One Man's Journey: Samuel Day, Jr., as a Test
of Shoemaker's Hierarchy of Influences
James B. McPherson
[log in to unmask]
Qualitative Studies Division
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Annual Convention, New Orleans, August 4-7, 1999
One Man's Journey: Samuel Day, Jr., as a Test
of Shoemaker's Hierarchy of Influences
This paper compares the journalism of Samuel Day, Jr., to Pamela Shoemaker's
Hierarchy of Influences to see if the hierarchy can explain the progressively
more liberal work of Day or the content of the publications where he worked.
The theory, while inadequate to explain the actions of individual content
providers or publications, may be useful in determining whether publications
will be successful - perhaps an issue for those concerned with a marketplace of
In the 1979 Progressive case, the federal government - for only the second time
since World War II, and for the last time - tried to impose a prior restraint on
publication. The case came at the end of a decade famous for journalistic
activism and investigative reporting. No one involved knew where the case would
lead. This paper discusses the main characters involved in the case - and their
varying motives - three decades later.
One Man's Journey: Samuel Day, Jr., as a Test
of Shoemaker's Hierarchy of Influences
Samuel H. Day, Jr. drifted into journalism, then evolved from what he later
described as "a good military propagandist" to a decidedly undiplomatic
left-wing editor. In 1979, as managing editor for the Progressive, he fought the
federal government, which tried to prevent the magazine from printing supposed
"secrets" about the hydrogen bomb. Before that, he served as an Associated
Press newsman, as an investigative reporter, and as editor of what he turned
into an activist weekly newspaper. His work became progressively more
politically active and less objective. A central question is "Why?"
The H-Bomb case alone was a First Amendment milestone. Day had a national
impact even earlier, however. Perhaps his most interesting job came as the
editor of an Idaho weekly that drew praise from such national critics as Time,
Newsweek, Harper's, the New Yorker and the Columbia Journalism Review with its
hard-hitting liberalism. Day became an award-winning investigative reporter more
than a decade before Watergate helped make such reporting a national pastime,
then edited a profoundly liberal newspaper in a politically conservative state
during the Vietnam era. His work foreshadowed and then reflected national trends
toward personal activism and investigative journalism that bloomed in the 1960s
and 1970s. At the same time, Day did more to expand the meanings and the
messages of journalism than did most journalists, winning awards with untrained
reporters, decrying the constraints of "objective" reporting, and engaging in
First Amendment battles. As journalism and the nation became more liberal, so
did Day. But as the times became more conservative, Day no longer followed.
Theory and expectations
Using historiographic methods, including in-depth interviewing, this research
sought to help explain Sam Day's personal evolution by considering the
"hierarchy of influences" theory of mass media content developed primarily by
Pamela J. Shoemaker. That hierarchy combines a multitude of
sometimes-contradictory media studies into a coherent framework that attempts to
explain how news producers tend to act. Of course, one of the primary
criticisms of theory in general is that it may ignore the uniqueness of
individuals, and Day was unique. Still, though Shoemaker's theory specifically
deals with mass media content, one constant throughout Day's career was that he
helped to produce that content. So if Day's work at a variety of publications,
over a number of years, can be shown to correspond to what Shoemaker would lead
one to expect, that would seem to strongly support the theory itself.
The question of who or what determines how members of the press decide what
becomes "news" has probably puzzled both media users and scholars since shortly
after people begin to recognize that some events or activities are news;
scholars have found a number of contributing factors. Walter Lippmann wrote
in 1929: "There are no objective standards here. There are conventions." Of
course, that did not stop later researchers from trying to identify and
categorize those conventions. Shoemaker and Elizabeth Mayfield identified five
theories of media bias, then attempted to synthesize those theories and provide
a hierarchy, concluding that the primary factor in news selection was J. Herbert
Altschull's assertion that the ideology of those who finance the media
determines the content of those media. Later studies appeared to support the
assertion. But Shoemaker, working with Stephen D. Reese and drawing on the
findings of leading media scholars, later refined the theory, toning down its
economic argument and strengthening the idea that "the news paradigm must
conform to hegemonic requirements."
The most important element that both versions of the theory share a recognition
that many factors contribute to what a journalist views as news.
"Internal"factors include professional socialization, personal background,
education and attitudes. External factors include newspaper or station
ownership, competition among media, circulation, audiences, advertisers. In each
case, Shoemaker and her co-author ranked categories of factors from the most
"micro" to the most "macro" in their theoretical effects, with "ideology" - at a
societal level, not an individual level - ranked as the most important. The most
significant difference between them is that the first version emphasizes
Altshull's economic theory as the primary ideology for all mass media. The
newer version is less all-encompassing in its economic claims but also less
testable, maintaining that for ideology in the United States:
Fundamental is a belief in the value of the capitalist economic system, private
ownership, pursuit of profit by self-interested entrepreneurs, and free markets.
This system is intertwined with the Protestant ethic and the value of individual
achievement. The companion political values center around liberal democracy, a
system in which all people are presumed to have equal worth and a right to share
in their own governance, making decisions based on rational self interest.
That creates a new problem. As political scientist Samuel Huntington has
argued, "The basic ideas of the American Creed - equality, liberty,
individualism, constitutionalism, democracy - clearly do not constitute a
systematic ideology, and they do not necessarily have any logical
consistency." It seems obvious that some of those values used by Shoemaker
conflict, and it may be impossible to find any journalistic content that runs
counter to all of them - or any way to satisfactorily test for them. More useful
and more testable are the other four levels of Shoemaker's hierarchy, which
become decreasingly "macro" in their scale.
Immediately below ideology is the "extramedia" level, theorizing that the most
important influences on media content are outside of the media themselves. Those
extramedia influences include sources, interest groups, advertisers, audiences
and government controls. A number of studies by journalists and others, many
cited by Shoemaker, show that newsmakers do react to such forces. Perhaps that
would seem to be common sense; after all, for a key period in early American
history most newspapers served primarily as newsletters for political parties,
relying on contracts from those parties to stay in business; before that,
government censorship was common. As technology, immigration and political
participation increased, newspapers became less overtly biased and objectivity
became a watchword for professional journalists. Yet that brought new problems,
as media began to rely on advertising for their survival. Media scholars and
sociologists have verified that profit provides a key motivator at least for
leaving things out of the "news."  The influence of advertisers has even led
some to call for increased regulation. "Despite the potential danger and
occasional occurrence of governmental censorship, private entities in general
and advertisers in particular constitute the most consistent and pernicious
'censors' of media content," wrote C. Edwin Baker.
The influence goes beyond advertisers, however. Floyd Hunter found that
community leaders were able to use the media in a number of ways - for
propaganda, for promotion, or to test reactions to possible courses of
action. Ellen Kanervo and David Kanervo later reported that town
administrators believed the press served an agenda-setting function for readers,
and that the more administrators believed in that power, the more they tried to
influence the press agenda. As sociologist Warren Breed and others have
suggested, that influence is likely to be greater in cases where the source has
knowledge - such as secret government information - that cannot easily be
verified or disputed elsewhere. Newspapers also sometimes become community
boosters: Shoemaker mentions journalists who campaigned to keep military bases
in their towns and cites an editor who claims "that boosterism has become more
common as news organizations put pressure on their editorial departments to help
the organization make a profit." Other researchers have demonstrated that
news media sometimes produce the content - and the editorial slant - editors and
news directors think is "expected" of them by the communities they serve, even
to the point of ignoring or downplaying potential problems.
