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BIAS AND OBJECTIVITY IN THE COLD WAR REPORTING
OF MARGUERITE HIGGINS
MICHELE KATHLEEN JONES
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Michele Kathleen Jones
This thesis is dedicated to Madison and Dylan Allmon, that they will learn from both the
successes and mistakes of great women in history, and in memory of Clara Brewer
Compton, who was a great woman in my history.
Though only one name graces the title page, no thesis is written alone. This one
was no different.
I wish to thank the chair of my supervisory committee, Dr. William McKeen, for
his encouragement and advice. It was in his class that I first became interested in
journalism history and he first mentioned the name Marguerite Higgins to me. I am also
grateful to my committee members, Professor Jean Chance, who helped direct my focus
early in this thesis and who remained on my committee after her retirement, and Dr.
Leonard Tipton, who indulged a complete change in projects and, early in my graduate
work, supported my interest in editorial writing.
I am indebted to Jody Hedge, program assistant in the Office of Graduate Studies
and Research in the College of Journalism and Communications, for knowing the answer
to any question any student in the program has ever had. I also thank the staff of the
University of Florida library's interlibrary loan office for obtaining for me numerous
obscure sources and not nagging too much when I neglected to return them on time.
I am also grateful for the support system I found in Gainesville. My friends and
roommates, Katie Walsh, Jenni Walsh, and Kelli McGinnis, endured many snaps, snipes,
foul moods, bad tempers and generally anti-social behavior in the months during which I
wrote this thesis, and, yet, they still call me their friend. My graduate school friends,
particularly Mark Ward and Vanessa Bravo, always reassured me by simply taking this
trip in the same boat.
Most importantly, I am thankful for my family and their ever-present support and
love. My parents, Don and Bess Jones, were there, either in person or otherwise, for each
success and defeat throughout this process and were a constant source of encouragement
and reassurance. I am also thankful to my sister and brother-in-law, Melodee and Joe
Allmon, for having two beautiful children who always manage to put life into perspective
for me and to my cousin and cousin-in-law, Missy and Ryan Lewis, for providing me free
room and board on my research trips to Tallahassee.
Finally, I can not thank those who committed the terrible oversight of not including
the New York Herald Tribune in the University of Florida's microfilm collection, thus
necessitating that I make numerous day and weekend trips to Florida State University nor
those who neglected to repair or replace the ancient microfilm machines at FSU, thus
necessitating that I piece them back together with Scotch tape and hit them to make them
function. However, as this project is now complete, I no longer curse them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ...................................................................... ...................iv
A B ST R A C T ................... ..................................................................... ......viii
1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF THESIS ...............................
Statem ent of P problem ................................................................................ 1
S ig nifican ce of the Stu dy ........................................................................... ... .. ...... 2
Existing Literature ................................... ............................ ............ 3
O overview of Thesis................................................. ........................... ....... 5
M ethod ............................................................... .... ....... ......... 6
2 BIOGRAPHY OF MARGUERITE HIGGINS ......................................................... 8
E a rly L ife ................................................................................. 8
Fam ily D ram a .................................................................. ... ..............
Social Isolation .................................................................. .. ...... 10
C o lle g e ......................................................................................................... 1 0
S ta rtin g O u t ................................................................ .................................... 12
A t C olu m bia .................................................... 12
B beginning at the H erald Tribune ................................................................ 13
In Europe........................................... 15
W ar C correspondent ........................................................................................ 16
Report from Dachau ................................. ........................ .. .......... 17
In L o v e ................................................................ .................................... 1 8
The Cold W ar ................................. ............................ .... ....... 19
In B e rlin ............................................................... ................................... 2 3
T okyo and B beyond ................................................ 26
In and O ut of K orea ................................................................................. .......... 28
From R reporter to Celebrity ..................................................................... 31
A W om an in W ar .................................................................. 31
S tate sid e ..............................................................................3 3
M aggie's Final W ar ........................................................................................ .......37
Battling Halberstam .................................. ........................ ... .......... 39
W working to the End................................................. ........ 40
3 REVIEW OF LITERATURE .......................................................... .............. 42
D efinitions of O bjectivity ......................................................... .. ............. 42
Separation of Facts and V values ...................... .................................................. 42
Disinterestedness, Detachment, and Nonpartisanship ..................................... 43
F airness and B balance ............................................................. ............ .. 44
Non-distortion, Accuracy, and Completeness........................... ..............44
Balance and Distortion in Conflict .......................................... ..............46
O bjectivity as a Set of Practices ................................................ ................. 46
Evolution of the Objectivity Concept .................................................... .............. 47
E co n o m ic T h eo ry ................................................................ ............... 4 7
Efficiency and Technology Theory ........................................ .............. 48
Professionalism Theory ................................................ .............. 48
N natural Science Philosophy Theory ........................................ .............. 50
The State of Objectivity, Before 1950 ................................................ .............. 51
In Journalism E education ......................................................... ............. 51
In the Profession .................................... ........................... .......... 53
O objectivity: The D ebate................. ...... ......................................................... 55
Objectivity, Bias, and International Reporting........................................... 57
4 ANALYSIS OF MARGUERITE HIGGINS' REPORTING FROM POLAND .......61
A ttrib u tio n ......................................................................................................... 6 2
P re d ic tin g .................................................................. .....................................6 3
A ssu m in g .................................................................. .....................................6 4
Sensationalizing ................................................................. .... ......... 65
O p in io n ........................................................................................................6 7
Interpretation .......................................................................................... ........68
B balance and Fairness .................. ............................................... 69
Two Agendas in Higgins' Reporting ................................................................70
D discussion ................................................................................................... ....... 73
5 C O N CLU SIO N ..................................................................................................75
LIST OF REFEREN CES .................................................................................. 78
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................. ........................... .......... 84
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communications
BIAS AND OBJECTIVITY IN THE COLD WAR REPORTING
OF MARGUERITE HIGGINS
Michele Kathleen Jones
Chair: William McKeen
Major Department: Journalism and Communications
The purpose of this study is to examine the life and work of journalist Marguerite
Higgins, foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and Newsday from
1944 to 1966, and to determine if she allowed her personal opposition to Communism to
influence her reporting during the Cold War. Specifically, this study discusses Higgins'
writing from Poland between December 1946 and February 1947, during the first
national elections in that country after World War II.
In college and her early career, Higgins had left-leaning political beliefs. She was
involved in campus activism while a student at the University of California at Berkeley
and married a member of the Communist Party while a young reporter on the city desk of
the Herald Tribune. In the early years of the Cold War, however, her views shifted and
by the time she covered the Korean War, she was a staunch anti-Communist.
Higgins' reporting from Poland did not exhibit a consistent bias against
Communism; however her style was not objective. Reports often lacked proper source
attribution and sometimes included personal opinions, interpretations, and predictions.
Higgins sometimes sensationalized stories and provided unbalanced accounts of multi-
sided issues. Additionally, she had two agendas in her writing: To convey to the
American people the magnitude of the abuses committed by the dominant political parties
against those who opposed them during the Polish election period and to portray Poland
as a hopeful nation, effectively recovering from World War II.
INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW OF THESIS
Marguerite Higgins was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for foreign
correspondence, but her significance as a reporter goes beyond the role of a "first
woman." While covering the Korean War, Higgins earned the respect of both her fellow
reporters and the military officials who tried to keep her off the front lines. She competed
fiercely for stories and refused to fill the traditional role of female journalists.
When the Army ordered all female reporters out of Korea, Higgins and her paper,
the New York Herald Tribune, talked General Douglas MacArthur into allowing her to
return. An Army officer once told fellow reporter Keyes Beech that the front line was no
place for women. Beech agreed, but added that it was all right for Higgins (Beech, 1954).
As an international correspondent from 1945 to 1966, covering the end of World
War II in Europe, the fall of Eastern Europe to Communism, the Korean War and the
early years of the conflict in Vietnam, Higgins had a unique and well-informed
perspective on the Cold War. Though she exhibited left-leaning tendencies while
attending the University of California at Berkeley and married a member of the
Communist Party, she became a staunch anti-Communist in later years.
This thesis examines Higgins' views of Communism as exhibited in her writing.
Statement of Problem
When reporting in an era of high tension between two nations, such as in the Cold
War, can an American correspondent report and write without personal or national bias?
This broad question is the basis of an investigation into Marguerite Higgins' writing.
This study will examine and analyze the writing of Marguerite Higgins to
determine if any bias for or against Communism is evident in her work as a foreign
correspondent. The study is limited to examining Marguerite Higgins' work covering
Poland in late 1946 and early 1947.
Significance of the Study
This study is significant because Marguerite Higgins is an important person in
journalism history. She broke barriers for women and reported some of the most
important stories of the 20th century. Her life, as well as her work, was complex and
colorful. Most discussions of Higgins' life and work focus on her role as a woman in a
male-dominated industry; however many other aspects are important and worthy of
discussion. For example, Higgins was a fierce competitor and found rivals at each of her
assignments. The Marguerite Higgins-Homer Bigart feud in Korea, in which Higgins and
Bigart battled to scoop each other for the same paper, and the animosity between Higgins
and reporter David Halberstam in Vietnam, which was fueled by ideological differences
and generational rivalry, are significant to journalism history in conjunction with the
theme of journalistic competition. Higgins' role as a celebrity, stemming from her
expulsion from Korea and her fight to return, and how it related to her job as a reporter is
another area for possible research. Most importantly, however, Higgins' ethical practices,
for example, her product endorsements and colleagues' claims that she stole stories,
frequently came under fire and further research into them would add important
information to the body of knowledge about her and her place in journalism.
This study is original because it will examine Higgins' political views and the
possibility of an agenda or bias in her writing.
Several theses and dissertations have been written about Marguerite Higgins. Lisa
D. Johnson (1983) of East Texas State University wrote No Place for a Woman: A
Biographical Study of War Correspondent Marguerite Higgins. The work emphasized
the problems she encountered as a woman in the field of war correspondence.
Kathleen Kearney (Lewis) Keeshen (1973, 1983) of the University of Maryland
wrote a master's thesis and dissertation, both biographical, about Marguerite Higgins.
The dissertation takes the angle of examining Higgins' contribution to American
journalism. She discusses Higgins' role as a groundbreaker for women in the profession
and writes about her lengthy career and the aspects of Higgins' personality, such as her
willingness to take risks and her social skills, which helped her succeed. Keeshen
emphasizes Higgins' refusal to fulfill stereotypes of women in journalism at the time and
her ability to compete and thrive in the profession at the same level as her male
Kim Bryce Landon of Syracuse University wrote the thesis War Correspondent
Marguerite Hi,,,,,,in' Conflict as Career (1985), which focused on conflicts in Higgins'
personal and professional life as a manifestation of personal insecurity. She discusses her
tumultuous childhood home life, the Higgins-Bigart feud in Korea and other professional
competitions, and her fierce desire to be in the midst of action and conflict as a war
correspondent. Landon asserts that Higgins maintained a personal insecurity throughout
her life that led her to be aggressive and competitive in her career.
Mary M. Cronin (1990), a doctoral student at the time at Michigan State
University, presented a paper to the annual convention of the Association for Education
in Journalism and Mass Communication, entitled "An Analysis of a Wartime Agenda:
The Korean War Reporting of Marguerite Higgins." The paper asserts that Higgins had a
three-part agenda in her reports from Korea. Cronin shows that Higgins wanted to
communicate the problems of sending poorly trained troops to war, paint a vivid picture
of the conflict, and show that Communism must be defeated by the United States. The
author determined that Higgins did not allow her personal views to influence her
reporting and that she sent objective communications from the front.
Numerous books about war reporting discuss Higgins' life and work. Among
them, Once upon a Distant War (1995), William Prochnau's book about war reporting in
Vietnam, includes a chapter titled "Maggie and the Rover Boys." The chapter discusses
Higgins' work in the early 1960s, but mainly focuses on her reporting about the
government of South Vietnam and the bitter feelings between her and David Halberstam
and other younger members of the press corps in Vietnam who opposed her views.
Schilpp and Murphy wrote Great Women of the Press (1983), which includes a
biographical chapter about Higgins. Julia Edwards' Women of the World: The Great
Foreign Correspondents (1988) includes the chapter "The Outrageous Marguerite
Higgins." Edwards was a classmate of Higgins at Columbia University from 1941 to
1942 and presents a rather negative account of her life.
An official biography of Marguerite Higgins was published in the general press in
1988. Antoinette May wrote Witness to War: A Biography ofMarguerite Higgins, which
incorporated numerous interviews with Higgins' friends, family and associates. The book
is sometimes overly flattering to Higgins, but also includes a fair discussion of her
controversial reporting tactics and personal relationships.
Higgins herself published an autobiography in 1955 titled News is a Singular
Thing. Three other works by her will provide important insights for this study: War in
Korea (1951), Red Plush andBlack Bread (1955), and Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965).
Syracuse University also has a collection of Higgins' personal papers, photos, and
mementos. Additionally, Higgins' colleague from Korea, Keyes Beech, included a
chapter in his own memoirs about her.
Overview of Thesis
The thesis is separated into five chapters, including introduction and conclusion.
Chapter 2 is a biography of Marguerite Higgins, as insight into and knowledge of her
personal and professional life is integral to analyzing her writing for bias and objectivity.
