itself as the magazine that provides the in-depth analysis of
news events versus simply reporting the news in a weekly, departmentalized
format. Time records events largely through the individuals and
personalities that drive these events. Newsweek's coverage is
characterized by straight reporting of events with less of an emphasis on
key individuals. In short, Time and Newsweek primarily tell what happened
and who was involved while U.S. News & World Report tends to tell why
events have happened and what the impact could be.
Second, regarding quantity of coverage, all three news magazines devote a
substantial amount of pages each week to the covering of China,
particularly in the case of Time and Newsweek. Both of these magazines
provide almost weekly coverage of events on the mainland, which is
significant given the obstacles that had to be overcome to report on the
country. But the volume of coverage from all three news magazines' assures
that China and issues related to the United States' relations with the
country are near the top of the public agenda.
And third, Time, Newsweek, and U.S. New & World Report's portrayals of Mao,
China, and the Cultural Revolution are generally similar. Overall, Mao is
positioned as the country's undisputed leader and inspiration for the
Cultural Revolution, the disastrous effort at redirecting the country,
which has pummeled the social and economic infrastructure into near
collapse and has served to isolate the country from even its Communists
allies. However, U.S. News & World Report does question the certainty of
Mao's position and tends to blame Communism in general, versus the Cultural
Revolution, for China's demise.
This third finding signals a major shift in direction and tone of coverage
for Time magazine, at least compared to the 1930s and 1940s. There are
none of the excessive verbal shots at Mao or Communism that critics so
disdained in Time's earlier coverage of the Chinese civil war, particularly
in the 1940s. Time covers the country much like it would any other
country. The "agenda" is simply not there, and the animosity that so
defined Time's tone is gone. As noted, there are some hints of the old
rancor directed at Mao, but it is far from the previous coverage. It is
difficult to criticize Time's coverage when many of the descriptions of
Mao, the revolution, and China are consistent with the other two news
magazines and with historical accounts of the movement. Thus, the
differences in coverage that so defined Time magazine's coverage versus its
two competitors in the 1940s no longer exist.
The primary research question is directed at learning whether or not the
previous fiercely anti-Communist approach, so well personified and
practiced by Henry Luce, still existed in Time's China coverage during the
mid to late 1960s, once Luce had backed away from most of his duties. The
answer is a resounding "no." While respecting the news magazines'
differences in overall approach to the coverage, there is little difference
in the characterizations of Mao, the Cultural Revolution, and China
revealing that there is little evidence of a fiercely anti-Communist angle
in the tone and substance of the coverage. Time's reporting simply does
not standout from the other two.
Then, what can we conclude were the contributing factors to this leveling
effect of the coverage and the absence of Time's previous disdain directed
at Communist China? Probably, there are several factors. Certainly,
America had a better educated, more well-informed, and more politically
astute populace in the late 1960s than in the 1940s. It is difficult to
believe that this more sophisticated audience would be willingly put up
with the preaching, didactic, and condescending tone of the 1940's Time
Also, the sheer expansion of media in the 1960s compared to mid century
negates the possibility that a single media outlet could heavily influence
both the American public's agenda and perceptions. It simply would have
been more difficult to present credibly an agenda laden view of the
news. In the 1960s, radio and television networks were well-developed and
providing news instantaneously to the home. The number of magazines was
increasing. Americans simply had many more choices for news than before
thus providing an automatic and natural check on the presentation of news.
Further, in the 1960s, the change in leadership at Time Inc., particularly
Time magazine, must have had an impactful and almost immediate change in
the weekly creation of the company's publications and the overall
personality of the corporation. According to the findings of this study,
Luce's anti-Communist legacy and remaining influence as owner and
"editorial chairman" did not have a cascading effect or lasting halo effect
on the output of Time. In fact, Luce's successor as editor-in-chief for
all the Time, Inc. publications, Hedley Donovan, evidently having little
tolerance for some of Time's previous practices and reputation, only
accepted the editor-in-chief job on the basis that all the magazines would
be "politically independent." This certainly signaled a change in
editorial approach for the magazines.
For Time magazine specifically, this would be a total change. Author and
former Time editor Thomas Griffin captures the essence of the old Time or
what he calls "judgmental journalism" in the following statement: "From day
one, thirty years earlier, Time had been an opinionated magazine, crackling
with prejudices, designed to irritate and amuse as well as to instruct, and
providing dozens of small pleasures to those who crafted its irreverent
judgments." Indeed, Donovan was going to be forging a very different
legacy at Time, Inc publications.