Sources have influence to varying degrees. "Government subsidies" in the form
of press releases and other materials, make up at least a small part of what
becomes "news." Of course, those studies do not take into account the
influence of press conferences, items picked up by the reporter on a beat, or
direct phone calls, all of which are undoubtedly more likely to become news than
are mailed releases. Another key external feature that media must consider at
this extramedia level of the hierarchy is competition - perhaps a diminishing
concern because relatively few two-newspaper towns still exist, though Shoemaker
cites studies indicating that even directly competing newspapers tend to carry
the same stories, presented in similar ways. Competing television stations, on
the other hand were likely to carry different news stories (though non-news
content remained remarkably similar).
According to Shoemaker, those external influences should affect content more
than do organizational influences, which include such factors as newsroom
management and chain ownership versus independent ownership. Those factors, too,
have at times been demonstrated to have influence on various media.
Increasingly, the media have become corporate entities. Martin Lee and Norman
Solomon maintain that a white male-dominated corporate structure manages the
news to suit its own interests. Others have found that chain ownership may
at least stifle variety among papers. In the 1950s, Breed was among the
first to discuss newsroom "culture," which influences opinions of what becomes
news and what does not. "Other means of control include editorial
blue-penciling, striking out parts of a story," Shoemaker wrote. "Reporters soon
learn what objectionable phrases or facts to leave out."
Immediately below the organizational level is the "media routines" level, which
includes such factors as news values, story structure, customary sources and
reliance on other media. Dennis Corrigan found that news copy encodes a variety
of "values"; the more of those values there were in a lead paragraph, the more
likely it was that the story would end up on the front page. Beats, press
conferences and increased reliance on official sources have institutionalized
news-gathering techniques, making news content more consistent. News producers
"make deals" with those in power, trading positive coverage of political events
for access to the newsmakers. A reporter who leaves the beaten path for
"scoops" is more - not less - likely to draw criticism from bosses or peers for
deviating from stories like those of every other reporter on the same beat.
Columnist David Broder called political news "coverage of the insiders, by the
insiders, for the insiders."
Finally, at the bottom of the influence scale, is the individual; this level
includes such factors as the journalist's background, education, attitudes,
professional roles and personal characteristics such as race and/or sexual
orientation. "We believe that there is no direct influence of communicators'
characteristics, backgrounds and experiences on media content, but that content
may be affected to the extent that such factors influence both personal and
professional attitudes and roles," wrote Shoemaker. "Not only is the suppression
of personal attitudes, values and beliefs part of the professional
communicator's role; the exertion of personal will within a mass media
organization takes more power than most communicators can wield." She goes
on to say that individuals can influence content somewhat by their choices of
what to write about and to include in stories, but other factors determine what
information they actually think is worth passing on.
Under Shoemaker's model, Day's work should conform to the following
expectations: First, regardless of the publication, Day's work would reflect the
standards of journalism for its time. Second, when and if that work departed
from typical journalism standards, that departure should reflect characteristics
of the place in which he worked. And third, when the work was not typical of the
workplace, that deviation should reflect the interests of some group outside the
publication, not Day's own attitudes (though the two may, of course,
correspond). In other words, one should find that Day's editorial "evolution,"
if any, had relatively little to do with Day, more to do with his employer, and
even more with factors beyond the individual workplace. If he did indeed become
progressively more liberal - even radical - it was mostly because of factors he
did not control.
The second son of a Herbert Hoover-appointed diplomat, Samuel H. Day, Jr., was
raised in an economically privileged, emotionally cool environment. He and his
siblings spent a lot of time in private schools, away from their parents. He
later remembered himself as something of a misfit who suffered from bad
eyesight, small size, a series of childhood ailments, regular abuse by
neighborhood and schoolyard bullies, and a hated nickname. A lack of
athletic ability as a youth contributed to increased academic effort, as Day
tried in the classroom to win attention denied him elsewhere; he admitted later
that he craved the attention of his mother, and of others. One of his
biggest disappointments came when he was rejected by the military for World War
II. Instead, he attended Swarthmore, a Quaker college in Pennsylvania. He
said he had made that decision, like many others, largely by himself and without
a great deal of thought. He studied political science, history and
economics, preparing for an eventual job in foreign service, despite the fact
that newspapers "were a constant trap for me," and he had less interest in his
books: "I seldom showed much erudition. But I usually wrote good papers."
Day "didn't really have a deep passion for the Foreign Service"; the decision
to follow in his father's footsteps was another made through "inertia, as much
as anything else." Still, in 1949, he went to Washington, D.C., and took
written exams for the Foreign Service. Needing a temporary job while waiting for
the results, he was offered two - one as a State Department clerk-typist, one as
a copyboy at the Washington Evening Star. Having relatively little interest in
either, he let a coin flip start him on his journalistic path.
Civil rights battles were looming on the horizon, and the Star provided a voice
for the white power structure while doing little to challenge the separatist
mentality of the period. "In those days the city was really segregated, and
there were civic associations all over the so-called better neighborhoods,"
noted reporter A. Robert Smith. Those civic associations - which Day later
said existed almost solely to "protect" white neighborhoods from encroachment by
African-Americans - gave him a chance to break into print. Not surprisingly,
considering Day's youth and lack of a personal vision, Day did nothing at the
Star that ran counter to what Shoemaker's model would lead one to expect.
Lacking even the basics of journalism training before beginning his newspaper
career, he relied on his employers to tell him what to write about, and how to
write it. He worked as a community booster, even when it ran counter to personal
beliefs about racial equality. He did what his employers expected, and
apparently wrote the same kinds of stories, with the same kinds of sources and
the same biases, that others holding the same jobs did - though he apparently
worked harder than most of his fellow copyboys. "He was more inclined to follow
the rules and do what he had to do to work his way up the ladder at this big
newspaper, whereas several others of us didn't have that patience and were
somewhat disdainful of a lot of the older reporters that had been there for many
years," Smith recalled. Day later agreed with that assessment, though he
noted that journalism still "wasn't a passion."
Shortly after he began at the Star, the Korean War broke out; Day was able to
make up for some of his embarrassment over missing World War II by convincing an
Army physician "straight out, to give me a break." Day never got close to
Korea, becoming an information specialist in the United States and Europe.
Mostly he wrote press releases about his infantry division, reported for the
European edition of Stars and Stripes, and served as managing editor of his
division newspaper. Though not a particularly good soldier, he was "grateful to
the Army" because it had accepted him: "My attitude made me a good military
propagandist." In short, he did not contradict the prevailing ideology of
either the time or his unit.
After Day's discharge, he used his scrapbook of clips from the Washington Star
and the military to win a job with the Associated Press in San Francisco, where,
again, he generally adhered to common journalistic practices. As with his
previous jobs, Day wrote the kinds of stories that he thought would get him
promoted in the organization. In fact, he worked too hard: His willingness to do
stories on his own time, more concerned about bylines than money, prompted a
dispute between his union, the American Newspaper Guild, and Associated Press
management. "I guess I was really pretty selfish about it," Day said later,
after he had developed a stronger appreciation of unions. Transferred to
Idaho by the Associated Press, he then moved on to the Lewiston Morning Tribune,
a northern Idaho newspaper where he sharpened his writing skill - and began to
contradict what Shoemaker probably would have predicted.