Themes in the chapter include challenges she faced as a female correspondent and
conflicts in her personal life and with other correspondents, as well as her political views,
which evolved from socialist leaning to strong anti-Communist.
Chapter 3 reviews literature concerning objectivity in reporting. It covers
definitions of objectivity and bias, the historical evolution of the concept in the
journalism profession and the debate that surrounds the idea of objectivity in terms of its
usefulness and attainability. The chapter also looks at literature involving objectivity and
bias in international reporting and provides a brief assessment of how objectivity, bias,
and balance were addressed in journalism textbooks and by journalists of Marguerite
Chapter 4 is the analysis of Marguerite Higgins' reporting from Poland. Any bias
in her writing will be discussed. Chapter 5 concludes the thesis.
Materials for this thesis were obtained in a variety of ways and several problems
arose in obtaining them. The Marguerite Higgins Collection at Syracuse University
contains a wealth of information concerning Higgins' life and work. The materials
include book drafts, personal and business letters, photos, Higgins' Pulitzer Prize and
other newspaper awards, as well as a variety of other personal mementos. Unfortunately,
during the time this thesis was completed, the library closed the collection for
reorganization and preservation purposes.
Thus, secondary sources and Higgins' own books and articles make up much of
the research for chapter 2. May's Witness to War (1983), which includes many interviews
with Higgins' friends, family and associates and Higgins' memoirs, News is a Singular
Thing (1955) were invaluable.
Higgins' writing for the New York Herald Tribune comprises the bulk of her work
and was necessary for the chapter 4 analysis. Thirty-nine articles from Higgins' time in
Poland were obtained from microfilm at Florida State University in Tallahassee, as the
University of Florida does not possess the Herald Tribune in its collection. Additionally,
over two hundred other articles by Higgins were obtained from FSU and provided
historical information and perspective on Higgins' career.
In analyzing Higgins' work for objectivity and bias (allowing personal opinions to
influence reporting and writing), each article was examined and several forms of bias
were sought. Use of "color" language (for example, strong adverbs and adjectives); lack
of balance in reporting; lack of source attribution; use of opinion, assumption, and
prediction as fact; sensationalizing stories; and distortion were the primary factors that
might give evidence of a biased or subjective report. The texts were examined to
determine if any consistent agendas were present and, using the definitions of objectivity
discussed in chapter 3, ifHiggins generally reported objectively from Poland.
BIOGRAPHY OF MARGUERITE HIGGINS
From her birth in China in 1920, Marguerite Higgins was on her way to a life of
adventure, war and tumult. She was the daughter of an adventurer, raised for several
years in Asia, and reared on stories of wartime glory and world travels.
Marguerite was the daughter of Lawrence (Larry) Daniel Higgins, an Irish-
American pilot, and Marguerite de Godard, a descendent of French aristocracy estranged
from the wealthy side of the family. The two met in a bomb shelter in France during
World War I and moved to Hong Kong after the war. Lawrence worked for a steamship
company and daughter Marguerite was born there in 1920 (May, 1983).
When Marguerite was six months old she contracted malaria and was sent to
Dalat, a resort in the mountains of Vietnam, to recuperate in a better climate. After her
recovery, the family continued to live in China until 1925. There, Marguerite learned
Chinese from her nurse and French from her mother. She later forgot most of the Chinese
language, but remained fluent in French throughout her life (May, 1983).
That Marguerite's early life was spent in Asia is foretelling, as the most important
years of her career would be in that region. It is ironic, however, that she recuperated in
Vietnam from a deadly, tropical disease. Years later, she died of a tropical ailment
contracted in that country.
The family moved to Oakland, California, in 1925. Larry worked as a stockbroker
and the family's glamorous globetrotting ended, other than trips to France to visit family.
They set up residence in a middle class neighborhood called Chabot Court where
Marguerite lived the remainder of her childhood.
Several aspects of Marguerite's life on Chabot Court helped shape her
independent, determined personality and stood out in her later memories. In her
autobiography, News is a Singular Thing (1955)(1955a), Marguerite wrote of her
"family's tendency to make a crisis" (p. 30) which made them colorful characters on the
quiet street of "genteel poverty" (p. 31). She described her father's Irish temper. On one
occasion, Larry, clad only in his shorts, chased her down the street and another time
threw a golf trophy at her. He missed and the trophy crashed through the house's front
Marguerite's mother was known on the block for dramatic episodes of fainting,
usually following arguments with Larry. In her autobiography (1955a), Marguerite wrote
about her mother:
Mother, being Latin and less inhibited than most of our neighbors, was frequently
overcome by her desire for the center of the stage, a position attained by bursts of
weeping, bursts of gaiety, flirtations (harmless), a volatile display of Gallic temper,
a solo polka in the middle of the room, solo tangos in the middle of the room,
landlord-disturbing flamenco stamps in the middle of the room, and occasional
fainting fits, to mention a few items. (p. 31)
Marguerite attributed her ability to handle emotional trials in life to her family's
dramas. As she became accustomed to her mother's fainting spells, she gained a
reputation on the block for being an unaffected, cold child. She said, "To me the
emotional crises were less diverting because they happened so often and because I was
emotionally involved" (1955a, p. 31).
Marguerite's time at the Anna Head School, where most of her classmates were
wealthy girls from well-known families, was also instrumental in forming her
independent spirit. Marguerite attended the school on a scholarship her mother secured
by teaching French there. She had to study hard to maintain that scholarship, a diligence
she said affected her social skills. She was already less popular at the school due to her
family's eccentricities and their relative poverty.
Marguerite's differences made her the object of some childhood teasing. When
the neighborhood children discovered she was born in China, they taunted her with the
label "Chinaman" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 37).
Though Marguerite found herself on the outside of many social circles in her
adolescence, she was not without friends. Several people from her childhood remained in
her life throughout, including the organizer of the "Chinaman" taunt, Jean Craig, who
served as Marguerite's maid of honor at her first wedding (May, 1983).
Marguerite spent four of her most formative years from 1937 to 1945 at the
University of California at Berkeley. She began her time there the same way she spent
much of her childhood attempting to fit in, but not completely accepted. The sorority of
her choice, Alpha Phi, blackballed her and she settled for a less social one, Gamma Phi
Beta (May, 1983).
For awhile, Marguerite was a model sorority girl, hosting parties and attending
socials, but she soon tired of the life and turned her attentions to the Daily Californian,
the student-run newspaper, and campus radicalism (May, 1983).
French professor Haakon Chevalier took Marguerite under his wing, sharing his
books and discussing his Communist views with her. He also introduced her to some of
his liberal, intellectual friends, including famous muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens
Marguerite also met Stanley Moore, a teaching assistant in the philosophy
department at Berkeley. Though from a wealthy family, Moore was a Communist. The
two were attracted to each other, but no relationship formed at the time. A few years
later, in New York, the two were reacquainted and married in November 1942.
While at Berkley, Marguerite had some involvement in the Young Communist
League and opposed involvement in the war in Europe. In 1940, she spoke in opposition
to the draft at a rally on campus. The crowd was unfriendly and some threw rotten
tomatoes (May, 1983).
At the Daily Californian, Marguerite earned a reputation for being a bad team
player. This reputation of stealing stories and playing "dirty tricks" to obtain stories
would continue throughout her career (May, 1983).
In addition to being known as a campus radical and a competitive reporter,
Marguerite also set herself apart in college as the object of many men's attentions and by
maintaining a strange appearance. Her roommate, Berdeen Frankel, described Marguerite
as "Daisy May the sloppy appearance, pretty face, long hair falling in waves about her
shoulders" (May, 1983, p. 41). Marguerite could sometimes be found wearing
mismatched socks or no shoes at all. Her appearance, political views and dating life
made her sorority sisters uneasy. She eventually fell out of favor with the group and
returned her sorority pin (May, 1983).
Marguerite graduated from Berkeley in 1941 with a degree in letters and science
and headed to New York City in August of the same year after working briefly for the
Vallejo Times-Herald ("Marguerite Higgins dies at 45," 1966). She allowed herself one
year to get a job as a newspaper reporter. If she failed, she vowed to return to California
and resign herself to the more secure profession of teaching French (Higgins, 1955a). The
most positive response she received in her job hunt was from L.L. Engelking of the New
York Herald Tribune who put her off with a "maybe later"(May, 1983).
In the mean time, Higgins decided to further her education by enrolling in the
master's program at Columbia University's School of Journalism. Exhibiting a
persistence that she would display many times in her career, Marguerite gained admission
to the program four days before classes started. She arrived at Dean Carl Ackerman's
office and requested to see him. Through his secretary, she learned that it was impossible
to be admitted to the program, as all the spaces open to women were filled (May, 1983).
In her autobiography, Higgins said about the situation, "[I]mpossible to a Frenchman
merely means something that is just possible if one wants to make a really great effort to
achieve it" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 23). She refused to leave until she met with Ackerman
personally (May, 1983).
Ackerman sent her to the dean of women who also informed her that admission
was improbable. She needed to submit her high school and college records as well as five
letters of recommendation from professors, all within the four days before the term
began. Then, she would be admitted only if another student dropped out. Through
numerous long-distance phone calls, airmail and telegram, the required materials arrived,
a place opened in the program, and Marguerite was accepted (May, 1983).
Marguerite's reputation for fierce competition continued at Columbia. Flora
Lewis, a classmate of Marguerite's who went on to become an international
correspondent, bureau chief, and columnist for the New York Times, told of a time in
which the class was given an assignment and Marguerite got to the library first and
checked out all the information on the topic. According to May (1983), she said,
It was typical of her, yet I feel that people critical of Marguerite and her so-called
dirty tricks forget just how hard it was in those days to be a woman in a man's
world .... Ambition was a dirty word then. Careers were just something you
fooled around with until the right man came along. Marguerite didn't know that
game. She was earnest and played for keeps. (p. 51)
Another classmate was more critical. Remembering Higgins in her book Women of
the World (1988), Julia Edwards described her as cold toward other women and said,
"Big blue eyes, a high-pitched little girl's voice and sex appeal were part of her arsenal.
As a last resort, she used her head" (p. 192).
Other classmates and faculty described Higgins in a combination of negative and
positive ways. She was ambitious and competitive and willing to use almost any means to
get a story, including blatant flirting. John Tebbel, a faculty member summed up many
people's opinions of her: "She was charming but absolutely ruthless, a flawless
combination of sex and brains" (May, 1983, p. 52).
Beginning at the Herald Tribune
Another student at Columbia worked as the campus stringer for the New York
Herald Tribune, where Marguerite tried to get a job when she arrived in New York.
When the student left the position, he recommended Marguerite for his replacement, but
warned her that Engleking, the city editor, was reluctant to hire a woman. Nevertheless,
Marguerite exercised her usual persistence and landed the position (May, 1983). Years
later, she would refer to herself as a "war profiteer" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 20) for getting a
job because so many male reporters were being drafted into the war.
While working part-time in this position, Marguerite managed to get several
exclusive stories, including a coveted interview with Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Shortly
after that story and after her graduation from Columbia, Marguerite joined the Herald-
Tribune full-time to work on the city desk (May, 1983).
Marguerite was known at the Herald Tribune as an excellent reporter, but a less
than stellar writer. In his history of the New York Herald Tribune, Richard Kluger (1986)
said Marguerite "was a human vacuum cleaner at sucking up intelligence about any
subject she was assigned to," but that "her only limitation was literacy" (p. 440).
According to William Prochnau in his book about Vietnam reporting, Once Upon a
Distant War (1995), her writing was improved when she dated men like John Watson, a
"rewrite man who could turn the telephone book into poetry and was delighted to provide
the service for the new young reporter" (p. 337).
During these early years at Columbia and the Herald Tribune, Marguerite dated,
among other men, Stanley Moore, the radical philosophy student she met at Berkeley. He
taught at Harvard at the time and made frequent trips to New York to visit her.
Marguerite wrote home to her parents about Stanley and mentioned his politics:
He is radical and incurably so. We agree on such principles as the best world is one
where both Negro and Jew and Rockefeller and Roosevelt have a chance at enough
to eat, a chance at assimilating culture and art and happiness or at least a fair share
of them a chance you don't get when working ten hours a day for $12 a week.
(May, 1983, p. 55)
She married Moore in November 1942 and he was immediately drafted and sent to
Europe. The marriage was short-lived, most of it spent apart from each other. While
Moore was gone, Marguerite allegedly maintained relationships with John Watson and
other male members of the Herald Tribune staff. Prochnau (1995) referred to her string
of boyfriends as a series of encounters with men whose importance seemed to escalate
with her professional needs" (p. 336). Kluger (1986) said, "It all would have been
nobody's business except for one thing: A substantial body of evidence suggests that
throughout her working life Maggie Higgins selected most if not all of her bedmates for
intensely practical reasons, to add to her power or promote her career" (p. 441).
Marguerite's primary career ambition was to become a foreign correspondent and
she petitioned her editors for an assignment, emphasizing her ability to speak French
fluently and her knowledge of German. When she was unsuccessful, she went over the
editors' heads to Helen Rogers Reid, the wife of the owner of the Herald Tribune who
agreed to give Marguerite an overseas assignment (May, 1983).
In August 1944, Marguerite Higgins went to London. She reunited with her
husband briefly, but they soon separated and planned to divorce.
