A Free and Responsible University: The Hutchins Commission, the Press, and Academia

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Journalism History

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© 2021 History Division of the AEJMC. In A Free and Responsible Press (1947), the Hutchins Commission—officially, the Commission on Freedom of the Press—sharply criticized journalists and journalism educators. In turn, the journalists and the journalism educators sharply criticized the Commission. This article views the battles in terms of academia. Commission chair Robert Maynard Hutchins of the University of Chicago believed that a university must work to improve society rather than walling itself off. All but one of the men he successfully recruited for the Commission was a current or former professor. The orientation affected their analysis and their conclusions concerning both the press, which they viewed as a teaching profession, and schools of journalism, which they considered misguided in teaching skills rather than liberal arts. Journalists pushed back against the report as “academic,” which Hutchins called “a red herring.” Journalism professors pushed back against the report as prejudiced and uninformed, which Hutchins denied. Yet despite the attitudes of professors in 1947, the report subsequently rose to canonic status in schools of journalism. The article argues that the report reflects not only concepts about a free and responsible press but also concepts about a free and responsible university.


Commission on Freedom of the Press; Journalism education; Media criticism


Journalism Studies



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