People who knew Day during his years at the Tribune later suggested that Day's
strong individual will undoubtedly contributed to his editorial evolution from
traditional reporter to self-described "Rocky Mountain radical." But those
same sources, along with news stories and editorials written by Day and others,
also indicated that the Tribune itself was unique among Idaho newspapers, for a
number of reasons - the two most significant of which were a liberal identity in
a conservative state and notable courage in sticking to its views despite
outside pressures. The newspaper was also better than most in terms of
quality. Day picked up on those attributes, and generally tried to fit in
while writing the kinds of stories that would bring him recognition from both
employers and readers. At the same time - and particularly relevant to
Shoemaker's hierarchy - Day "fit in" while improving and broadening the content
of the newspaper through his own diligence, apparently affecting that content
more than even some of his co-workers realized at the time.
Those familiar with the Tribune of the 1950s and 1960s commonly referred to it
as a "journalist's publication,"; unlike many small newspapers of the time, it
also employed several women reporters. Ladd Hamilton, an editor at the paper
throughout the time Day was there, recalled that those at the Tribune formed a
close-knit, fun-loving group. Shoemaker describes an organization as "the
social, formal, and usually economic entity that employs the media worker in
order to produce media content." And at the Tribune, the "social" aspect was
more important than at many newspapers, said Day's wife, among others.
Idaho was building a reputation as a politically conservative state, but the
newspaper had been somewhat liberal since Alford's father and uncle founded it
in 1892. "The Tribune has always been more liberal than the rest of the state,"
Hamilton noted. Some of Day's co-workers later remembered him as no
exception in that regard. Day undoubtedly was politically aware, but
apparently that awareness was a trademark of the Tribune staff. Other
co-workers, however, later said Day did stand out while at the Tribune - not
because of his ideas so much as because of the seriousness with with he pursued
those ideas. One indication of Day's seriousness was how active he became in
professional organizations - which, Shoemaker might suggest, would be likely to
reinforce traditional journalistic practices.
It probably was Day who pulled the Tribune into the investigative reporting for
which the newspaper became noted in the 1960s. Regardless of the similarity of
their beliefs, his work was different than that of others at the newspaper - and
at most other newspapers. Investigative reporting was not widespread at the
time, and perhaps Tribune writers simply did not think about that type of
reporting before Day began doing it. For example, in seven months of 1959,
including the last three months, Tribune writers failed to offer even one truly
investigative story. "I suppose there was not much else going on at the
reportorial level, other than what I was doing at the time," Day said later.
Apparently his first significant investigative piece at the Tribune came May 1,
1960, with an article about a state institution for the mentally retarded. The
article was powerful, and Day was justifiably proud. But the story did not
start with him or the newspaper; it came from the next higher tier in
Shoemaker's hierarchy. Day did not uncover the abuses at the Nampa State School;
he merely reported them. The story began with a source, a state legislator who
told him about the deplorable conditions in the institution. "It began with the
Nampa State School, and that pretty much by accident," Day said later about his
investigative reporting. Of course, Day deserves much credit; he wrote a
moving story, and some reporters would not have bothered to follow up the issue.
The point is, the story - content which deviated from typical journalistic norms
and even Tribune norms of the time - came from elsewhere, from a higher level of
Shoemaker's hierarchy, as she would predict. Still, besides the fact that he
followed up and wrote the state school story, Day deserved credit for something
else, too - once he became aware of problems affecting Idaho's disadvantaged, he
kept reporting them. As he had elsewhere, Day wanted to succeed at the Tribune.
And he found that he could succeed - while drawing attention - by focusing on
social concerns. As he became noted for those types of stories, the number of
sources increased, leading to even more non-typical content.
However, Shoemaker's hierarchy in the case of those stories becomes somewhat
problematic. Though it was true that sources "came out of the woodwork," in his
words, by then, Day also was actively seeking sources because of his
interest in the work; it was not just the sources who were determining the types
of stories he would write. Nor was it the newspaper, since he was writing
investigative-type stories that other reporters were not, and was free to pursue
the topics he chose. Nor could traditional newspaper standards satisfactorily be
blamed, since relatively few newspapers of the period worked to expose
institutional wrongdoing. In this case, it seems that the individual - the
lowest level of the hierarchy - was at least as important a determinant of
content as any other level. That singular influence became more obvious after
Day left the Lewiston Morning Tribune to exercise total editorial control over a
publication. He took over the leadership of the weekly Salmon, Idaho,
Recorder-Herald in January 1964, then moved later the same year to Boise and the
liberal weekly Idaho Observer, a newspaper owned and operated by
radio/television station KBOI.
On the way to attracting national recognition, Day modeled the Observer after
other weeklies he admired, and quickly gave the newspaper a political hard-news
emphasis. In 1966 the Observer won top honors in the Idaho Press Association's
annual Better Newspapers Contest. The next September, the Idaho Observer and the
Intermountain merged, becoming the Intermountain Observer. By then, Day had
already begun engaging in editorial activities that Shoemaker would recognize as
violating typical news media attempts at objectivity. Still, those activities it
did not hurt the reputation of the newspaper as much as they might have with
another editor; especially through his work with the Lewiston Morning Tribune,
Day had established a reputation as a solid newsman. 
Perhaps more interesting than the topics covered by the Observer were the
people who covered them. All of the regular reporters and editors were heard at
least occasionally on KBOI-TV or KBOI radio, so they could be paid by the
station, rather than out of the meager newspaper budget. But most of the
publication's "reporters" lacked even a broadcast background, and far from being
impartial observers, they were chosen because they were involved in the issues -
or simply because they were available and willing. Black writers wrote about
race, and gays wrote about gay issues. An article about a banned birth control
handbook was written by a Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) worker who
had been distributing the handbook. The inmate editor of the Idaho State
Penitentiary newspaper wrote about the prison, and a former Lewiston Morning
Tribune reporter, who was committed to a state mental hospital after raping a
teen-age housewife, contributed a column on the mental health system. A migrant
worker offered his story, as did welfare mothers, nuclear scientists, teachers,
students and others.
None of those one-time writers were likely to be subject to any of the normal
standards or regimens of professional journalists, and frequently they - not
Day, nor anyone at the newspaper - suggested story ideas. And, unlike what
Shoemaker would suggest, some of those stories were suggested - and accepted by
Day - because they ran counter to what traditional "extramedia" sources such as
advertisers, government officials, and the largest part of the audience would
find appealing. Day's own writing also changed when he went to work at the
Observer, becoming more editorial in tone. It was Day, the newspaper's most
experienced news writer, who produced its most controversial story by quoting
verbatim a profane speech by Thomas Hayden, a founder of Students for a
Democratic Society and one of the "Chicago Seven" arrested at the previous
year's Democratic National Convention. The article offended board members and
advertisers, and the county sheriff, supported by the Boise police chief,
unsuccessfully sought a warrant for Day's arrest on an obscenity charge.
An even bigger action came in November 1971, when, in a peaceful action
proposed and organized by Day, the three paid staff members of the Observer and
sixteen other people blocked traffic on a downtown Boise street for a half hour
to protest the explosion of an atomic bomb at Amchitka Island, Alaska. A
silhouetted photo of the protesters and a short story containing all of their
names (including the wife of the state attorney general) ran on the front page
of the Observer. Of course, reporter-activists had been writing for the
Observer for years. The difference was that they were activists - or simply
people involved with issues - who became one-time "reporters." Day went the
other direction, from newsman to activist. After the Amchitka incident, KBOI -
ready to let the publication die - agreed to sell the Observer to Day and others
for one dollar, and the group raised thirty thousand dollars for operating
capital by selling shares in the publication to its subscribers. It was not
enough; the end of the KBOI subsidy essentially doomed the Intermountain
Looking at the time when Day took full responsibility for determining newspaper
content, definite weaknesses appear in Shoemaker's hierarchy - at least in terms
of its ability to describe the content of individual newspapers and journalists.