Higgins received an assignment in Paris, but was not to cover the war yet. Russell
Hill, a fellow correspondent for the Herald Tribune informed her that the Paris bureau
was short staffed and he would handle all the military stories while she did "everything
else" (May, 1983, p. 75). That included stories about France's role in international affairs
(Higgins, 1945j), the conviction of French admiral Jean Pierre Esteva of treason
(Higgins, 1945b), and the French economy (Higgins, 1945f). Hill's coverage of the war
from Paris earned him a regular byline on the front page, while Marguerite's diplomatic
stories generally ran inside the paper.
Though France was in near ruins with hunger and unemployment high and fuel
and supplies low, the fashion industry was allowed to flourish to keep Paris afloat in the
international scene. Marguerite covered the fashion shows for Mademoiselle while
maintaining her place with the Herald Tribune (May, 1983). In addition to writing about
fashion, Marguerite told about life in war-scarred Paris and Britain (Higgins, 1945e,
1945i), departing from her usual hard news reporting for the Tribune to a feature style
aimed at an audience of young American women.
Marguerite finally visited the war zones at the very end of the conflict, but only
by default. A press junket was planned to heavily bombed areas in Germany, but the
bureau chief, Geoffrey Parsons, assigned himself to the story. A last-minute problem in
the bureau required he stay in Paris and he offered his open seat to Marguerite (May,
Finally a bona fide war correspondent, Marguerite covered the end of the war
from Germany. She wrote of freed prisoners and refugees (Higgins, 1945g), the first
publication of Stars and Stripes on German soil (Higgins, 1945d), the Allied occupation
of German areas and the removal of Nazi officials from administrative posts (Higgins,
Marguerite wrote her most important stories from Germany about the liberation of
concentration camps. She interviewed prisoners and detailed evidence of the atrocities.
Her report from Buchenwald told of the first tour of the facility by civilians of nearby
Weimar. American officials forced the Germans to view the piles of dead bodies and the
crematoriums that had functioned while the city's people lived nearby. The report was
emotional, graphic, and ran on the front page (Higgins, 1945c).
Report from Dachau
Marguerite's brief tenure as a World War II correspondent was highlighted by one
particular story about the liberation of Dachau because she and Stars and Stripes
correspondent Sergeant Peter Furst claimed to have participated in the liberation.
According to her autobiography, when Marguerite and Furst heard that American
troops were headed toward Dachau, they were only about 11 kilometers away from the
prison. However, Allied forces had not yet secured those 11 kilometers and it was
possible that the German people would be hostile, though most Germans were
surrendering at this time. The two weighed the risk against the opportunity to be the first
correspondents on the scene of Dachau's liberation and decided to make the trip
The risk proved to be a good one, as Marguerite said the two met only white flags
and surrendering Germans along the way. When they arrived in the town of Dachau,
townspeople informed them that, though the Americans were still fighting nearby and
had not yet liberated the camp, white flags hung outside one side of the enormous camp.
Marguerite and Furst drove to that side of the prison, avoiding the fighting. They met two
SS officers at the main administrative building who were willing to surrender. The two
reporters wanted most to get inside the camp where the prisoners were. Sergeant Furst
asked for an SS officer to accompany them because he was afraid the gates were electric
and wanted someone familiar with the camp to open them safely (Higgins, 1955a).
The next obstacle was to get past the watchtowers, not knowing if the guards were
ready to surrender. (The SS officer with them was not sure either.) They drove toward the
watchtower area, but decided to stop and proceed on foot. Marguerite left the jeep first
and headed out of the shadow of a building when Furst yelled to her to return 22 SS
officers in the tower had their guns pointed at her (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite wrote, "God knows what prompted me, other than the instinctive
feeling that there was absolutely no point in running. Instead of heeding the frantic
sergeant, I addressed myself to the SS guards" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 91).
"Kommen Sie her, bitte. Wir sind Amerikaner," she said, meaning "Come here
please, we're Americans" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 91).
All 22 guards surrendered and the two journalists went on through the gates to be
met by the "wild joy and pandemonium" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 92) of the prisoners who had
been awaiting the liberation. Marguerite reported that the prisoners had "taken over
control of their inclosure [sic] the night before, refusing to obey any further orders from
the German guards, who had retreated to the outside" (Higgins, 1945a). The prisoners
embraced them and attempted to carry them around on their shoulders. Some kissed the
ground in front of Marguerite, which made her very uncomfortable (Higgins, 1955a).
Though Marguerite said her story from Dachau was not as strong as it should
have been due to the fact that she did not allow enough time to write it before deadline,
she received the New York Newspaper Women's Club prize the best foreign
correspondence of 1945. Additionally, the Army awarded both her and Peter Furst the
campaign ribbon for outstanding service with the armed forces under difficult
circumstances (Higgins, 1955a).
In spring of 1945, Marguerite was 24 years old, had been married once and been
involved in several relationships with men. In spite of this, she admitted in her
autobiography that she had never been in love until she met George Reid Millar, a British
reporter for the Daily Express. Marguerite devoted an entire chapter in News is a
Singular Thing to a discussion of their relationship, which lasted less than two months.
Millar was 11 years Marguerite's senior and a hero of the war. He fought in North
Africa, was imprisoned by the Germans, escaped from captivity, and fought with the
French resistance. He was an English aristocrat who opened up new worlds of adventure
for Marguerite. Unfortunately, he also possessed a temper as volatile as Marguerite's and
one insurmountable flaw he hated Americans and often stated his opinion that they
were "cheap and vulgar" (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite mourned the ending of her relationship with Millar for many years,
even taking trips to places he had talked of and seeking out a sandal maker he had raved
about (Higgins, 1955a).
Though Marguerite was heartbroken when Millar returned the London and
married someone else, it may be said that it was that breakup that spurred her into greater
success as a foreign correspondent. Following George's departure, Marguerite threw
herself into her work "with all the need, intensity, and determination of an alcoholic
turning to a bottle" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 113).
The Cold War
Marguerite covered the aftermath of the war and the beginning of the Cold War
with the Berlin bureau of the New York Herald Tribune as her home base. With Russell
Hill, her colleague from Paris, as bureau chief, Marguerite covered the Nuremberg trials
of top Nazi officials (Higgins, 1955a).
Soon after, Marguerite went on assignments behind the newly forming Iron
Curtain. Her experiences in Eastern Europe were fundamental in changing her political
attitudes from her leanings toward socialism to a staunch anti-Communist perspective.
Marguerite's introduction to Czechoslovakia in April 1946, for example, involved
being awakened on her first day in the country at 5 a.m. by the Czechoslovakian security
police who broke into her room, demanding to see her passport. They also looked through
her notebook and papers (Higgins, 1955a).
At the time Marguerite was in Czechoslovakia, the world had positive view of the
fate of Eastern Europe. The Czechs believed they would be allowed to maintain their
nationality, in spite of the Russian presence in the country (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite interviewed the Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, Jan Masaryk and
also spoke with him about her experience on her first day in the country. His response
was typical of the attitude Marguerite found and believed at this time: Such occurrences
were "just isolated mishaps" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 119) and the Czechoslovakian people
were very different from the Russians and could never give in to the regimentation of
When asked if he was concerned about the presence of Communists in the Czech
government, he replied, "I'm not worried about the Communist officials in our
government. There is a fundamental point that you must understand. Here, in our country,
even the Communists are Czechs first and Communists second" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 119).
In 1948, Masaryk fell from the window of his apartment and died. It was never
determined whether he jumped or was pushed. Marguerite referred to his death as part of
the "salami technique" of eliminating opposition by the Communists. In this plan, the
opposition is eliminated, or "lopped-off" beginning with those viewed to be most
opposed to the government and moving toward the more moderate of the opposition
Marguerite's next assignment reinforced her forming opposition to Communism.
In Poland she covered elections in which the Communists won a false victory achieved
through brutality and fraud. Marguerite said that in Krakow, 46 members of the Peasant
Party, which opposed the Communist-dominated slate, were arrested or beaten. She also
saw voters in Warsaw given ballots pre-marked for the Communists. The police then
escorted the people to the voting polls (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite's time in Poland from December 1946 to February 1947 was
significant as it introduced her to the tactics of a forming Communist police state. She
wrote of driving through Poland with an American flag affixed to her car. The sight of an
American drew the attention of the Polish people who were quick to tell Marguerite
stories of "kidnapping, threatening, or beating those suspected of political opposition"
(Higgins, 1955a, p. 136).
In her autobiography, Marguerite wrote much about a colleague she called Stefan
Morawski. (She implied this was not his real name.) He was a Pole who had spent most
of his life in the United States, graduated from Harvard, and become an officer of Chase
National Bank. He felt guilty about not helping Poland during World War II and returned
to his country after the war to be a part of the reforming nation. Morawski was convinced
that Poland would be allowed by the Russians to form its own government and a "kind of
semi-socialism" would emerge (Higgins, 1955a, p. 135).
Marguerite told Morawski of an interview with an old gentleman who reported
the arrest and beating of his son, an anti-Communist. The man spoke of the fear caused
by the police and asked when America would liberate Poland. When Morawski heard the
story, he dismissed the man as "a reactionary, a hangover from the old regime" (Higgins,
1955a, p.138). He called the incidents of brutality "imperfections in our system" caused
by a new government in a country "menaced by civil war" (p.138).
Morawski received a position in the new government just before Marguerite left
the country. The Polish saw this appointment of an Americanized banker, in the words of
Victor Grosz, a Polish official, as a "clear refutation of the lying contentions of the
capitalist press about the Bolshevization of Poland" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 140).
Marguerite saw Morawski only one more time, on a return trip to Poland. She said
he avoided her, but later sent an unsigned note, apologizing for his rudeness and telling of
his life of fear under Communism. He said he had been beaten and threatened and
resigned himself to becoming a student of Marxism in an attempt to protect himself and
his new wife. Years later, in Korea, Marguerite heard from a Pole at the peace talks that
Morawski had "got what he deserved" from the Communists (Higgins, 1955a, p. 144).
Marguerite experienced much self-doubt as well as professional criticism from
more liberal journalists for her reports from Poland. She questioned her judgment and
wondered if she was unfair to the new government. Her anxiety manifested itself as a
skin rash, a physical reaction to the stress of her situation (Higgins, 1955a).
One incident ended what Marguerite referred to as indecision about the future of
Poland and led her to the conclusion that a police state in Poland was to be permanent.
She interviewed a member of the Polish Peasant Party, the party that had lost the election
to the Communists, who had been terrorized by the police. He wanted to tell his story in
hopes of swaying public opinion outside Poland. Instead, after Marguerite's story was
published, he was rearrested. Marguerite blamed herself (Higgins, 1955a).
In 1947 Marguerite made her first trip home to the States in almost three years.
She met with Stanley Moore for what would be the last time to discuss their divorce
proceedings and to attend a speech by presidential candidate Henry Wallace (Higgins,
Upon her return to Europe in July 1947 after two months absence, Marguerite
ended a period of living out of a suitcase and became the Berlin bureau chief for the New
York Herald Tribune. The combination of her youth she was only 26 and looked even
younger and the fact that she was a woman who "still had the voice and appearance that
are apparently the opposite of what is expected in career women" (Higgins, 1955a, p.
159) caused Marguerite problems when trying to be taken seriously in her profession. She
hoped her new position at the paper would lend her more credibility with sources and
As bureau chief, Marguerite's chief competitor was Drew Middleton of the New
York Times. From her autobiography, it was apparent that Marguerite respected
Middleton but was determined to provide a fierce competition, particularly when she
learned through the press corps grapevine that Middleton did not think her to be much of
a threat (Higgins, 1955a).
A few months after she became bureau chief, the story of the Berlin blockade and
subsequent airlift broke and Marguerite turned her already diligent work ethic up to the
level of workaholic. She routinely clocked 12 to 18 hour workdays, often writing and
researching past midnight (Higgins, 1955a). She also proved Middleton wrong by
continuing her fierce determination and competitiveness when it came to scooping other
reporters. A friend and colleague in Berlin, James P. O'Donnell said that Marguerite
"seemed to have three elbows" (O'Donnell, 1978, p. 373) when competing to gain access
to a story.
While in Berlin, Marguerite had further interactions with Communist Russians
and with fellow Americans that reinforced her growing anti-Communist sentiments. In
her autobiography, she lauded General Lucius D. Clay's decision to keep American
dependents in the city during the blockade. She called him the most courageous public
man she had met in the European arena. Marguerite attributed America's ability to hold
their position in the city to daily decisions such as these, which she said prevented the
U.S. from losing international face. Though Clay was under pressure from Washington to
evacuate Americans during an incredibly tense situation, he refused to yield, which
Marguerite admired (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite also wrote of several incidents and experiences that may have
contributed to her conversion to anti-Communism. The Communists arrested one of her
secretaries and a stringer she had hired. The former was held briefly in a Soviet jail, but
released within a day. Marguerite attributed the woman's release to the fact that she,
though a German citizen, was with American journalists who were also arrested. The
stringer was less fortunate. The first German journalist to be arrested by the Communists,
he was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite herself was involved in an explosion of the anti-Russian tension that
hung over the city. A freedom rally she covered broke into a riot when a Russian soldier
opened fire on the crowd. Later in the day, another surge of panic rose out of the crowd
and Marguerite was pushed down into rubble. She sustained lacerations on her arms and
legs which, combined with unattended skin ailments from the summer, led her to be
hospitalized in Switzerland (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite had put off seeing a doctor about her skin rash prior to her injuries
because of her hectic work life. Her workaholic tendencies also cut her treatment short.
