11.9.3 Letter from Los Angeles Times reader to Bill Henry, March 13, 1968
In this 1968 letter to Bill Henry of the LA Times, J. O'Shaughnessy expresses his frustration in trying to learn more about what is happening in Vietnam and announces his suspicion that the government is not telling the whole truth. Why do you think that O'Shaughnessy is questioning the newspaper and magazine coverage? Why does he want more televised coverage of the war and the Senate hearings? What do you think the effect of this coverage was on the public?
In this 1968 letter to Bill Henry of the LA Times, J. O'Shaughnessy expresses his frustration in trying to learn more about what is happening in Vietnam and announces his suspicion that the government is not telling the whole truth. Ask students to consider why O'Shaughnessy is questioning the newspaper and magazine coverage and why he wants more televised coverage of the war and the Senate hearings. Students should also consider the effects of this coverage on the public. Explain that Vietnam has been called America's first living room war because Americans were able to watch footage of the war at home through televised news coverage. The reports of increasing casualties and the failure to achieve a victory led many Americans to begin to question the US government's motives for continuing the war. Journalistic coverage of the Tet Offensive and the My Lai Massacre in 1968 led to demands for the truth.
6631 Moselle Circle
Yorba Linda, Calif.
March 13, 1968
Mr. Bill Henry
c/o L. A. Times
Times Mirror Square
Los Angeles, Calif.
Dear Mr. Henry:
In your Wednesday column you asked whether the nation was sell served by the televising of the Senate hearings. I can only answer for myself but I was extremely interested and believe I am better informed for the great coverage.
You cannot imagine what it is like for the average citizen who sets out to learn about Vietnam with the intention of forming his own opinion regarding U. S. policy. In the first place, about the only information we can get is that which is printed in magazines and newspapers. While I read the editorial page daily, I am always aware that what I am reading represents the combined opinions of the publisher and the columnist. As for the front page news, here against the publishers and reporters combine to print what they believe the public wants to know about. It is edited, as it must be, all of the facts or the complete text of a speech can rarely be included. Information in magazines is similarly regulated.
Then, too, despite the faith I have in the integrity of the press, I have some doubts when an article suggests that the Viet Cong lost 2,000 men and we didn't lose any. I sometimes wonder if the government is feeding statistics to the press that are incomplete and therefore misleading.
What I am trying to say is that when television carries actual happenings unedited and uncut the public is afforded a rare treat indeed. Only from events such as this can we actually decide for ourselves and make any sort of judgment on the subject in question. At all other times, our opinions must necessarily be influenced by what and who we read.
If we really want a nation of free-thinkers, then public service events such as the senate hearings are one step in that direction.
Yours very truly,