First, working upward in Shoemaker's hierarchy, is the influence of "media
routines," which, except for the individual, supposedly is the least powerful of
Shoemaker's influences. But despite some consistency among routines, there also
always have been differences among various publications - and some of those
differences seem centered on the individual. A key example is the issue of
objectivity, which Shoemaker maintains is "less a core belief of journalists
than a set of procedures to which journalists conform in order to protect
themselves from attack." But that idea fails to account for the journalists
and publications - and there have been many - who fail to "conform." Day and the
Intermountain Observer were among them. "Organizational routines" that define
"what news is" also come into play at this level, but here, too, many
publications go outside of what most mainstream newspapers report. In fact,
Shoemaker discusses "underreported" stories as evidence that the media tend to
suffer from what might be called "groupthink." But even all of her examples,
however underreported, were reported somewhere, even if most of the mainstream
media may have gave them short shrift. In addition, some publications - like the
Intermountain Observer under Day - intentionally use non- traditional reporters,
or non-reporters, to "report" the news they carry.
Shoemaker's next level beyond "media routines" is the organizational level. But
in the case of Day, the media organizations were not static or imposing for him.
In fact, with the Intermountain Observer (and with the Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, where he went next), Day radically changed the content, sometimes
without the approval of the organization. At times, Day ignored or "worked
around" the organization to do what he wanted. Above the organizational level,
at the extramedia level - that of sources, advertisers, audiences and
government, Day also violated the norms that Shoemaker would predict; he knew
advertisers and government officials would disapprove of content he offered, but
offered it anyway.
Years later, Day maintained that he wrote about the topics that he did mostly
to suit the readers of whatever particular publication he worked for at the
time. But he regularly offended readers, especially at his next two jobs.
Besides, from a theoretical perspective, Shoemaker largely discounts the
influence of readers or "audiences," saying - in a sentence that may seem
contradictory when compared to most of her hierarchy - "journalists write
primarily for themselves, for their editors, and for other journalists." The
contradiction might be explained by the fact that individual journalists are
important only within the framework, not as having editorial decision-making
power by themselves. But in Lewiston, Salmon and Boise, Day was among the many
journalists who have boasted such power.
Because of the tenor of the time in which Day edited the Intermountain
Observer, Shoemaker's highest level - that of ideology - merits some discussion.
The nation was in a state of flux, and old ideas about America's proper place in
the world were shifting. Likewise, new groups within the country - women and
racial minorities - gained new power. In short, the national ideology - if such
a thing exists - was changing, which might help explain the number of
alternative publications that popped up during the 1960s and early 1970s. When
Americans settled into realizing that most of them liked neither foreign nor
domestic unrest, most of those publications died.
When the Observer collapsed, Day moved on to become editor of the Bulletin of
the Atomic Scientists, which gave him a four-year education in nuclear issues.
Of course, no one involved would have predicted such an outcome as U.S. v. The
Progressive when Day joined the financially ailing Bulletin in 1974, but an
examination of his time at the Bulletin makes his later involvement in the
Progressive H-Bomb case seem less surprising, if not inevitable.
Bryce Nelson, who worked with Day at the Lewiston Morning Tribune and then
served as an aide for Senator Frank Church, had become a Los Angeles Times
bureau chief in Chicago, where the Bulletin was published; he recommended Day
for the vacant editor's position. Though he knew Day had become increasingly
politically active, Nelson still believed his friend could perform in a more
structured environment. Nelson and others agreed that the magazine's board
of directors may not have known the extent of Day's political activism at the
Intermountain Observer. "I knew about his protest, closing down Capitol
Boulevard . . . but I don't suppose there's any reason the Bulletin knew,"
Nelson said. "If I did think of it, it didn't cause me concern, because I
knew he would be a hard-working, aggressive editor, which is what the Bulletin
needed. Besides, Nelson suggested later, board members may not have cared
about Day's personal activism anyway: "Although the scientists who ran it were
fairly conservative in manner, they certainly weren't conservative in their
politics." A recommendation from Church probably also diminished any
concerns board members might have had.
In January 1974, despite the fact that he "knew nothing about atomic physics,"
Day went to work for the Bulletin. He quickly sharpened the magazine's
editorial focus, which, in the year before he began work, had gone beyond
nuclear issues; one former board member said the focus regularly broadened or
narrowed, depending upon who served as editor. "By then, some of us liked the
idea of broadening things," said Stephen Berry. But the board - which
apparently was split on the issue, anyway - did not directly or formally
interfere with Day's decision, and almost every article during Day's tenure with
the magazine dealt with nuclear weapons and/or nuclear energy. During Day's
first year, the Bulletin "reset" its famed twenty-seven-year-old "doomsday
clock," warning that the danger of nuclear holocaust had increased.
Occupied with funding problems and trying to become more familiar with nuclear
issues, Day did little writing himself. In fact, even more than he had with the
Intermountain Observer, he relied mostly on volunteer writers throughout his
time with the Bulletin. He built friendships with scientists and engineers who
helped him judge the validity of articles. They included Alex DeVolpi, Gerald
Marsh, Ted Postal and George Sanford, four physicists at Argonne National
Laboratory near Chicago who later supported the Progressive in the 1979 H-Bomb
case, and Princeton Professor Frank von Hippel, to whom Day later referred as "a
mentor of sorts."
The first indication that Day might go beyond the wishes of his employers at
the Bulletin came with an October 1974 editorial focusing on the potential
perils of nuclear energy. The editorial criticized a study of nuclear plant
safety conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission, calling the report
"essentially an in-house study by an agency under heavy pressure to get critics
off its back." Under Day, the magazine became more forceful and more
broad-reaching in its anti-nuclear tone, regularly carrying articles and
editorials critical of nuclear power - not just of nuclear weapons - to the
consternation of his own board members. Former board member Stephen Rice agreed
more than three decades later that Day's opinion ran contrary to the majority
view of the board: "[The board was] anti-nuclear weapons, definitely - strongly.
But almost all of us believed in nuclear energy. We believed then, and we still
believe . . . that it's really something society cannot afford to give up."
Day also remembered that members of the magazine's board of sponsors - mostly
Nobel Prize winners who allowed their names to be used for prestige and
fund-raising purposes - strongly disagreed with his editorial choices and "let
it be known [to the directors] that they'd like to see a more responsible hand
at the helm of the Bulletin." Because the magazine was produced by a
non-profit corporation and carried little advertising, those sponsors provided
the closest thing to advertiser pressure. The directors "didn't just roll over"
to appease the sponsors, but regularly complained about his editorial choices,
A non-nuclear editorial, however, brought Day the most criticism. In 1976 he
criticized an Israeli raid at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, in which commandos
rescued most of the hostages of the skyjacking of a French airliner. Though
admitting that Israel had been provoked, Day called the raid "a military
solution by a government which could act that way toward a weaker neighbor only
because it was strong enough to get away with it." More than 30 people died in
the action, "to say nothing of the many innocent people whom the humiliated
President Idi Amin of Uganda has evidently killed in reprisal," Day wrote,
adding that, "as far as bloodshed is concerned, the raid has turned out
essentially to be the insuring of white lives at the expense of black
lives." Response to the editorial was overwhelmingly negative, with
"hundreds of letters from outraged subscribers." Nine of the fifteen members
of the Bulletin's own board of directors signed one critical letter.