While in the hospital, she received word from a colleague in Berlin that Steve White, her
temporary replacement, sent a letter to her editors in Paris suggesting she be permanently
reassigned to Paris. He felt the job was too much for her to handle and she made
unnecessary problems for herself by competing so hard with Drew Middleton. Though
Marguerite later determined that White believed he was acting in her best interest and
thought she would be happier in Paris, when she first heard of the letter, she was very
angry and left the hospital early to return to Berlin. She took back responsibility for the
bureau and decided not to comment on the letter to her editors unless they brought up the
subject. It was never an issue and Marguerite remained at her post until she was assigned
to Tokyo (Higgins, 1955a).
White later expressed the belief that he was not just acting in Marguerite's
interest, but in the interest of the paper. He believed Marguerite was too competitive and
not a team player, a belief held by many of her colleagues since the beginning of her
career. He said, "She was alienating everyone and running herself ragged with that
dogged sense of competition" (May, 1983, p. 126). In defense of his attempt to send her
back to Paris, he said, "We'd all have been better off if she'd been there covering
fashions" (p. 126).
Though Steve White did not get his wish of banishing Marguerite to Paris, she
was removed from her beloved Berlin assignment soon after. In May 1949, the Berlin
blockade ended, but new stories developed outside the city. Unfortunately for Marguerite,
the Herald Tribune sent another reporter, Don Cook, to cover these stories and instructed
her to remain in Berlin. Cook, who was willing to share the stories, saying there was
"plenty to keep us both busy" (May, 1983, p. 127), offered a perspective on the situation.
He said that by keeping Marguerite in Berlin and away from the complicated, diplomatic
issues, they were sending the message that she could cover a "cops and robbers" story
such as the Berlin airlift, but was to "stay out of the mainstream"(p. 127).
The paper solidified Marguerite's position outside the mainstream of reporting
when her editors transferred her to Tokyo. According to Marguerite's biography, she was
transferred because Joe Newman, the paper's Moscow correspondent requested a position
in Berlin and possessed seniority. Also, she said her editors wanted to freshen her
perspective with a new location. Regardless, Marguerite was unhappy with the
assignment and fought the move. She lost (Higgins, 1955a).
Leaving Berlin meant leaving more than her job. Though intensely dedicated to
her work, Marguerite had found time to begin a relationship with General William Hall
who worked under General Clay and was involved in the logistics of the Berlin airlift.
The relationship was complicated because Hall was married and had four children. They
still corresponded, spoke by telephone, and managed a brief visit when he came to Tokyo
on military business during the Korean conflict (May, 1983).
Tokyo and Beyond
Marguerite arrived in Tokyo in April 1950 and made no secret of the fact that she
was unhappy about it. She missed Berlin and its luxuries, including her house,
housekeeper and secretary. In Tokyo, she took up residence in the "small, humid rooms
of the Tokyo Press Club" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 205). Additionally, she had taken a survey
of recent editions of the Herald Tribune and discovered her predecessor usually had only
one major story per week that was often relegated to the inside pages. Marguerite was
used to making the front-page regularly (Higgins, 1955a).
Marguerite's distaste for her new job made her unpopular with the other members
of the press corps. Keyes Beech, who would later become Marguerite's closest friend and
ally in Korea, remarked that after Berlin, Higgins found the Far East assignment "about
as exciting as a duck pond. It might not have been much of a story, but it was the only
story we had, and we didn't like outsiders knocking it down" (Beech, 1954, p. 169).
A newly published novel, .\n iek With Pleasure (Howard, 1950), further hindered
Marguerite's popularity with the Tokyo press corps. Written by a colleague of
Marguerite's from Berlin, the book, which Keyes Beech (1954) referred to as "a bitchy
little story" (p. 168) told of a ruthless, female reporter in post-war Germany who stole
stories and bed-hopped her way to journalistic glory. Within the journalism community,
gossip indicated that the character was based on Marguerite.
With this novel reaching Tokyo before her, Marguerite faced the hostility and
suspicion of fellow reporters who believed her to be a vicious shrew and reporters' wives
who feared she would try to seduce their husbands. Conversations would hush when she
approached and colleagues treated her in an abrupt, aggressive manner, attempting what
they believed to be a preemptive strike on her malicious, competitive tactics (Beech,
1954; Higgins, 1955a).
In her autobiography, Marguerite writes of the situation lightly, saying that she
found it common that works of fiction be tied to real people via gossip, particularly when
characters were female professionals (Higgins, 1955a).
In and Out of Korea
Marguerite's fortuitous tendency to fall into major news stories may be attributed
to a keen nose for news, coincidental happenstances, or just dumb luck. Whatever the
cause, that tendency managed to turn an undesirable assignment in the Far East into the
pinnacle of Marguerite's career.
Shortly after arriving in Tokyo, Marguerite discovered that national elections
were to take place in Korea for the first time in history. The country already intrigued her
because it "seemed more of a front-line assignment than Japan" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 208)
and was situated next to a Communist country. She filed her story from Kaesong and held
a positive outlook on the future of South Korea. The elections had gone well, or at least
were less of a travesty than what she had witnessed in Poland. Less than a month later,
however, the North Koreans invaded the South and civil war began. Marguerite
transitioned from foreign correspondent back into the fatigues of a war reporter (May,
The details of Marguerite's adventures in Korea are her most famous and are
detailed in her book, War in Korea (1951). It is not the purpose of the this chapter to
retell all her war stories, but rather to highlight those instances that are significant to her
life and career in general.
Interestingly, among the many military battles that Marguerite covered in the
Korean War, she also fought battles for the right to do her job.
Shortly after the war broke out in June 1950, though her paper seemed pleased
with her work, the Herald Tribune decided to send in a more experienced war
correspondent. Homer Bigart was well known for his work covering the Pacific theater in
World War II. He informed Marguerite that he was taking over the Korean story and
instructed her to return to the Tokyo bureau. She had faced this kind of news when Don
Cook came to Germany and the paper ordered her to remain in Berlin, but this time the
stakes were higher and Marguerite was more determined to stay in the action. With the
encouragement of other colleagues at the front, Marguerite defied Bigart and remained in
Korea (Higgins, 1955a). She could have been fired, but instead the paper allowed her to
stay and, with Marguerite and Bigart pitted against each other in a fierce rivalry that
spurred them both on, the Herald Tribune published some of the best reporting of the
Korean War (Kluger, 1986; May, 1983).
Shortly after the arrival of Bigart, in the middle of a battle, Marguerite received a
message that she was to leave Korea immediately. Not knowing why, she feared she had
been fired. She soon learned, however, that General Walton W. Walker had decided to
expel female reporters from the country. "This is just not the type of war where women
ought to be running around the front lines," he said (Kluger, 1986, p. 446; May, 1983, p.
Marguerite went to Gen. Walker's headquarters in Taegu in an attempt to
persuade him to allow her to stay. Instead two soldiers escorted her onto a plane bound
for Tokyo. Upon landing, Marguerite headed straight for General Douglas MacArthur.
Helen Rogers Reid had already cabled him in an effort to have Marguerite allowed back
into Korea. After some convincing, Gen. Walker's orders were rescinded and MacArthur
wired the Herald Tribune this message: "Ban on women in Korea has been lifted.
Marguerite Higgins held in highest esteem by everyone" (Higgins, 1951, p. 109; Kluger,
1986, p. 446; May, 1983, p. 155).
Marguerite's expulsion from Korea made headlines in the U.S. and abroad. Her
message to the Herald Tribune of her intentions to go to Gen. Walker and try to convince
him to allow her to return to the front was published and carried over the wires (May,
1983). The paper published statements of support for her and of opposition to Gen.
Walker's decision. The Soviet magazine, New Times, published an article and cartoon
that accused MacArthur of trying to silence critics by censoring the press. The cartoon
showed American soldiers marching Marguerite out of the country at bayonet point. The
caption read, "The First Victory for MacArthur; the enemy surrounded one fountain
pen seized" ("Reds call reporters bullied in Korea," 1950).
By the time Marguerite reported from Korea, her previously held political beliefs
were effectively converted to a staunch anti-Communist attitude. In War in Korea (1951),
Marguerite exhibited clearly formed opinions of opposition to Communism. She made
statements such as: "The Third World War is on. It began in Korea, and I'm glad the first
battles I covered were so far way from San Francisco and New York" (p. 17). Such ideas
were in line with what would later become known as the "domino theory" which asserted
that the loss of one country to Communism would lead to others and eventually threaten
the United States directly. She said, "In a matter of minutes New York could become a
more ghastly deathtrap than a front-line regimental command post" (p. 223).
In War in Korea, Marguerite advocated a larger show of military might against
what she perceived to be a worldwide Communist threat. She saw the Communists as
more willing to sacrifice individually and collectively in war and said they "will resort to
force of arms whenever and wherever they think the non-Communist world is an easy
mark" (p. 223). She called Truman's claim that an army of 3.5 million soldiers was
enough to protect the nation a "mockery" (p. 222). She advocated one of 14 million.
From Reporter to Celebrity
The Higgins-Bigart feud, Marguerite's expulsion from and readmission to Korea,
and the general fascination with a woman covering war at the front lines made
Marguerite a celebrity (Beech, 1954). Carl Mydans of Life published a feature story,
"Girl War Correspondent" in October 1950. Headlines and subheads in the paper
included Marguerite as part of the story. One such story ran on page one and proclaimed,
"Marguerite Higgins tells of 12-day battle without retreat" (Higgins, 1950).
Though Marguerite's editors were not hesitant to include her in headlines and
Marguerite was not above putting herself into an article, she was always more focused on
the story she told than her role in it.
In her autobiography, Marguerite wrote about one of her pet peeves in journalism.
She called it the "lookee here, I'm only a girl but look where I am" (Higgins, 1955a, p.
213) story, such as the one in which a female correspondent spent the majority of a story
about a tank patrol detailing her experience steering the vehicle. Marguerite criticized her
and said, "Her story never did mention whether the patrol accomplished its mission or
who else was in the tank" (p. 213).
On that topic, Keyes Beech (1954) wrote,
Despite her success, Higgins never gave her readers what they really wanted. What
they wanted was the "woman's angle" on war. To her credit, Higgins never stooped
to that. Any one of her dispatches might have been written by a man. (p. 183)
A Woman in War
Marguerite's readmission to the country did not end the problems of being a
woman in a traditionally male occupation. At the Inchon invasion, she initially was to be
sequestered on a hospital ship outside the action. A mistake in orders, however, allowed
her to board a transport ship and go ashore with the fifth wave of Marines. After the
battle, she returned with the other correspondents to the flagship McKinley and filed her
story. Unfortunately, the captain who tried to relegate her to the hospital ship was there
and banned her from the McKinley the next day. After that, she slept on the dock and
relied on Keyes Beech to file her stories for her. Her male colleagues remained on the
ship at night, enjoying hot showers and hot food (Beech, 1954; Higgins, 1955a; May,
As a woman, Marguerite was also victim to age-old double standards to which she
had already become accustomed. While a city reporter, she had sat with a group of male
reporters in a New York restaurant and later wrote in her personal diary:
From what I heard tonight at Chumley's, a woman reporter is "temperamental" if
she objects to five night assignments in a row. But a man who objects to five night
assignments in a row is "standing up for his rights." A woman who gets a scoop by
sticking by an assignment after the other reporters go back to their offices is
"tricky." Further, she "takes unfair advantage." A man who stays on an assignment
after all the other reporters go back to their offices is "a go-getter." And if ever the
there is a controversy between a woman reporter and male colleague on the same
paper or a woman reporter and an editor, the woman is sure to be at fault because as
every newspaperman knows "woman are hard to get along with," et cetera.
(Higgins, 1955a, p. 204)
Marguerite faced these attitudes again in Korea. Her male colleagues resented her
presence at the front. According to Carl Mydans of Life, men expressed their resentment
by gossiping and conjecturing about her sex life, both real and fabricated (May, 1983).
The sexual double standards by which men may sleep around without raising an eyebrow
while a woman who does the same is roundly criticized was alive and well in the Tokyo
press corps and in Korea.
In addition to general gossip about Marguerite's relationships with other
correspondents, she was rumored to have slept with many high-ranking officers in
exchange for stories. Her alleged conquests were to have included Douglas MacArthur,
but the men involved in the rumors, as well as other correspondents in the field who
knew of war's conditions and circumstances, dismissed the stories as concoctions of
jealous male colleagues (May, 1983).
Though stories about her relationships may or may not have been true, Keyes
Beech (1954) stated that Marguerite sometimes "traded on her sex" (p. 182) to get stories
male reporters could not, in the sense that being an attractive woman compelled some
men to confide in her. He said, "General Douglas MacArthur, whose age had not dimmed
his eye for a pretty face nor withered his old-fashioned gallantry, was no exception" (p.
Though she may have taken advantage of being a woman to get stories,
Marguerite wanted none of the special accommodations that were often offered to her at
the front. She lived like her male colleagues, and according to Keyes Beech (1954), "So
far as her trade was concerned, she had more guts, more staying power, and more
resourcefulness than 90 percent of her detractors. She was a good newspaperman" (p.
