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MediaWatch: January 1989

Vol. Three No. 1

Reporter Admits He's A Marxist

"Eugene V. Debs may be my all-time favorite American and Karl Marx my all-time favorite journalist," former Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times reporter A. Kent MacDougall proclaimed recently. In November and December articles for the Monthly Review, "an independent socialist magazine," he explained that as a "closet socialist boring unobtrusively from within," he had little trouble promoting Marxist ideas in his news stories.

How did someone who also wrote articles for the American Socialist and communist Daily Worker manage this? MacDougall reasoned "that while newspaper owners and editors don't go out looking for stories that make the capitalist system look bad, the best don't flinch from running such stories if they meet mainstream journalistic standards for accuracy and objectivity."

During his days at the Journal from 1962 to 1972 MacDougal "took full advantage of the latitude Journal reporters have to pick their own feature story topics and report on them in depth." MacDougall proudly recalled how he "introduced readers to the ideas of radical historians, radical economists...in sympathetic page-one stories."

"I made sure to seek out experts whose opinions I knew in advance would support my thesis," he boasted, and "sought out mainstream authorities to confer recognition and respectability on radical views I sought to popularize."

In 1977 the Times hired MacDougall as a "special business correspondent" able to pick his own stories. "I lost no time making it obvious where my sympathies lay," MacDougall reported, noting that "of the first dozen stories I wrote for the Times, one profiled the leftist magazine Mother Jones and two others profiled Marxist economists."

In the early 1980's MacDougall got an opportunity to write a series that offered a Marxist explanation as to "why the United States is among the least equal of mature capitalist economies." Times editors nominated it for a Pulitzer Prize. MacDougall left the Times in 1987 to find a new vehicle for his views: "I picked up a pension (opposing the system is no reason to pass up an opportunity to make it work for one) and joined the faculty of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley" where "tenure gives me the luxury of coming out of the ideological closet at last."