Day said the incident helped prove to him that the directors lacked either
courage or conviction. He wanted the Bulletin to become more of an activist
publication, something he sensed it would never do with the existing
directors. Eventually he asked Erwin Knoll - editor of the Progressive, a
publication he admired and which he saw was running more articles about nuclear
issues - about a job, and Day left the Bulletin for the Progressive at the end
of 1977. Even there, however, he ended up offending readers, advertisers and
At the Progressive, Day's primary responsibility was to improve the magazine's
coverage of nuclear issues. He asked anti-nuclear activist Howard Morland, who
already was researching the subject, about writing an article for the
Progressive. The article would become "The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It, Why
We're Telling It," which the government, invoking the 1954 Atomic Energy Act,
blocked from publication for seven months. Though some scientists quickly
came to the defense of the publication, Day found that others, including von
Hippel and other friends, opposed him. Of those that took a position,
apparently most of the nation's newspapers - despite having no direct knowledge
of what was in the proposed article - editorialized against the magazine.
Many later changed their minds, as more details became clear, and the government
dropped the case after about six months, leaving unresolved the question of
whether the Atomic Energy Act legally can override the First Amendment.
Morland and Day spent most of a year working on the article; after it finally
was ready, they and Knoll worried that the article would be largely ignored
But Day managed to prompt a reaction even more dramatic than what he expected
when he turned the article over to the Department of Energy for "confirmation"
of key facts. "If Sam and Erwin had not waved this manuscript in the faces of
the Department of Energy censors, then the whole thing would have been forgotten
two months after it was published," Morland said. And Day did go out of his
way to make sure the government knew about it; he sent the DOE a letter and some
of Morland's diagrams - titled, "How a Hydrogen Bomb Works," - saying, "Since
this is a subject on which the Department of Energy has authoritative
information, we would appreciate your verifying the accuracy of the material."
He and Knoll hoped for a reaction, and got it: on March 9, the government filed
suit to prevent the Progressive from running the article.
Morland thought the case came to be centered too much on the First Amendment,
but amateur nuclear investigators like him eventually brought it to an end.
People all over the country began working on figuring out the "secret," and
California computer programmer Charles Hansen wrote a letter discussing the
H-Bomb; the letter also ended up being classified. The Madison Press Connection
published the letter anyway, and the DOE dropped its case against the
Progressive, declaring the issue moot because so much of the disputed
information had appeared in print.
Though Progressive publisher Ron Carbon later said he approved of the way the
magazine fought the case, and admitted it would not have come about without
Day's prior notification of the government, he later criticized that act,
calling it "a stupid thing to do." Obviously, if the magazine - and
particularly Day - did not want to create a showdown, it could have run the
article without notifying the government in advance. The Department of Energy
probably would then have ignored the article. Obviously, too, Day knew the
article would offend many people that Shoemaker would expect him to try to
please. Soon after the H-Bomb case, Day left the magazine to work full-time as
an anti-nuclear activist..
As with his work at the Intermountain Observer, Day's work at the Bulletin and
at the Progressive apparently failed to reflect typical standards of journalism.
But as Shoemaker would have predicted - and more so than at the Observer - when
his work departed from typical journalism standards, it did tend to reflect the
characteristics of where he worked. That was especially true at the Progressive,
an established alternative publication. Of course, one of the problems with
analyzing Day's work according to Shoemaker's hierarchy - or any other
theoretical construct dealing with journalism - is a generally unsatisfactory
definition of exactly what is journalism. At the Intermountain Observer, the
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the Progressive, Day's use of
non-professional "reporters" complicates the issue, especially because many of
those reporters were directly involved in the stories they covered. Because of
that, standards of training and objectivity, which Shoemaker considers among the
media routines that constrict the individual reporter, cannot be considered as
restrictions at the last three publications where Day made editorial
decisions. In activist publications without trained reporters, the
individual must make decisions based on other criteria. And the fact is,
activist publications would seem to cause the most problems for Shoemaker,
especially with an editor like Day, because they are more likely to carry
stories that cannot be explained by the traditional outside pressures on which
her framework relies.
Day's choices were not always typical of either journalism standards or the
workplace. He should have known, for example, that an opinion column critical of
the Israeli raid at Entebbe would offend some board members - and aside from
that, the piece was out of character for Day's stated anti-nuclear focus of the
publication. Day also contradicted the wishes of Bulletin directors with
articles that opposed nuclear energy. Shoemaker suggests that when the work is
atypical of the workplace, the deviation should reflect the interests of some
group outside the publication more than Day's own, but here, too, the theory
fails to explain things in the short term. Perhaps Day thought much of his
work would bring recognition, if nothing else, from nuclear experts and/or
others that he wanted to impress (and evidence even of that is lacking), but it
is difficult to find an external source that would justify the Entebbe column.
Day seemed to be making a point that did not need to be made, and which came
The value of Shoemaker's model
Shoemaker has made a generally logical attempt to combine a multitude of
sometimes- conflicting studies of journalists and their work to try to come up
with a model that explains news content. Her hierarchy accounts for the
individual, and for the influences of typical media routines, organization
strictures, external pressures and societal ideology, and places them in an
order that would, most of the time, seem to make sense.
Most of the time - but not always. The model fails to explain why an individual
such as Sam Day can have so much influence on content in a variety of
journalistic settings. "Individuals still have latitude in their behavior," she
confirms. "Their actions, although constrained, are not automatically determined
by higher-level social forces." Well, one might ask, why not? She has just
spent 270 pages suggesting otherwise. Shoemaker also does not seem to make
allowances for the fact that sometimes an entire publication would seem to
violate most of her rules by failing to conform to external pressures or social
ideology, nor for the fact that a "reporter" such as Sam Day can grasp an
opportunity to influence content through his or her choice of workplace. Day,
like most reporters, had options of where to work - he usually chose the ones he
thought would let him express himself most freely.
Shoemaker suggests some hypotheses that seem to indicate relatively little
first-hand experience with newsrooms, making what to the professional journalist
would seem to be obvious statements - so obvious as to not be worth testing.
Still, Shoemaker has assembled the most important of the many factors that
affect what become news into one coherent structure, and, while the structure
may prove insufficient, the pieces seem to be there. She appropriately, suggests
future research on how the levels work together.
While she does not state it in such terms, perhaps Shoemaker's hierarchy is
less valuable in explaining most of journalism content than in suggesting what
the content of successful publications is likely to be. In some cases, one may
be unable to look at the hierarchical structure and predict - based on the
number or influence of advertisers, or the political views of its owners, or the
use of authority figures as sources, for example - what the content of a
publication will be. But perhaps if such predictions cannot be made with some
degree of accuracy, or if forces that dictate content cannot be determined
according to the model, that indicates the publication is largely irrelevant -
that it, and/or whoever determines its content - is likely to struggle for
survival while competing economically and ideologically against those
publications that "fit" more neatly.
More specifically, Sam Day did not follow the "rules" that Shoemaker's
hierarchy would suggest in determining the content for publications where he
worked - but neither did he spend much time at any job where he determined that
content. Likewise, the publications did not always seem to provide content
according to the hierarchy - but of all the publications for which Day worked,
the most successful was the Lewiston Morning Tribune, which also was the most
like the majority of the American press. The Intermountain Observer failed. The
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the Progressive struggled financially. Had
their content been more like what Shoemaker would lead one to expect, perhaps
they would have been more successful.