Marguerite finally returned to the United States in 1951 for a six-month leave,
during which she started collecting awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for overseas
reporting. Six reporters, including Marguerite, Keyes Beech and Homer Bigart, shared
the overseas award that year and Marguerite was the first woman to ever win it.
Unfortunately, her return to the States included heartbreak as well as triumph. Her
relationship with Bill Hall, whom she loved and referred to as "the first, since the other
enchantment so long ago (George Millar), with whom I'd thought I'd be able to live
happily ever after" (Higgins, 1955a, p. 241), was over. He was still married, but also
involved with someone else.
Marguerite became physically ill, as she had done before when faced with great
mental or emotional stress. In addition to her romantic trauma, her illness might have
been attributed to a year's worth of hard work in a war zone. She was admitted to the
hospital with bronchitis, sinusitis, malaria, dysentery, jaundice, and nervous tension
Marguerite returned to work, but without a regular assignment. She interviewed
President Harry Truman. She traveled the world doing a series on world leaders that
included interviews with major heads of state such as Generalissimo Francisco Franco of
Spain and Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia. She also published her first book, War in Korea
(1951), and made rounds on the book tour and lecture circuit. Though she remained busy,
friends found her depressed and generally unhappy. She missed Bill Hall very much
She returned home to visit her family in California and give a lecture in Oakland.
There she reunited with Hall who was stationed in San Francisco. He convinced her to
remain in the state and they rekindled their relationship. In April 1952, Hall received a
divorce from his first wife and married Marguerite in Reno, Nevada (May, 1983).
Marguerite settled in San Francisco temporarily. As a happy newlywed, she
enjoyed some measure of domestication and did a short series of television news
commentaries for the local CBS affiliate. The couple's financial circumstances were bad,
however. Hall's divorce left him with large alimony payments and Marguerite wrote to
the Herald Tribune's owner, Helen Rogers Reid, "Even if I wanted to stop being a
reporter which I don't I couldn't" (May, 1983, p. 194).
Marguerite returned to her world travels and made several trips back to Korea,
including a trip to cover the truce talks in Panmunjom.
In addition to her reporting job, lectures, and book sales, Marguerite brought
money in through product endorsements. She appeared in ads for Camel cigarettes and
Hermes typewriters. Over the years, she would also promote toothpaste1 and American
Airlines (May, 1983).
Marguerite was happy in her new marriage, writing articles for both the Herald
Tribune and magazines such as Mademoiselle and The Saturday Evening Post. In 1953,
at age 33, she became pregnant, but did not change her work habits.
She was forced to slow down, however, in October when she was admitted to the
hospital and delivered her daughter, Sharon Lee, prematurely. The infant died five days
later. In an article for Good Housekeeping entitled "Thoughts on the death of a five-day-
old child" (Higgins, 1954) the following year, Marguerite reflected on her experiences
with death in the Nazi concentration camps and the battles in Korea. She said,
In the moments of Sharon's dying, I thought inevitably of how familiar and yet
unfamiliar death had been to me. And yet, as Sharon died, I made the
discovery that I had seen death, yet I had not known it. Certainly, I had been sorry
for the thousands I had seen dead and dying so sadly, wearyingly many
1 In 1957, a toothpaste endorsement that ran in Reader's Digest caused problems. The Committee of
Correspondents Governing Capital Press Gallery Membership contacted Marguerite to remind her of the
committee's rule prohibiting correspondents from doing paid publicity or endorsement work. Marguerite
responded by ending her membership and commented to the organization on what she perceived to be
hypocrisy by allowing correspondents, including herself and those who had voted to take action against her,
to appear on commercially sponsored television shows (May, 1983).
thousands. But sorry in a detached sort of way. ... I did not fully comprehend the
tears of the bereaved. I had not known how the death of another could be the death
of a part of yourself. I had not known many things, for I had never understood the
meaning of compassion.
After Sharon's death and a lengthy recovery period, Marguerite wrote her memoirs
and undertook a new project: She was granted a visa to visit Russia and would be the first
American correspondent to tour the country since Stalin's death. On her trip around the
country which covered 13,500 miles, Marguerite was arrested 16 times, usually after
taking pictures, but was always treated well and released within hours. The trip resulted
in her third book, RedPlush and Black Bread (Higgins, 1955b). In the book, Marguerite
echoed the beliefs she set forth War in Korea. She believed that America was not
properly heeding warnings that the Soviets aimed to spread Communism throughout the
world and that the more welcoming attitude she saw developing behind the Iron Curtain
was a tactic by the Soviets in which they were "widening and smoothing this highway to
Communism so that their prospective traffic can get to its Communist destination all the
more quickly" (p. 256). She alluded to her belief that, in spite of her firsthand experiences
with the horrors of war, war was still preferable to living in a Communist police state,
such as the ones she witnessed in Poland and Czechoslovakia in the late 1940s (p. 24).
During the mid- and late 1950s, Marguerite worked from the Washington bureau of
the Herald Tribune, traveling frequently and covering many diplomatic stories, including
the Nixon-Khrushchev meeting in Russia. When not circling the globe on assignments,
she and Bill lived in Georgetown and associated with many up and coming Washington
leaders, including Robert and John Kennedy.2 She hosted dinner parties at her home and
networked her various acquaintances.
In 1958, Marguerite gave birth to a son, Lawrence O'Higgins Hall, named after
her father, using the family's original surname. A year later, Linda Marguerite Hall was
Marguerite's pace did not slow much with the births of her children. Even while
eight months pregnant with Linda, she covered the Nixon-Khrushchev story in Russia
and in response to a congratulatory letter after the birth, she asked Robert M. White,
president and editor of the Herald Tribune, if she could cover the upcoming Eisenhower-
Khrushchev summit (May, 1983).
In the early 1960s Marguerite's relationship with the New York Herald Tribune
deteriorated. Conflicts regarding her expense account and a disagreement over a pulled
story led Marguerite to leave the paper and sign with the Long Island publication,
Newsday. She remained based in Washington and did three columns a week about
international affairs. She was excited about this job and the opportunity to move away
from hard news into a genre that allowed her to provide interpretation and analysis of
events (May, 1983).
Maggie's Final War
In several of Marguerite's post-Korea travels, she went to Vietnam. As early as
1953, even while pregnant with Sharon, Marguerite traveled to the country to interview
new leader Ngo Dinh Diem. She made five more trips there before 1963 when she was
2 Marguerite grew close to the Kennedy family, doing a profile on Robert and Ethel forMcCall's and
beginning work on a biography of John, which was never completed after his assassination. She was also
asked to ghostwrite Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's autobiography after another McCall's profile on her, but the
project never came to fruition as the Vietnam conflict escalated and Marguerite became more involved in
covering it (May, 1983).
sent again to cover a growing religious conflict. Buddhist monks were practicing self-
immolation, setting themselves on fire in the streets to protest the rule of President Diem.
At the same time, South Vietnam was fighting Communist forces from the North and
American involvement in the conflict was escalating. Vietnam's problems were many
and complex, and the situation was only to get worse.
From Marguerite's interviews and observations during the four-week trip, she
came to believe that the Buddhist protests to be carefully orchestrated displays and not
representative of the views of the general Buddhist population in Vietnam. She reported
that the peasants in the 42 hamlets she visited were fairing well under Diem's
government and they did not feel victim to any religious persecution (Elwood-Akers,
1988; May, 1983; Prochnau, 1995).
American opinion seemed to sympathize with the Buddhist monks, however. That
view, combined with other problems the Kennedy administration had with Diem, led to
an order to oust him. Though the extent to which the United States was involved in the
coup was not fully revealed and confirmed until the publication of The Pentagon Papers
in 1971, Marguerite knew at the time there was American involvement and believed the
overthrow would be detrimental to the situation in South Vietnam. The Vietnamese
president and his brother were killed. A military junta took over control of the country
and more suicides and protests took place. The war against the Communists intensified
and Marguerite returned to Vietnam for the eighth time (Elwood-Akers, 1988; May,
1983; Prochnau, 1995).
By the time Marguerite covered Vietnam her anti-Communist sentiments were
solidified. She believed the Buddhist protests against Diem to be orchestrated by the
Communists and that American success in Vietnam was imperative to stopping the
worldwide spread of Communism (Elwood-Akers, 1988).
Though a hard-working foreign correspondent for over two decades, Marguerite
never lost her fierce competitiveness. Just as she had Homer Bigart in Korea and Drew
Middleton in Berlin, in Vietnam, Marguerite found a rival in David Halberstam, a young
correspondent from The New York Times. This time, however, the battle was not for
scoops or headlines. It was a conflict of experience versus youth as well as ideological
differences and ego (Prochnau, 1995).
Marguerite was a veteran of two major wars, other lesser conflicts, and the Cold
War. She was internationally renowned and often treated as a celebrity. Though she
visited Vietnam frequently, she was not a permanently assigned correspondent like
Halberstam and other members of the press corps. Marguerite regarded the young
reporters as green and without real understanding of the conflict or of war corresponding
in general. She contemptuously called them Rover Boys while they saw her as a past-her-
prime sell-out whose anti-Communist views rose to the level of propaganda (Prochnau,
Many of the young journalists opposed the Diem regime and held a dismal view
of the war's outlook. Marguerite, however, reported as the government did that the war
was going well. She contradicted a lot of what Halberstam and other reporters sent back
to the United States, and they hated her for it. She accused them of staying holed up in
Saigon, away from the battles, while Halberstam said she made only a short visit to the
country to take the military's guided tour. It was a bitter feud that never really ended, for
even after Marguerite's death, Halberstam would criticize her in books and articles
(Elwood-Akers, 1988; May, 1983; Prochnau, 1995).
Working to the End
Between her trips to Vietnam, Puerto Rico and other destinations of political
importance, Marguerite worked from her home in Washington. Though her Newsday
column was syndicated in 70 newspapers around the country, it was a particular bother to
her that the Washington Evening Star, the leading paper for the nation's capital during
that time, refused to regularly run her column in the editorial section. She sent numerous
letters to the editors of the paper in hopes of persuading them to giver her a regular slot.
Eventually, they did (May, 1983).
The news of the Star's decision came at the same time as some less desirable
events, however. Returning from a long trip that began with a family vacation to France
to visit distant relatives and ending with another venture to Vietnam, Marguerite became
very ill with a high fever (May, 1983).
She also returned to financial disagreements with Newsday and an IRS audit of
her personal finances. Her illness made it difficult to work and she was frequently in bed.
She had to cancel a major interview and was not able to help promote her new book, Our
Vietnam Nightmare (1965). She called on friends in the newspaper business to help
produce her column three times a week. Eventually, her illness sent her to the hospital
Even while in the hospital, Marguerite would not completely rest. Though she had
to rely on wheelchairs, she insisted on leaving for a day to appear on the Today show in
New York to promote her book. Her colleagues who had helped her write her column had
now taken it over completely, ghostwriting under her byline. Her mother flew in from
California to help take care of the house and children (May, 1983).
It took some time for the doctors to form a clear diagnosis. At one point, it was
believed that Marguerite had a form of malaria that was resistant to drugs. Then, it was
thought to be cancer. Marguerite got worse and began to hemorrhage internally. She was
in great pain. Finally, the doctors determined she had contracted a rare disease called
leishmaniasis. Protozoa from a sand fly's bite entered the bloodstream and the disease
affected the spleen and liver. The disease was most likely contracted on her most recent
trip to Vietnam. Her kidneys failed and she came to the realization that she was to die.
She made her final arrangements and saw her children for the final time (May, 1983).
Marguerite entered a coma and died on January 3, 1966. She was 45 years old.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Definitions of Objectivity
Scholars and journalists claim several different definitions of objectivity, some of
which conflict. The most basic of these is the separation of facts from values. The other
two most common definitions involve the idea of balance and fairness, accuracy, and
non-distortion of reality. Another frequently cited aspect of objective journalism is the
quality of detachment or disinterestedness. Many also assert that objectivity is a process
or a set of practices in gathering and presenting information. While most authors accept
objectivity as a major component of modern news writing, some go so far as to assert it is
a moral norm in journalism. This section examines all of these definitions and includes
the concept of bias, which many authors regard as objectivity's accepted opposite.
Separation of Facts and Values
Objectivity involves the separation of values from fact (DeFleur & Dennis, 1991
as cited in Donsbach & Klett, 1993; Durham, 1998; Hackett, 1984; Ognianova &
Endersby, 1996; Schudson, 1978; Schudson, 2001). This involves the removal of
personal opinion from reporting (Glaberson, 1994; Hackett, 1984; Ward, 1998).
Reciprocally, the inclusion of the reporter or news organization's opinions biases a news
account (Hackett, 1984; McQuail, 1977 as cited in Hackett, 1984; Russo, 1971-1972).
Hackett (1984) defines news bias as "the intrusion of subjective 'opinion' by the
reporter or news organization, into what is purportedly a 'factual' account" (p. 230)
Ward (1998) uses the term "neutrality" as a near synonym for objective reporting.
He writes, "Neutrality means approaching an issue or dispute without allowing passions,
interests or preconceptions to influence (or bias) one's reports" (p. 122)
Durham (1998) states the fundamental principles of objectivity are the "separation
of facts from values and opinions, with the journalists functioning as the impartial relayer
of those facts" and that objectivity is based in the concept of "value-free facticity" (p.
This definition of objectivity as the separation of values from fact assumes the
existence of a factual truth and the "possibility of a zero-degree unbiased or objective
account of events" (Hackett, 1984, p. 232).