But perhaps the most influential factor affecting the Time magazine news
reporting and coverage was simply the change in the role of news media in
our society. As Griffith writes, "Like the rest of American journalism,
the Luce magazines were becoming fairer, freer of partisanship, and devoid
of passion. In time they would become parts of a vast conglomerate whose
primary goal was profit, and whose primary interest was entertainment. A
similar change would come over the great television networks once their
bold, innovating, domineering founders had left the scene."
Thus, the coverage of Time was merely part of a paradigm shift in news
coverage in general. Gone were the days when the press barons and media
moguls like Henry Luce and William Hearst dictated the approach and
direction of the news output churned out by their vast media empires. The
profit motive and shareholder value were and are the key drivers of what is
covered and presented to the American public. And the goal to maximize
profit will perhaps continue to drive the homogenization of coverage and
influence of the news. Perhaps history will determine which is the more
"A First-Hand Report on Red China Today," U.S. News & World Report, 7 July
"A Great Week for Insults," Time, 22 September, 1967, 30.
"A Letter from the Publisher," Time, 13 January 1967, 1.
"Appalling & Alone," Time, 30 September 1966, 28.
"As Red China Plunges Deeper into Chaos," " U.S. News & World Report, 2
October 1966, 36-38.
"Back to the Cave!" Time, 9 September 1966, 28-32.
Baughman, James, L. Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media.
Boston: Twayne, 1987.
"Chiang Dares," Time, 9 November 1936, 18-20.
"China: 'A State of Civil War,'" Newsweek, 30 January 30 1967, 32.
"China: A Vast and Ominous Tumult," Newsweek, January 23 1967, 40-42.
"Communism: World's Greatest Failure," U.S. News & World Report, 5 December
"Dance of the Scorpion," Time, 13 January 1967, 20-23.
"Generalissimo's Last Straw," Time, 11 December 1933, 20-22.
Griffith, Thomas. Harry and Teddy. New York: Random House, 1995.
Herzstein, Robert. Henry R. Luce: A Political Portrait of the Man Who
Created the American Century. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1994.
"How Dangerous is Red China?" U.S. News & World Report, 4 April 1966, 29-31.
Hunt, Michael H. "East Asia in Henry Luce's 'American Century,'" Diplomatic
History 23, No. 2, Spring 1999, 321-353.
"Into the Dustbin! Onto the Garbage Heap!" Time, 14 April 1967, 40 – 41.
"Is This Trip Necessary?" Time, 18 November 1966, 48 – 50.
Jespersen, Christopher. American Images of China: 1931 – 1949. Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1996.
Karnow, Stanley. Mao and China. New York: Penguin Books, 1972.
Lehnus, Donald J. Who's On Time. New York: Oceana Publications, 1980.
"Making it Official," Time, 7 July 1967, 26 - 31.
Neils, Patricia. China Images in the Life and Times of Henry Luce. Savage,
Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990.
"No Ordinary Swim," Newsweek, 8 August 1966, 36-40.
"Overflowing Revolution," Time, 28 July 1967, 20 – 21.
"Peking's Big Blast," Time, 23 June 1967, 27 - 28.
"Peking Opera," Time, 20 May 1966, 36.
Peterson, Theodore. Magazines in the Twentieth Century (Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1964), 334.
"Red China's God," U.S. News & World Report, 23 May 1966, 14.
"Russia vs. China," U.S. News & World Report, 29 August 1966, 50.
Seagrave, Sterling. The Soong Dynasty. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
"70 Million Lives At Stake," U.S. News & World Report, 23 May 1966, 48-52.
Swanberg, W.A. Luce and His Empire. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972.
"The Dear Comrade," Time, 26 August 1966, 16.
"The Edge of Chaos," Time, 4 August 1967, 23 – 26.
"The Great Splash Forward," Time, 5 August 1966, 27.
"The Growing Mystery of Communist China," U.S. News & World Report, 22
August 1966, 36-38.
"The Weeds and the Flowers," Time, May 13 1966, 34.
"Why the Turmoil Inside Red China?" U.S. News & World Report, 12 September
 W.A. Swanberg, Luce and His Empire (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
 Robert E. Herzstein, Henry R. Luce (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
 Herzstein, 44-78.
 The infamous Whittaker Chambers was one of those hires. He worked as
Foreign Editor for Time and was known for his substantial rewrites of work
and tensions with reporters, including the respected Theodore
White. Later, Chambers would leave Time and go on to his "Alger Hiss" fame.
 Swanberg, 6.
 Sterling Seagrave, The Soong Dynasty (New York: Harper & Row, 1985), 232.
 Chiang appeared, for the final time, on the Time cover of the April
18, 1955 issue. This would be the tenth time he appeared on the cover. In
addition, Madame Chiang was featured on the cover, by herself, for the
March 1, 1943 issue.