If true, that might raise concerns for anyone concerned with the American news
media serving a "marketplace of ideas function" in which readers gather a number
of opinions and shape their lives, and their democracy, based on conclusions
drawn from those competing ideas. If the content of the news media - or at
least, the successful, dominant media - can be categorized and explained simply
according to Shoemaker's model or some other theory, perhaps that content is too
predictable for the media to serve as a vibrant democratic force.
At the same time, however, one obviously cannot say that individuals do not
matter in determining editorial content. Without one individual journey, the
American case that may best have illustrated the senselessness of prior
restraint - both for those in government and for those in the media who found
themselves on the wrong side of the issue early on - might never have occurred.
In that case, the individual had influence, just as he had many years before as
an investigative reporter for the Lewiston Morning Tribune, then later - during
a time of statewide and national political turmoil - as editor of the
Intermountain Observer. Sometimes individuals do matter, as suggested by
philosopher Bertrand Russell thirty years before the Progressive H- Bomb case:
. . . a community needs, if it is to prosper, a certain number of individuals
who do not wholly conform to the general type. Practically all progress,
artistic, moral, and intellectual, has depended upon such individuals, who have
been a decisive factor in the transition from barbarism to civilization. If a
community is to make progress, it needs exceptional individuals whose
activities, though useful, are not of a sort that ought to be general.
. . . It has always been difficult for communities to recognize what is
necessary for individuals who are going to make the kind of exceptional
contribution that I have in mind, namely, elements of wildness, of separateness
from the herd, of domination by rare impulses of which the utility was not
obvious to everybody.
1. United States v. The Progressive, 467 F. Supp 990 (1979).
2. David M. Rubin, "The Security of Secrecy," in Risky Business: Communicating
Issues of Science, Risk, and Public Policy, eds. Lee Wilkins and Philip
Patterson (New York: Greenwood, 1991), 131-150. Rubin points out that the
federal government has gone to court only twice since World War II to prevent
publication of secret information. Both cases came in the 1970s, and, though
never fully adjudicated, the Progressive case was the last. The 1971 "Pentagon
Papers" case was the other.
3. Pamela J. Shoemaker and Elizabeth Kay Mayfield, "Building a Theory of News
Content: A Synthesis of Current Approaches," Journalism Monographs, 103 (1987);
Pamela J. Shoemaker and Stephen D. Reese, Mediating the Message: Theories of
Influences on Mass Media Content, 2d ed. (White Plains, N.Y.: Longman, 1996).
The preface notes that Shoemaker "took primary responsibility for Chapters 1, 5,
8, 10, and 11." Those chapters provide most of the information about the
theoretical model, a model that resembles one first introduced in the 1987
Shoemaker and Mayfield article.
4. See Deni Elliott, "Creating the Conditions for Ethical Journalism," Mass
Comm Review, 14, 1987: 8; Walter Lippmann, "The Nature of News," in
Interpretations of Journalism, ed. Frank L. Mott and Ralph D. Casey (New York:
F. S. Croffs & Co., 1937), 176; James McManus, "How Objective is Local
Television News?" Mass Comm Review, 18 (1991) 26-27; Holly Stocking and Nancy
LaMarca, "How Journalists Describe Their Stories: Hypotheses and Assumptions in
Newsmaking," Journalism Quarterly, 67 (1990): 295-301; Robert A. Hackett,
"Decline of a Paradigm? Bias and Objectivity in News Media Studies," Critical
Studies in Mass Communication, 1 (1984): 229-259; Jeffrey B. Abramson, "Four
Criticisms of Press Ethics," in Democracy and the Mass Media, ed. Judith
Lichtenberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 251; Dennis M.
Corrigan, "Value Coding Consensus in Front Page News Leads," Journalism
Quarterly, 67 (1990): 653-662; Ardyth B. Sohn, "Newspaper Agenda-Setting and
Community Expectations," Journalism Quarterly, 61 (1984): 892-897; Martin A. Lee
and Norman Solomon, Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in the News
Media (New York: Lyle Stuart, a division of Carol Publishing, 1990), 334.
5. Lippmann, "The Nature of News."
6. Shoemaker and Mayfield, "Building a Theory of News Content."
7. Perhaps the most interesting came from McManus ("How Objective?"), who used
their categories to evaluate the objectivity of television stations.
Surprisingly, he found that the larger the station, and the more time a reporter
had to work on a story, the more likely it was that the story would be biased.
Comparing the actions of the reporters involved to the possible reasons for bias
established by Shoemaker and Mayfield, he found that in most cases the reporter
had acted in the "best interests" of the station, to increase ratings, undercut
competitors, et cetera.
8. In other words, power comes not just from above, but is maintained with the
consent of those below; Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 244. Also
see Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly (Boston: Beacon, 1983); Herbert J.
Gans, Deciding What's News: A Study of CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News,
Newsweek and Time (New York: Pantheon, 1979); and David H. Weaver and G.
Cleveland Wilhoit, The American Journalist: A Portrait of U.S. News People and
Their Work (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University, 1986).
9. Shoemaker and Mayfield, "Building a Theory," 22.
10. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 222.
11. Samuel P. Huntington, American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony
(Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard, 1981), 33.
12. In fact, in their final chapter Shoemaker and Reese offer a number of
"hypotheses" that might be tested. Unfortunately, many of those are simplistic
and/or obvious for anyone who has actually worked in the news media, making this
perhaps the weakest portion of the book. Perhaps the worst example of such a
hypothesis (from page 268): "The more advertising a newspaper or magazine has,
the more pages it will devote to editorial (i.e. nonadvertising) content."
13. Philip Gaunt, Choosing the News: The Profit Factor in News Selection (New
York: Greenwood, 1990); Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly. "Profitability may depend
on reaching a national audience; if so, then sympathetic treatment of the
American Negro's struggle for equality - for instance - is uneconomical,"
sociologists Joseph Bensman and Bernard Rosenberg noted in 1963. "This is not
because the television networks are anti-Negro. . . . it is because advertisers
are afraid of alienating too many white viewers." The authors also noted,
however, that "more liberal opinions" can be expressed if a smaller audience is
acceptable, though, still, "to please is desirable, but not to offend is
imperative": Joseph Bensman and Bernard Rosenberg, Mass, Class, and
Bureaucracy: The Evolution of Contemporary Society (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice-Hall, 1963), 361.
14. C. Edwin Baker, Advertising and a Democratic Press (Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton University, 1994), 3. The book also includes a brief history of the
effects of advertising on American newspapers. "Of course, advertising operates
as a 'censor' only because the media content desired by advertisers is not the
same as the content desired by media consumers," Baker writes. Even Baker's
comments suggest that the media should produce content that serves the "desires"
of one of those two external groups; he might contend that Shoemaker's hierarchy
is so obvious as to be not worth stating.
15. Floyd Hunter, Community Power Structure: A Study of Decision Makers (Chapel
Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina, 1953).
16. Ellen W. Kanervo and David W. Kanervo, "How Town Administrator's View
Relates to Agenda Building in Community Press," Journalism Quarterly, 66 (1989):
17. Warren Breed, The Self-Guiding Society (New York: Free Press, 1971). Breed
also notes, however, that "the power of elites and of the mass media are often
18. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 213.