McQuail (1977 as cited in Hackett, 1984) states that bias can be presented by "the
use of language which colors an otherwise factual report and conveys an implicit but
clear value judgment" (p. 232).
Disinterestedness, Detachment, and Nonpartisanship
The ideas of disinterest, detachment and nonpartisanship relate to the concept of
value-free reporting (DeFleur & Dennis, 1991 as cited in Donsbach & Klett, 1993; Ryan,
2001; Selznick, 1957 as cited Sigelman, 1973; Ward, 1998). Whereas the separation of
values and opinion from fact implies that an individual reporter has opinions that she
acknowledges and keeps out of her stories, the concept of disinterestedness and
detachment implies that a reporter has no opinion and is an uninvolved storyteller.
Disinterestedness and detachment are widely debated facets of objectivity. They
are criticized by many media scholars and defended by others who claim they are
misunderstood. This chapter addresses the debate in a later section.
Fairness and Balance
Balance and fairness are the next two aspects of objective reporting (DeFleur &
Dennis, 1991 as cited in Donsbach & Klett, 1993; Drew, 1975; Durham, 1998;
Glaberson, 1994; Hackett, 1984; McQuail, 1977 as cited in Hackett, 1984; Ognianova &
Endersby, 1996; Ryan, 2001; Selznick, 1957 as cited in Sigleman, 1973; Ward, 1998).
These aspects of objectivity can involve what Drew (1975) calls "a quantitatively
balanced story containing both negative and positive information about the source" (p.
219). Durham (1998) claims that balanced reporting is pluralistic in that an objective
news story will include "a multiplicity of viewpoints" (p. 119).
McQuail (1977 as cited in Hackett, 1984) asserts several ways in which bias is
evident in non-objective reporting. These include "explicit argument and compilation of
evidence favoring one view" and "the omission of points favoring one side" (p. 232).
In short, the ideas of fairness and balance as tenets of objective reporting involve
including the perspectives of all parties to an event or issue without injecting a preference
for one above others.
Non-distortion, Accuracy, and Completeness
Many aspects of objective reporting intertwine. The concepts of distortion,
accuracy and completeness are inextricably linked, as inaccurate or incomplete reports
result in the distortion of the reality of situation. In this aspect of objectivity, an accurate
representation of reality is called for in news reporting (Ognianova & Endersby, 1996;
Ryan, 2001; Ward, 1998).
Ryan (2001) writes, "The overarching value for the objective journalist is the
collection and dissemination of information that describes reality as accurately as
possible" (p.3) and that one of the philosophical constructs of objective journalism is
"accuracy, completeness, precision, and clarity in information collection and
dissemination" (p. 4).
McQuail (1977 as cited in Hackett, 1984) includes "a tendentious use of facts and
comments without any explicit statement of preference" (p. 232) in a list of ways bias can
manifest itself in news reporting. This use of facts and comments can distort a story if a
reporter selects those that represent his or her views or otherwise bias the report.
Schudson (2001) supports the idea that a factually accurate report can still be
biased through distortion. He says, "Partisan journalists, like objective journalists,
typically reject inaccuracy, lying and misinformation, but partisan journalists do not
hesitate to present information from the perspective of a particular party or faction" (p.
This aspect of objectivity is more complicated than the previous two as the gray
area of "reality" and "truth" comes into discussion. Lawrence & Grey (1969) state that
there are cases in which no argument can be made as to the truth of a situation. The
But in many other cases, an outside standard of the reality (or truth) is lacking or
only minimally present .... In such situations the reporter must try to
approximate the reality. And because his approximation may differ from his news
source and readers, complaints about the accuracy of his reporting frequently arise.
To deal with this shifting concept of reality, Ryan (2001) says, "Objective
journalists gather facts and opinions that conflict, verify information carefully, seek to
determine why accounts conflict and which most accurately reflect reality, and evaluate
and fully identify sources" (p. 5).
Balance and Distortion in Conflict
In some cases, the idea of not distorting news stories comes into conflict with the
ideal of providing a balanced account of a situation. Hackett (1984) shows that, in some
cases, a balanced representation may distort reality. The author gives the example of the
1972 presidential election, in which George McGovern's campaign included more public
appearances than incumbent, Richard Nixon. Covering public appearances equally would
have implied that an equal number occurred for each candidate, thus distorting the reality
of the campaign.
DeFleur & Dennis (1991, p. 388 as cited in Donsbach & Klett, 1993, p. 55)
characterize objectivity with three aims: 1) separating facts from opinion, 2) presenting
an emotionally detached view of the news, and 3) striving for fairness and balance, giving
both sides an opportunity to reply in a way that provides full information to the
Objectivity as a Set of Practices
While authors identify characteristics of an objective news story, such as balance,
fairness, and freedom from opinion, all of which are apparent in the final product of a
news report, many also state that objectivity is a method or a set of profession practices
conducted by a journalist (Glasser, 1984; Ognianova & Endersby, 1996; Ryan, 2001;
Schudson, 2001; Ward, 1998). This concept of objectivity is most commonly tied back to
the ideas of Walter Lippmann (1920; 1922), who advocated a scientific approach to
reporting. Lippmann believed that humans were naturally in possession personal
prejudices and biases and thus, needed a set of standards to guide them in reporting.
Lippmann's ideas remain in current authors' writings. Ryan (2001) asserts,
"Objective journalists share the core values of the scientific method" (p. 1) and that
objectivity itself means that journalists use a systematic approach or make "strategic
decisions (that) are not based on a reporter's personal preference, but on professional
norms" (p. 4).
Likewise, Ognianova & Endersby (1996) called objectivity an "empirical
method" (p. 10) and Glasser (1984) said it is "a set of routine procedures" (p. 14).
Evolution of the Objectivity Concept
The concept of objectivity, while strongly embedded in the accepted ethical fiber
of the journalism profession, is a relatively new idea. Scholars debate how the notion of
objectivity evolved into what Schudson (2001) refers to as "moral ideal" (p. 149) within
the profession. Several theories exist, and many authors subscribe to a combination of
them to explain how objectivity came to be in journalism.
A number of authors argue that objectivity came into general use due to economic
motivations. The most common idea is that the emergence of the penny press in the mid-
19th century and newspapers' break from political ties around the same time led editors
and owners to adopt an early form of objectivity to help sell papers to a mass market
(Donsbach & Klett, 1993; Glasser, 1984; Mott, 1964 as cited in Stoker, 1995; Ognianova
& Endersby, 1996).
Additionally, the Associated Press emerged as an economic factor. The AP
wanted to distribute nonpartisan stories that could run in any newspaper, regardless of
party affiliation (Ognianova & Endersby, 1996).
Streckfuss (1990) asserts that the economic motivation came later when a trend of
newspaper mergers in the 1920s led to many cities having only one major paper. The
traditional system of a paper for each political party faded and owners wanted to appeal
to a general market with nonpartisan reporting.
Schudson (2001) disputes the economic theory. He says that newspapers were
economically successful during the era of sensationalism and yellow journalism, which
proved that bias sold papers as well, if not better, that objective reporting.
Efficiency and Technology Theory
Several of the same scholars who believe that objectivity evolved from economic
need also assert that the concept came into practice due to technological advances, such
as the telegraph. With time and expense limiting the usage of the telegraph, the inverted
pyramid style of writing and "just the facts" reports came into use (Glasser, 1984;
Ognianova & Endersby, 1996; Stoker, 1995).
Additionally, objectivity provided the growing business of journalism a way to
regulate itself. Schudson (2001) cited the American Society of Newspaper Editors'
"Canons of Journalism" which was adopted in 1922-1923 and said, "This newly
articulate fairness doctrine was related to the sheer growth in newsgathering; rules of
objectivity enabled editors to keep lowly reporters in check" (p. 162).
Next, several scholars propose that the emergence of journalism as a profession
caused the evolution of the objectivity norm (Schudson, 2001; Stoker, 1995; Streckfuss,
1990). Prior to the 20th century, journalists did not form a cohesive professional unit.
Often, Washington journalists clerked for the congressional members they covered and
frequently lived in the same boarding houses as members of the government (Schudson,
Schudson (2001) claims an "occupational culture" (p. 156) began to emerge in the
1870s and 1880s, and the reporting technique of interviewing came into play around the
same time. While political partisanship still existed, journalists began to group together as
a more unified profession, thus laying the foundation for the adoption of professional
norms, including objectivity. Schudson (2001) said, "Analytical fairness had no secure
place until journalists as an occupational group developed loyalties more to their
audiences and to themselves as an occupational community than to their publishers or
their publishers' favored political parties" (p. 161).
Election reform during the late 19th and early 20th centuries also pushed the
previously partisan press into a more prestigious profession. Elections changed with new
styles of ballots and the emergence of a type of informational campaigning, as opposed to
the old-fashioned pomp and parades. Newspapers followed suit and began to separate
themselves from strict party loyalty (Schudson, 2001).
The emergence of public relations professionals and press agents also helped push
journalism into becoming a profession with an objectivity norm. World War I brought in
an era of propaganda and journalists sought to separate themselves from the growing
legions of publicity agents (Schudson, 1978; Schudson, 2001; Stoker, 1995; Streckfuss,
1990) and "to affiliate with the prestige of science efficiency" (Schudson, 2001, p. 162).
Additionally, journalists needed a method to evaluate the information they received from
public relations officials and determine its validity.
Journalists feared the manipulation of information and sought refuge in
objectivity. Streckfuss said, "Objectivity was an antidote to what liberals saw as
newspaper emotionalism and sensationalism" (p. 976).
Natural Science Philosophy Theory
While journalists were seeking to disassociate themselves from the public
relations agents during post-WWI times, they also sought to associate themselves with
the newly emerging fields of social and natural sciences. Media critics and commentators,
such as Walter Lippmann and Nelson Crawford, advocated empirical methods of data
collection and reporting, similar to the newly forming scientific method (Stoker, 1995).
The move toward a scientific objectivity in journalism stemmed from new ideas
of the time in philosophy and social science. Previously, journalists and others held a
belief of "naive empiricism" in which "facts are not human statements about the world,
but aspects of the world itself' (Schudson, 1978, p. 6). Propaganda of WWI and the
realization after that war that the world was increasingly complex led to the belief that
naive empiricism did not serve the profession effectively.
Streckfuss (1990) asserted, "Objectivity was founded not on a naive idea that
humans could be objective, but on a realization that they could NOT. To compensate for
this innate weakness, advocates in the 1920s proposed a journalistic system that subjected
itself to the rigors of the scientific method" (p. 974).
Objectivity became a way to deal with the fact that, as scholars and journalists
alike were coming to understand, news stories could not accurately represent a single
reality or truth. Multiple truths and perspectives of reality existed and the new methods of
social science research were used in an attempt to provide an objective representation of
the world (Donsbach & Klett, 1993).
Thus, the concept of objectivity, as described by those in the 1920s who
advocated a scientific approach, is different from the idea of disinterested neutrality that
is often associated with objectivity. In fact, the aim of Lippmann and others was not
detachment, but "severe social change through the power of the objective fact"
(Donsbach & Klett, 1993, p. 55).
The State of Objectivity, Before 1950
Theoretical definitions of objectivity and its evolution as a concept are important
to an understanding a reporter's work when evaluating it for objectivity and bias, but it is
also important to understand how objectivity was used in the profession and in the
education of journalists during that reporter's time. Thus, this section looks at how
objectivity was addressed in the profession in the first half of the 20th century.
In Journalism Education
In an analysis of journalism and writing textbooks from the 19th century, Mirando
(2001) showed that the ideas of value-free reporting and neutrality were present before
the 1920s when the term 'objectivity' came into general use. The author found that
textbook authors considered unbiased reporting an ideal for journalists as well as a
routine for the profession. A textbook from 1890 stated an idea that is still echoed by
journalists today: "The facts, when concisely written, speak for themselves" (Nevins as
cited in Mirando, 2001, p. 11).
Glasser (1984) points to the 1920s as the time in which objectivity came to be an
ethic taught in journalism courses. During that time, journalism ethics, in general, were
receiving more attention and objectivity was one aspect of ethical discussions (Mirando,
Streckfuss (1990), however, asserts that once the concept of objectivity made it
into journalism textbooks at this time and in the early 1930s, the meaning was altered
from its concept of a scientific method to the more basic idea of keeping values and facts
Though journalism ethics received attention in the 1920s and early 1930s, the
interest seemed to fade by the late 1930s. Mirando (2001) found that only 7 out of 90
textbooks published between the late 1930s and the early 1970s included "substantive
discussions on journalism ethics" (p. 33).
An informal survey of textbooks from the 1930s and 1940s reveals an emphasis
on objectivity in the sense of nonpartisanship, balance, and the separation of facts from
opinions. For example, Porter and Luxon (1935) advocate the use of qualification and
attribution of statements and sources, so as to effectively communicate that the reporter is
not involved and not stating his own belief. They also stress the importance of
representing both sides of an issue and "presenting claims just for what they are -
unsupported statements" (p. 119).
Neal (1949) advocates the use of balance and fairness when dealing with people
who have an overt agenda, regardless of how unpopular or extreme. The author writes,
"If Mr. Deems truly is a crackpot, that fact will be undeniable apparent when presented in
fair and neutral writing" (p. 131). The author also stresses the importance of avoiding
"color phrasings" (p. 133), including necessity attributions, particularly in controversial
topics, and the need for giving equal treatment to both sides of an issue.