 Donald J. Lehnus, Who's On Time (New York: Oceana Publications, 1980), 42.
 Christopher T. Jespersen, American Images of China: 1931 – 1949
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), 43-44.
 Jespersen, 43.
 Patricia Neils, China Images in the Life and Times of Henry Luce
(Savage, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990), 292-294.
 James L. Baughman, Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News
Media (Boston: Twayne, 1987), 156.
 Herzstein, 419.
 Michael H. Hunt, "East Asia in Henry Luce's 'American Century,'"
Diplomatic History 23, No. 2 (Spring 1999): 321-353.
 Discussion and correspondence with Jay Matthews of the Washington
Post, March 2002.
 "A Letter from the Publisher," Time, 13 January 1967, 1.
 Stanley Karnow, Mao and China (New York: Penguin Books, 1972), xiii.
 "A Letter from the Publisher," 1.
 From the beginning, a crucial element of Time was the recognition
that news is made by individuals and not institutions, thus Time would
attempt to bring individual personalities to life. The original Time
prospectus asserts, "The personalities of politics make public affairs
live." Theodore Peterson, Magazines in the Twentieth Century (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1964), 334.
 "A Letter from the Publisher," 1.
 Time placed Chiang on the cover a total of ten times from 1927 to
1955 and named him and his wife "Man & Wife of the Year" for 1937. Time
once called him "His Excellency Generalissimo" and "unquestionably the
greatest man in the Far East." "Generalissimo's Last Straw," Time, 11
December 1933, 20. "Chiang Dares," Time, 9 November 1936, 18.
 In fact, in his lifetime, Mao was featured on Time's front cover and
lead article a total of twelve times. Lehnus, 131.
 Beginning in November 1965, Mao spent approximately six months away
from public view.
 "The Weeds and the Flowers," Time, 13 May 1966, 34.
 "The Great Splash Forward," Time, 5 August 1966, 27.
 "Into the Dustbin! Onto the Garbage Heap!" Time, 14 April 1967, 40.
 "Peking's Big Blast," Time, 23 June 1967, 28.
 "Back to the Cave!" Time, 9 September 1966, 28.
 "Peking Opera," Time, 20 May 1966, 36.
 "Back to the Cave!" 32.
 "The Dear Comrade," Time, 26 August 1966, 16.
 "The Dear Comrade," 16.
 "Back to the Cave!" 28.
 "Back to the Cave!" 28.
 "Dance of the Scorpion," Time, 13 January 1967, 23.
 "Is This Trip Necessary?" Time, 18 November 1966, 48.
 "Appalling & Alone," Time, 30 September 1966, 28.
 "Appalling & Alone," 28.
 "Peking's Big Blast," 28.
 "The Edge of Chaos," Time, 4 August 1967, 23 – 26.
 "A Great Week for Insults," Time, 22 September, 1967, 30.
 "Overflowing Revolution," Time, 28 July 1967, 20 – 21.
 "Dance of the Scorpion," 23.
 "No Ordinary Swim," Newsweek, 8 August 1966, 36-40.
 "China: 'A State of Civil War,'" Newsweek, 30 January 30 1967, 32.
 "China: A Vast and Ominous Tumult," Newsweek, January 23 1967, 40.
 "China: 'A State of Civil War,'" 32.
 "China: A Vast and Ominous Tumult," 40.
 "How Dangerous is Red China?" U.S. News & World Report, 4 April 1966,
 "Russia vs. China," U.S. News & World Report, 29 August 1966, 50.
 "Communism: World's Greatest Failure," U.S. News & World Report, 5
December 1966, 59-63.
 "70 Million Lives At Stake," U.S. News & World Report, 23 May 1966,
 "A First-Hand Report on Red China Today," U.S. News & World Report, 7
July 1966, 58-61.
 "Why the Turmoil Inside Red China?" U.S. News & World Report, 12
September 1966, 33-34.
 "Red China's God," U.S. News & World Report, 23 May 1966, 14.
 "Communism: World's Greatest Failure," 59.
 "Communism: World's Greatest Failure," 59.
 "The Growing Mystery of Communist China," U.S. News & World Report,
22 August 1966, 38.
 "As Red China Plunges Deeper into Chaos," U.S. News & World Report, 2
October 1966, 36-38.
 "The Growing Mystery of Communist China," 36.
 "As Red China Plunges Deeper into Chaos," 36.
 "Communism: World's Greatest Failure," 59.
 "Communism: World's Greatest Failure," 59.
 Thomas Griffith, Harry and Teddy (New York: Random House, 1995), 271.
 Griffith, 278.