19. Sohn, "Newspaper Agenda-Setting"; Graber, "News and Democracy"; Peterson,
"The Social Responsibility Theory"; John C. Merrill, The Imperative of Freedom
(New York: Hastings House, 1974); Haynes Johnson, "The Irreconcilable Conflict
Between Press and Government: Whose Side Are You On?" in Secrecy and Foreign
Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974).
20. Judy VanSlyke Turk and Bob Franklin, "Information Subsidies: Agenda-Setting
Traditions," Public Relations Review, 13 (1987): 29-41; Dan Berkowitz and
Douglas B. Adams, "Information Subsidy and Agenda-Building in Local Television
News," Journalism Quarterly, 67 (1990): 723-731.
21. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
22. Lee and Solomon, Unreliable Sources.
23. Roya Akhavan-Hajid, Anita Rife and Sheila Gopinath, "Chain Ownership and
Editorial Independence: A Case Study of Gannett Newspapers," Journalism
Quarterly, 68 (1991): 59-66.
24. Warren Breed, "Social Control in the Newsroom: A Functional Analysis,"
Social Forces, 33 (1955): 326-335.
25. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 171.
26. Corrigan, "Value Coding Consensus." Those values are significance,
vitality-conflict, human interest, timeliness, prominence, consequences and
27. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
28. Robert D. Holsworth and J. Harry Wray, American Politics and Everyday Life,
2d ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1987); Timothy Crouse, The Boys On the Bus (New
York: Ballantine, 1972).
29. David S. Broder, Behind the Front Page (New York: Simon and Schuster,
30. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 102.
31. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
32. Samuel H. Day, Jr., Crossing the Line: From Editor to Activist to Inmate -
A Writer's Journey (Baltimore: Fortkamp, 1991). Despite his supposed dislike of
the nickname, "Sassie," family members used it with fondness, and Day used it
himself in letters to family members. Brandt interview; Letters in Samuel H.
Day, Jr., Papers, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison. His memory may
have been somewhat faulty, as both of his siblings recalled him as having many
friends, and Christopher Day said his brother's only real physical shortcoming
was his eyes: Mayflower Brandt, telephone interview by author, 9 March 1997;
Christopher Day, telephone interview by author, 16 March 1997.
33. Samuel H. Day, Jr., telephone interview by author, 21 March 1997.
34. Day, Crossing the Line, 29; Brandt interview.
35. Samuel Day telephone interview, 21 March 1997.
36. Day, Crossing the Line, 33-34.
37. Samuel Day telephone interview by author, 30 March 1997.
38. Day, Crossing the Line.
39. A. Robert Smith, telephone interview by author, 7 March 1997.
40. Samuel H. Day, interview by author, 18 August 1995; Day, Crossing the Line.
41. Smith interview.
42. Samuel Day telephone interview, 21 March 1997.
43. Day, Crossing the Line, 47.
44. Day, Crossing the Line, 48.
45. Samuel Day interview, 18 August 1995.
46. Day, Crossing the Line. This was the title of the eighth chapter.
47. Dwight Chapin, "A History of the Lewiston Morning Tribune," 11 January
1960, Special Collections, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho; John B.
Hughes, "A History: Lewiston Idaho Morning Tribune 1892-1955," 9 January 1956,
Special Collections, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho; Perry Swisher,
telephone interview by author, 28 March 1995; Ladd Hamilton, telephone interview
by author, 28 March 1995.
48. Hughes, "A History."
49. Hamilton interview.
50. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 144.
51. Kathleen Day, telephone interview by author, 28 March 1995.
52. Hamilton interview. Idaho's politics have varied over time, however, with
the majority of the state's voters favoring a Populist candidate in 1892,
Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and 1900, Democrat Woodrow Wilson in
1912 and 1916, Franklin Roosevelt in four elections, and Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
At the same time, both Swisher and Day noted that the state's Democrats
frequently were more conservative than Republicans on social issues in the 1950s
and 1960s, and Swisher was the only state legislator to oppose a loyalty oath
for state employees that was intended to week out communists: Swisher interview;
Day, Crossing the Line. In later years, voters regularly voted heavily
Republican majorities to the state legislature, and countered them with
53. Swisher interview; Hamilton interview.
54. Bryce Nelson, telephone interview by author, 8 April 1997.
55. In his last year at the Tribune, Day was elected president of the Palouse
Empire Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, a society for professional journalists.
56. Samuel Day, telephone interview by author, 15 January 1998.
57. Sam Day, "Nampa State School for Mental Inmates: A 'Stagnant Pool' or a
'Flowing Stream'?" Lewiston Morning Tribune, 1 May 1960.
58. Samuel Day telephone interview, 15 January 1998.
59. Samuel Day telephone interview, 15 January 1998.
60. Samuel Day, Crossing the Line; "Two Newspapers Join Forces," Intermountain
Observer, 9 September 1967; no byline, but probably written by Samuel Day.
61. A. L. "Butch" Alford, telephone interview by author, 8 April 1997.
62. Day, Crossing the Line. Day tried throughout his time at the newspaper to
boost circulation and income, and was not afraid to ask for help from
influential friends. A personal letter from Senator Frank Church concludes: "We
think the Idaho Observer is a great little paper. Bryce [Nelson, who then worked
for Church] and I have resolved to do what we can to increase your circulation.
We'll pass the word about. I hope that it will do you some good." Frank Church
to Sam Day, 3 September 1964, Samuel H. Day Jr. Papers, State Historical Society
of Wisconsin, Madison. Day and the Observer regularly supported Church - whom
Day credited with changing his own mind about the Vietnam War. For his part,
Church gave Observer gift subscriptions to friends, and inserted Observer
articles written by Day into the Congressional Record on at least two
occasions: Congressional Record, 31 July 1971, S 12748; and Congressional
Record, 14 September 1971, S 14285.
63. "Being Black in Boise," Intermountain Observer, 14 June 1968; "Boys of
Boise Revisited," Intermountain Observer, 16 January 1971; Mary Judd, "The Birth
Control Handbook," Intermountain Observer, 4 December 1971, 4-5.
64. Sam Day, "The Borah Symposium: A Consensus of Despair," Intermountain
Observer, 22 March 1969; Sam Day, "I Want a Warrant for His Arrest,"
Intermountain Observer, 5 April 1969.
65. Day, Crossing the Line, viii; Sam Day, "An Incident on Capital Boulevard,"
Helping Hand, 4 December 1972.
66. Day, Crossing the Line; Sam Day, "A Welcome to the New Owners,"
Intermountain Observer, 29 April 1972.
67. Sam Day, "A Farewell," Intermountain Observer, 10 October 1973; "A
'Turned-Off' Reader" to Sam Day, 17 October 1973, Samuel H. Day, Jr., Papers,
State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison; Bill Hall, "The Observer - Both
Liberty and Death," Lewiston Morning Tribune, 18 October 1973; David Espo, "The
Other Side - The Observer," Twin Falls Times- News, 10 October 1973; Unsigned
editorial, "A Lively Voice Stilled," Boise Idaho Statesman, 20 October 1973;
Unsigned editorial, "Only $$ Will Save Idaho's 'Observer,'" South Idaho Press
(Burley), 18 October 1973; Unsigned editorial, "Time to Go Fishing," Emmett
Messenger-Index, 11 October 1973.
68. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 112.
69. Of course, most newspapers use "stringers" and volunteers - not to mention
news releases from a variety of sources - to provide some news. The distinction
here is that the Observer was among few newspapers that trusted those types of
"reporters" to write front-page news stories.
70. Samuel Day interview, 19 August 1995.
71. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 117.