Curtis MacDougall authored several popular textbooks in the 1930s and later.
Newsroom Problems and Policies (1949) includes a discussion of objectivity in
comparison to what the author terms "interpretive reporting." The author defines
objectivity as the dry retelling of facts, without elaboration. MacDougall says interpretive
reporting allows the reporter to bring in their own understanding of the situation and add
details they consider to be relevant. Interpretive writing, however, does not allow for the
blatant statement of opinion or biased adjectives.
MacDougall advocates the interpretive form of journalism, saying that the
objective idea does not work, particularly in foreign reporting which he says requires a
certain amount of interpretation and elaboration to make it understandable to the average
MacDougall calls for accuracy in reporting and cites several factors that might
undermine it, including "faulty observation" (p. 179), which means that any number of
reporters might view the same event in different ways, given their perspectives and the
information available to them. Other factors are incompetence of a reporter,
exaggerations to sensationalize a story, and the unconscious bias of a reporter.
In the Profession
Within the working world of journalism, the objectivity norm evolved in the same
way and at the same time as was reflected in journalism textbooks, but it was subjected to
more day-to-day tests and criticisms in this setting which dealt more with realism and
pragmatism than with academic ideals.
Streckfuss (1990) states that the word "objectivity" was not in use in journalism
prior to the 1920s, but terms like "unbiased" or "uncolored" were.
When Carr Van Anda became editor of the New York Times under Adolph Ochs
in 1904, he "applied an empirical, scientific approach to news gathering and reporting"
(Streckfuss, p. 7). Eight years earlier, when Ochs took over the paper, he said the Times
would present the news "impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of any party, sect
or interest involved" (Schudson, 2001, p. 156), but he also stated that he was committed
to tariff reform, lower taxes and small government. Thus, though objectivity and
nonpartisanship were emerging, political agendas remained at the turn of the 20th century.
A study by Stensaas (1986-1987 as cited in Stoker, 1995, p. 7) supports the idea
that elements of the objectivity norm began in the late 19th century, but that the concept
came into general use in the 1920s. The author sampled city newspapers from the late
19th and early 20th centuries and found that in the late 1800s, about one third of stories
could be considered objective. By the late 1920s and early 1930s, that number had grown
to about 80 percent.
In 1922-1923, the American Society of Newspaper Editors adopted its "Canons of
Journalism" which were reprinted in journalism textbooks such as Yost's The Principles
of Journalism (1924). The canons included, among others, these principles:
* Independence Freedom from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public
interest is vital.
* Sincerity, truthfulness, accuracy Good faith with the reader is the foundation of
all journalism worthy of the name.
* Impartiality Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and
expression of opinion. News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any
kind. This rule does not apply to so-called special articles unmistakably devoted to
advocacy or characterized by a signature authorizing the writer's own conclusion
and interpretations. (Yost, pp. 162-163)
Stanley Walker (1934), city editor of the New York Herald Tribune from 1928 to
1935 wrote in his memoirs about the "Canons of Journalism" and other ideals of
journalism ethics. 3 He believed that the standards were laudable, but unrealistic. He
thought ethics were best left uncodified, as the day-to-day challenges of the newspaper
business left too many uncertain areas between right and wrong. He wrote:
3 Marguerite Higgins would work for the same paper for 20 years, beginning six years later. Walker's ideas
about ethics are significant to this study, as they represent what might have been common thought among
editors at the Herald Tribune, where Higgins received much of her early newspaper training.
There has long been, in the curious business of journalism, a yearning for
respectability, a pathetic hankering for righteousness. There have been solemn
meetings at which pious tenets have been set forth as guiding principles for
working newspapermen. Somewhat in the fashion of sentimental madams who
obtain an inner glow from attending early Sunday mass, the editors feel better for a
few hours after such sessions. Then they return to the job of getting out a
newspaper, there to find what they knew all along that it is a business of
imponderables, of hairline decision, where right and wrong seem inextricably
mixed up with that even more nebulous thing called Good Taste. (p. 167)
It seems that as soon as the objectivity norm came into general acceptance in the
profession, critics and working journalists opened fire on it. Schudson (1978) said, "In
the 1930s, even journalists committed to objectivity acknowledged that objective
reporting was ultimately a goal beyond reach the perils of subjectivity were well
recognized" (p. 155).
Thus, interpretive reporting soon countered objective reporting. Ten years after
adopting the Canons of Journalism, the ASNE issued another statement:
Whereas, The procession of national and international events, significant, complex
and colorful, is moving more rapidly than at any other period in the recent history
of the world; and Whereas, There is new evidence that men and women in every
walk of life are taking a deeper interest in public affairs, RESOLVED, That it be
the consensus of this Society that editors should devote a larger amount of attention
and space to explanatory and interpretative news and to presenting a background of
information which will enable the average reader more adequately to understand
the movement and the significance of events. (Schudson, 1978, p. 148)
Objectivity: The Debate
Proponents of objectivity may have argued that interpretive reporting was really
objectivity. The debate about objectivity, its definitions, its usefulness and the probability
of achieving it began in the 1930s and continue today.
Journalists consider objectivity an integral, professional norm and U.S. journalists
in particular say objectivity is very significant to their work (Donsbach & Klett, 1993).
Despite this, the concept of objectivity is widely criticized. Many believe that its
emphasis on detachment and neutrality results in a form of "bystander's journalism"
(Bell, 1998, p. 102). Journalists become moral observers or spectators who are detached
from society (Stoker, 1995). Glasser (1984) even asserts that objectivity strips journalists
of their citizenship.
Other critics say that objectivity is merely a tool or a "strategic ritual" (Tuchman,
1972) used by journalists to avoid criticism. Media critic Jay Rosen claims, "The root of
objectivity is the wish to be free of the results of what you do" (Glaberson, 1994). Stoker
(1995) and Glasser (1984) also agree that the tenets of objectivity allow journalists to
report the news without being responsible for what is reported, because the reporter
adopts a position of neutrality and removes herself from the source's opinions.
Building on Tuchman's idea of "strategic ritual" and applying it to an economic
realm, Ognianova & Endersby (1996) argue that objectivity is used as a way of not
alienating markets, thus increasing the media companies' profits.
Others criticize the objectivity norm and say it conflicts with the press's role of
watchdog by supporting and perpetuating society's status quo and reinforcing elite
positions. Hackett (1984) and Stoker (1995) assert that objectivity is biased in favor of
establishment sources and serves as a vehicle for the distribution of bureaucratic
information because reporters relate source information without evaluating it. Durham
(1998) supports this, saying that elite sources are perceived as more credible when
presented uncritically. Glasser (1984) states that the objectivity norm counters the
"important democratic assumption that statements made by ordinary citizens are as
valuable as statements made by the prominent and the elite" (p. 15).
Authors also argue that the detached neutrality concepts robs journalists of the
ability to be creative and turns them from their original role of independent-thinking
storytellers into the role of news packagers and distributors (Glasser, 1984; Rosen, 1993).
Finally, some critics see objectivity as a myth or an unachievable goal. They
argue that human beings cannot depict reality accurately, nor be completely neutral and it
is wrong to claim they can (Glasser, 1984; Rosen, 1993). Tuchman (1978) states that
there is a discrepancy between what objective journalists aim to achieve and what is
Proponents of objectivity argue that those who criticize it have adopted a narrow
definition of the concept and that true objective reporting is in line with the role of the
press as a watchdog and can most accurately reflect reality. Ryan (2001) says that
objective journalists "do not guarantee their descriptions are accurate in every respect,
only that they have followed a process that allows them to produce a description that is
more accurate than any other process allows" (p. 5).
Ward (1998) attacks the criticism that objectivity encourages cold detachment and
a removal from participation in society. He says, "It does demand that reporters subject
their reports to objective controls, such as the careful presentation of facts, reliable and
varied sources, expert opinion, supporting documentation, accurate quotations, and a fair
representation of major viewpoints" (p. 122).
Objectivity, Bias, and International Reporting
In the area of international reporting, two major issues exist. The first is a
discussion of whether the rule of objectivity should or does apply to foreign reporting and
the other involves research that illustrates American reporters tend to report international
affairs in a way that reflects U.S. foreign policy.
Some scholars agree that the rules of objectivity are different in international
reporting that domestic. Hackett (1984) suggests that the criterion of balance is not
appropriate in evaluating international affairs reporting. The author said:
Journalists are not expected to balance their presentation between pro-and anti-
American (especially Communist) viewpoints. Only when foreign policy (e.g., the
Vietnam war after 1968) generates sufficient division within legitimate political
circles must the media take balance into account. More normally, foreign affairs
coverage would be considered biased only if it distorts reality in a politically
motivated direction. (p. 231)
Schudson (2001) asserted that it is simply easier to violate objectivity rules in
Foreign correspondents are treated more as independent experts, free to make
judgments, less as dependent and supervisable employees. In truth, they cannot be
supervised nor do editors very often have the knowledge to second-guess them. For
that matter, readers do not normally have the background to fill in a context to
make bare facts comprehensible. (p. 164)
MacDougall (1949) and others who advocated interpretive reporting in the mid-
20th century did so in part because of the need to understand international affairs in a way
that objectivity (as they defined it) did not allow. Likewise, the ASNE's 1935 call for
more interpretive and explanatory news cited the increasingly complex state of world
affairs as a reason to make exceptions to the objectivity rule (Schudson, 1978). Thus, it
seems since early on, the objectivity norm has been more flexible in the realm of
international reporting than in domestic news.
Many researchers have examined the idea that journalists generally report
international affairs in a manner that is consistent with their home country's foreign
policy. Rachlin (1988 as cited in Kim, 2000) argued that journalists portray world events
and their significance in line with their country's national interests and accepted cultural
views. Fishman (1982 as cited in Kim, 2000) goes a step further and states that the media
help shape the public's perception of international reality by conforming to the
government's perspectives and interpretation of events.
Goldfarb (2001) asserts the idea that a nation's history, popular ideas, and local
events infuse its journalists' reports from other parts of the world. He cites differences in
American and British coverage of the Middle East and says:
For those of us who grow up with the principle that journalism is an objective,
impartial enterprise, it can be quite a shock to the system to live overseas and read
the coverage of events in a different nation's press: Same events, same facts,
different picture. (p. 111)
Kim (2000) found that two major newspapers (The New York Times and The
Washington Post) reported two similar political movements in Asia the Kwangju in
South Korea and the Tiananmen in China in ways that were consistent with U.S.
foreign policy. The American press hardly reported the Kwangju pro-democracy
movement while wide coverage of the Tiananmen Square demonstration conveyed a
sense of outrage about the Chinese soldiers' violent methods of quelling the
demonstration. This coverage reflected the U.S. government's response to the incidents.
Gans (1979 as cited in Demertzis, et al., 1999) asserted "ethnocentrism forms one
of the main and durable journalistic values through which the news is selected and
presented" (p. 27). Demertzis, et al. also stated that the "media may generate a climate of
moral-national panic by defining the national 'other'" (p. 29). Likewise, Tehranian
(2002) supports this idea that the media help create an "us versus them" version of
Weis (1997) studied press coverage of the Brazilian coup of 1964 and found
evidence of such a dichotomy. The author showed that American reports about the coup
were "simplistic and one-dimensional" (para. 5) in that they portrayed the political
upheaval as an issue of a leader leading the country toward Communism and dictatorship.
The author asserts that the media "ignored the complexities of the Brazilian political
system, the economic crisis, the politicized military, and the basic inequities in Brazilian
society" (para. 4).
Furthermore, Weis states that the objectivity norm, dependence on U.S.
government sources, and the press's willingness to report American foreign policy
uncritically have produced biased reports in international affairs and such reporting is
prevalent in American journalism. The fact that, overseas, diplomats and foreign
correspondents often live and work close together in "American ghettos" (Chittick, 1970,
p. 182-199 as cited in Weis, 1997, para. 18) perpetuates a reliance on government
Malinkina & McLeod (2000) studied The New York Times' coverage of Russian
intervention in two conflicts, one during the Cold War (Afghanistan) and one after
(Chechnya). The researchers determined that, despite a shift in U.S. foreign policy toward
Russia after the end of the Cold War, the lens through which the U.S. media showed
Russian affairs remained constant. This may suggest less strength in the argument that
newspapers' coverage reflects their country's foreign policy.
ANALYSIS OF MARGUERITE HIGGINS' REPORTING FROM POLAND
Marguerite Higgins reported from Poland between December 1946 and February
1947 and according to her autobiography, the time she spent in that country was
fundamental in the formation of her strong anti-Communist views, but did those views
permeate her reporting or did she report objectively about the politics of Poland?
This analysis of Higgins' reporting from Poland, specifically her coverage of the
Polish national elections and the rebuilding of the country after World War II, reveals
that she was inconsistent in her ability to remain objective in a variety of ways. Reports
often lacked adequate source attribution, included unsubstantiated predictions and
assumptions, overly dramatized or sensationalized stories, included Higgins' personal
opinions, or included subjective interpretations. Individual stories were not always
balanced, but Higgins tended to achieve this tenet of objectivity overall by writing single-
perspective stories from both sides of the political spectrum in Poland.