72. Sam Day, "Desert flowers that Bloom for a Day: The Comings and Goings of
Idaho's Alternative Media," Intermountain Observer, 23 June 1973; Abe Peck,
Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times of the Underground Press (New York:
Citadel Underground, 1991); Glessing, The Underground Press in America; Michael
Johnson, The New Journalism: The Underground Press, the Artists of Nonfiction,
and Changes in the Established Media (Lawrence, Kan.: University of Kansas,
73. United States v. The Progressive. The Bulletin was founded at the
University of Chicago, where the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain
reaction took place in 1941, and which remains the physical and intellectual
home of the internationally known publication (though it receives no support
from the university). Recently the magazine described its content as "nuclear
plus," with concerns also related military issues and "the damage to democracy
caused by obsessive government secrecy": Education Foundation for Nuclear
Science, "A Brief History of the Bulletin," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
web site, 16 March 1998.
74. Bryce Nelson telephone interview, 8 April 1997.
75. Bryce Nelson, telephone interview with author, 10 April 1998.
76. Bryce Nelson telephone interview, 8 April 1997.
77. Bryce Nelson telephone interview, 8 April 1997.
78. Samuel Day, interview with author, 19 August 1995. Though Day had not
requested the recommendation, he said Church - being the skilled politician that
he was - made sure that Day knew the senator had offered a recommendation on his
79. Samuel Day interview, 19 August 1995. Day notes parenthetically in his
autobiography that "it turned out I was the only applicant for the job": Day,
Crossing the Line, 88. But Ruth Adams, who twice served as editor of the
magazine and who was listed as an editorial consultant when Day was hired (and
who served as a board member at times), later remembered "several applicants,"
of which Day was deemed the most qualified: Ruth Adams, telephone interview with
author, 8 April 1998.
80. Stephen Berry, telephone interview with author, 1 April 1998; Adams, who
served terms as editor both before and after Day's stint with the Bulletin, said
she was "one who always wanted to broaden the magazine": Adams interview.
81. Samuel H. Day, Jr., "We Re-Set the Clock," Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, September 1974, 4-5.
82. A. DeVolpi and others, Born Secret: The H-Bomb, the Progressive Case, and
National Security. New York: Pergamon, 1981; Samuel Day interview, 19 August
1995. Von Hippel later said he enjoyed working with Day, who worked hard to
grasp complicated ideas. "He would use me on technical questions," von Hippel
said. "We got to be personal friends, as well": Frank von Hippel, telephone
interview with author, 16 March 1998. The friendship suffered somewhat when von
Hippel took the side of the government in 1979, though he later admitted, "In
the end, I think I was wrong." He made the same admission publicly, and the two
men became closer again; Day telephone interview, 19 April 1998.
83. Samuel H. Day, Jr., "Scant Cause for Reassurance," Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, October 1974, 4.
84. Stuart Rice, telephone interview with author, 1 April 1998.
85. Day, Crossing the Line, 92.
86. Samuel Day interview, 19 August 1995.
87. Samuel H. Day, Jr., "Some Questions About Entebbe," Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, September 1976, 7. Day said he did not intend to write about the
issue originally, thinking it was outside the scope of the Bulletin, but in a
casual conversation Nelson encouraged him to do so: Samuel Day interview, 19
August 1995. Kathleen Day said Nelson, mindful that most of the board members
were Jewish, almost dared Day to run the opinion - "so he did"; she compared the
incident to the profanity-laced Intermountain Observer story of years earlier,
saying Sam Day may have been trying in both cases to draw a reaction - but may
have underestimated the reaction in both cases: Kathleen Day interview, 16
August 1995; Nelson later said he was surprised to see the Entebbe column, the
apparent result of a casual comment, appear in print: Nelson interview, 8 April
88. Samuel Day interview, 19 August 1995; Richard S. Lewis, "Shock and Dismay"
(letter to editor), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1976, 5; Herman
Wouk, "A Protest" (letter to editor), Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
November 1976, 7.
89. Robert Gomer and others, "We Take Issue" (letter to editor), Bulletin of
the Atomic Scientists, November 1976, 5. Both Berry and Rice signed the letter,
but more than twenty years later neither could recall the details of the
incident: Berry interview; Rice interview. Neither Adams nor Rabinowitz signed
the letter. Neither did Feld, who apparently saw the column before it ran.
90. Samuel Day interview, 19 August 1995.
91. Samuel Day interview, 19 August 1995.
92. Morland, who had worked as a freelance writer (mostly for flying
magazines), was an Air Force pilot in Vietnam who had been released on a
psychiatric discharge. He made a living primarily off of a slide show he had
developed about the arms race. In his autobiography, Day writes that he asked
Morland "whether, working as a reporter rather than as a spy, he could come up
with a simple explanation . . . of what might be the Government's deepest,
darkest secret, such as, for example, the making of a hydrogen bomb": Day,
Crossing the Line, 100. But Morland did not remember the two talking about a
specific topic: Howard Morland, The Secret that Exploded (New York: Random
93. Howard Morland, "The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It; Why We're Telling It,"
Progressive, November 1979, 14-23; United States v. The Progressive. The case
has been discussed in detail in a number of places, including: Day, Crossing the
Line; Morland, The Secret that Exploded; Lueders, An Enemy of the State; DeVolpi
and others, Born Secret; Bruce M. Swain, "The Progressive, the Bomb and the
Papers," Journalism Monographs, 76, (1982); and Ellen Alderman and Caroline
Kennedy, In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action (New York: William Morrow,
94. DeVolpi and others, Born Secret; von Hippel telephone interview; Samuel
Day interview, 19 August 1995; Day, Crossing the Line.
95. "The Way the Press Saw It," Progressive, November 1979, 38-40; Editorials
On File, 16 March-31 March 1979, 304-311; Editorials On File, 16-31 September
1979, 1028-1039; Swain, "The Progressive, the Bomb and the Papers."
96. First Amendment conflicts are inevitable, of course, unless the court
should choose to take the absolutist view espoused by Justice Hugo Black.
Instead, court majorities regularly have approved exceptions involving such
things as advertising, obscenity and national security issues.
97. Day, Crossing the Line; most Progressive stories underwent substantial
editing, say those who worked there, but the H-Bomb story apparently was
rewritten far more extensively than was typical. Each editor at the magazine
wrote at least part of the story, with Day doing most of it, said John Buell,
who was an associate editor at the time: John Buell, telephone interview with
author, 15 April 1998.
98. Howard Morland, telephone interview with author, 15 April 1998.
99. "I was a little disappointed to find freedom of the press shouldering the
awfulness of the H-Bomb out of the way as the principle issue of the case; I
figured freedom of the press could have taken care of itself": Morland, The
Secret that Exploded, 169-170.
100. Ron Carbon, telephone interview with author, 19 April 1998; Carbon said
Day's "blind spots" about issues or people occasionally made themselves obvious:
"He was a very intelligent guy. I'm not saying he was stupid, at all. And yet,
he would do things that would just kind of baffle you. You'd say, 'Good lord,
why'd he do that?'"
101. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message
102. She does note that major news organizations did not join alternative
publications - including the Progressive - in a legal protest of Pentagon
restrictions during the Persian Gulf War, suggesting that the largest news
organizations help keep the smaller ones in line according to her hierarchical
standards; Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
103. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
104. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
105. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message, 271.
106. Shoemaker and Reese, Mediating the Message.
107. Bertrand Russell, Authority and the Individual (Boston: Beacon paperback,
1949), 56. 25-26.