Additionally, Higgins had two separate agendas in her writing. Prior to and
immediately after the Polish elections, Higgins was critical of the tactics of the Left-
Wing, government-supported bloc of political parties to ensure its victory. After the
elections, Higgins became less critical of the government and conveyed an optimistic
view of the fate of Poland in post-war Europe. In spite of these two agendas, Higgins did
not have an overreaching, anti-Communist bias evident in her writing at this time.
This chapter examines Higgins' writing and reporting style, the ways in which she
achieved and did not achieve objectivity, and discusses the overall views conveyed in her
Higgins did not often include specific source attribution in the stories analyzed.
She frequently cites unnamed "experts," "observers" and "officials." This was and is a
common practice when dealing with official sources that request not to be named, but
Higgins was particularly vague when referring to "observers," not stating if these people
were independent political experts, American or Polish officials, Polish citizens, or press
correspondents. She also made vague and broad statements such as "it is believed here"
without stating who exactly believed what she reported. For example, prior to the
elections in Poland, Higgins wrote,
It is said in Warsaw that the elections will be "fixed," and that it has already been
decided that the government bloc will win between 85 and 90 percent of the total
votes, while Mikolajczyk's party will be permitted from 10 to 15 percent of the
votes. (Higgins, 1946b)
She did not give any indication of where those numbers were found or how many people
were interviewed to determine that a fixed election was generally believed to be eminent.
Likewise, in a later article, Higgins asserted, "almost everyone is agreed in Poland"
(Higgins, 1947b) that the government controlled bloc of political parties would sweep the
election. Again, she did not back up the statement with any information that might
validate such a broad assertion.
Higgins also used this technique of general, broad attribution to add interpretation
to her stories. A story about the dominant political bloc's pledge to allow religious rights
to the Catholic Church included this paragraph:
The conciliatory gesture toward the Church, with which the Left has previously
been at bitter odds, is interpreted here as a Left Wing bloc attempt to swing away
from the opposition Polish Peasant party (P.S.L.) voters motivated by religious
reasons. (Higgins, 1947c)
She does not indicate who, other than herself, interpreted the situation that way.
Similarly, after the election, she reports that the government would allow a peasant party
(not the Peasant Party headed by Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, but one affiliated with the
government bloc) to hold a number of seats in the Parliament. She said, "This is
interpreted as an obvious desire on the part of the government to placate the peasantry
who form 70 percent of Poland's population" (Higgins, 1947g). This technique of general
attribution made many of Higgins' reports subjective and unclear and left the reader with
too many questions. Without citing sources more specifically or indicating who
interpreted events in the ways she indicated, the possibility that Higgins was interjecting
her own opinions or impressions and masking them with generalized attribution arises.
Higgins also projected and presumed future events in many of her articles. She
opened a Christmas story with this lead: "The holiday season comes to Poland as a
breathing space in what will be with certainty an election campaign accompanied by
violence, bloodshed and fratricidal warfare" (Higgins, 1946g). This prediction was hers,
not attributed or quoted from any source and she seems to base this assertion on the
reports of two Peasant Party members who reported being victims of torture tactics.
Certainly the reports of torture and coercion are significant and newsworthy, but, as
Higgins notes in the report, such stories were not widespread or on a large scale. Given
the facts of the report, a prediction of "fratricidal warfare" is unwarranted. As it
happened, the elections were marred by a few instances of violence, but were generally
peaceful around the country (Higgins, 1947f).
Other, less extreme instances of prediction occurred in Higgins' writing. For
example, she states that the election "will be a mere formality" (Higgins, 1947a) and that
"a Leftist victory [is] assured" (Higgins, 1947d). While these predictions were correct,
she did not effectively substantiate her assertions with facts or quote from sources. Such
predictions are better suited to political analysis or commentary than straight news
In a few instances, Higgins seems to assume what others are thinking. For
example, she wrote, "Most Polish politicians, including some P.S. L. leaders,
undoubtedly believe Mikolajczyk is finished, at least for the foreseeable future" (Higgins,
1947e). She does not quote or name any of the politicians or groups who have stated they
believe as such. In another article she wrote, "The fact that twenty voted against the
P.S.L. leader apparently confirms...that there is a sizable segment of his party which
believes Mikolajczyk has erred in not agreeing to join the Left-Wing bloc" (Higgins,
1947i). Though twenty members voting against their leader is reasonable evidence a
division in the party exists, Higgins states a reason for the division Mikolajczyk's
refusal to join the bloc without providing any substantiating information. In the next
day's story, Higgins again interprets meanings and motivations behind government
members' actions. Of the Parliament's choice of speaker, she said, "The choice was
significant, perhaps, of the government's desire to placate the peasants" (Higgins, 1947j).
In this statement, at least, she includes the qualifier "perhaps," which indicates that her
interpretation is merely a possibility and not an absolute.
Higgins was not above overdramatizingg her copy" (Kluger, 1986, pp. 442) and
colleague Stephen White said she would get annoyed with him for not building up his
stories the same way. Certainly, several of her stories of this time illustrate her tendency
to build up or sensationalize reports with colorful writing and her editors sometimes
helped with sensationalized headlines.
The previously mentioned prediction of "violence, bloodshed, and fratricidal
warfare" (Higgins, 1946g) falls into this category as even the information Higgins
presented in the same story proved such charged language unfounded. She also punched
up a story about an amnesty for political prisoners with the opinion that "on the success
or failure of this amnesty hangs not only Poland's internal peace but the problem of
reconstruction, which unity would greatly speed" (Higgins, 1947n). Though the amnesty
was undeniably important, asserting that Poland's internal stability was entirely or largely
dependent upon this single decision is an exaggeration.
Higgins sprinkled other instances of "colored language" throughout her writing.
For example, she refers to the reduction of Soviet troops in Poland as "an important
phenomenon" (Higgins, 19471) which is an inaccurate description, as writers generally
use the word "phenomenon" to describe an unexplainable, natural occurrence. The
deliberate reduction of troops of a foreign army from the Polish territory is not a
phenomenon. She also described the transition of the Jewish population in Lower Silesia,
Poland from being comprised predominantly of professionals and merchants to including
an increasing number of industrial workers and farmers as a "sociological revolution"
(Higgins, 19470). In a following article, she again uses a similar description and calls the
same transition "a sociological phenomenon" (Higgins, 1947p). Such language seems to
be an attempt to boost the importance of the story.
Higgins also used adjectives, adverbs, and charged verbs more liberally than
objective journalism usually encourages. In describing an improved attitude toward
America by the Polish government after the elections, Higgins said the U.S. ambassador
"was received with exceptional enthusiasm and attention" and that the attitude toward the
ambassador "was particularly striking" (Higgins, 1947m). She described Jewish leaders
in Lower Silesia as having "considerable elation" (Higgins, 19470) over the fact that
15,000 Jewish residents of the area were working in industrial jobs. She described the
distribution of political pamphlets to Polish soldiers as the "plunging of the 155,000
Polish regular troops into one-sided politics" (Higgins, 1946a).
Subtle uses of language such as these were effectively used by Higgins to build up
or sensationalize some of her reports from Poland. In some cases, the Herald Tribune's
headline writers aided Higgins in playing up her reports. Higgins wrote an article
detailing the stories of two Peasant Party members who claimed to have been tortured by
Polish secret police and compared the torture techniques used to those employed by the
Nazis under Hitler. The headline read, "Poland's police ape Gestapo in election drive"
(Higgins, 1946g). Such a comparison is emotionally charged and the headline was
designed to grab attention and evoke strong memories of the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
Once the story was sufficiently built up however, Higgins included a paragraph to point
out, "in all fairness" as she said, that there were several differences between what was
happening in Poland and what occurred in Germany under Hitler and that it was "too
early to tell" if such abuses were isolated incidents or to become common practice.
Statements of opinion and subjective judgments permeated several of Higgins'
reports. In one story, she interjected a judgment about a diplomatic note from Poland to
Britain, saying it "is unusually sharp and is sarcastic to a point that rarely occurs in
diplomatic exchanges" (Higgins, 1946d). She refers to the Polish government's denial of
involvement in a propaganda campaign as "a mockery" (Higgins, 1946f). She labeled
accusations from the Left Wing bloc of political parties against the opposition party
"sensational" (Higgins, 1947d).
In other cases, stories closely resemble opinion columns or news commentary, but
ran in the paper as regular news reports. A report published on February 12, 1947, for
example, could have run on the editorial page. The story asserted that the Polish regime
was becoming friendlier toward the United States. Higgins wrote:
Whatever the world may think of the method used, it would seem unquestionable
that the Left-Wing bloc has insured its continued reign by the recent elections.
Thus, with its loyalty to the Soviet Union demonstrated and its own position
assured, the Left-Wing governments [sic] can afford to relax its attitude toward
America, particularly since its economic relations with America are all to the
advantage of Poland. (Higgins, 1947m)
In the same case, she relayed anecdotal personal experience as facts sufficient to
back up her arguments when she wrote:
In the past these press attacks were so steady that it became the custom for an
American staying a long time in Warsaw to save Polish acquaintances trouble by
jokingly referring to himself as "one of the black reactionaries," "one of the dollar
imperialists" and so on .... American correspondents, with a few exceptions such
as Elliott Roosevelt and Ralph Ingersoll, were automatically labeled slaves of the
"dirty capitalist press." (Higgins, 1947m)
This casual, almost tongue-in-cheek retelling of the personal experiences of press corps
members tends to undermine the position of the story as an objective news report. Such
writing might have been appropriate had the article been labeled as a column or an
In another article, Higgins reports the announcement of an amnesty for Polish
political prisoners and interjects her opinion this way:
There is no doubt that if the amnesty can persuade the underground to give up
armed political opposition, it will be the greatest boon Poland can have at this time.
For on the success or failure of this amnesty hangs not only Poland's internal peace
but the problem of reconstruction, which unity would greatly speed. (Higgins,
Such a report too closely resembles commentary. Phrases such as "there is no doubt" and
"it will be the greatest boon" are subjective and disputable unless substantiated by
information from sources.
Higgins' pieces that resembled opinion columns did not dominate her reporting
from Poland. In fact, her style was rather inconsistent. On any given day, a report could
have been a multi-sourced, objective, third-person news report, an opinion-charged,
subjective commentary, or might have fallen into a third, less easily defined category that
is best described as factual, but interpretive.
A story headlined "Jews in Poland find life good, want to remain" (Higgins,
19470) illustrated this style well. Higgins traveled to Lower Silesia, Poland, and
interviewed Jewish leaders and community members to ascertain the mood of the area
regarding anti-Semitism and their overall quality of life. She cited community statistics
and quoted a local official, but moved into first-person voice when she related a previous
experience of interviewing other Polish Jews in Berlin the previous year. She drew a
comparison between the attitudes of the two groups. No blatant statements of opinion are
made, but the overall tone of the article was optimistic and positive, as Higgins seemed to
want to paint a picture of Poland in state of rebuilding and hope. This interpretive style is
similar to a feature style and Higgins used it in stories she wrote while traveling around
the country, outside the political centers. A story similar to that told ofDzierzoniow, a
village of about 15,000 in which a large Jewish population was prospering (Higgins,
1947p). The following day's report discussed the colonization of territory previously held
by Germany. Both stories followed the same, interpretive, feature style of the previous
article and echoed the optimistic tone regarding Poland's future.
Balance and Fairness
Higgins achieved balance and fairness in her reporting overall, but not always in
individual stories. For example, one story reported that the government distributed pre-
election propaganda pamphlets that criticized the United States and Great Britain to
Polish soldiers in order for the army to take part in political persuasion. The article
includes only a brief quote by an official denying any government involvement in the
distribution of the pamphlets (which may have been all that was issued at the time), but a
great deal of information about accusations against the government (Higgins, 1946a).
Two days later, however, Higgins wrote a story that elaborates on the government's
position (Higgins, 1946c). Thus, between the two stories, she reported both sides of the
issue and achieved balance.
Higgins could only achieve this type of balance in stories that involved follow-ups
and updates. In terms of stand-alone reports, Higgins' tendency toward balance and
fairness was inconsistent. She often wrote single-source stories, relaying the views of
only one person or organization. Reports from press conferences, official announcements,
or interviews often excluded outside information or responses from an opposing side. For
example, a story about the announcement of a campaign platform by the Left Wing bloc
of political parties included only information provided by the bloc and did not mention
any response or attempt to obtain a response from the opposing Peasant Party (Higgins,
1947c). No follow up story was written. Likewise, another report detailed a threat by
Peasant Party leader Stanislaw Mikolajczyk to boycott the elections because of an order
issued by the government regarding poll watchers (Higgins, 1947d). No government
response was included.
Though these stories were not balanced individually and the perspectives of the
two sides on specific issues not equally represented, it is interesting to note that Higgins
wrote about the same number of stories for each side. That is, for every story representing
only the Left-Wing bloc's perspective on one issue or topic, there was a story
representing only the Peasant Party's view on another issue. Whether this balance was
deliberate or coincidental is unclear.
Two Agendas in Higgins' Reporting
Higgins' reporting from Poland cannot be labeled objective. However, no
consistent, overreaching bias in favor of or against Communism or the left-leaning
government in Poland exists. Higgins did not have a specific, anti-Communist bias or
agenda at this point in her career, but she frequently allowed her personal impressions
and opinions of situations to permeate her writing and two general agendas are evident in
First, in reports regarding the Polish elections, she was very critical of the tactics of
the Left-Wing bloc of political parties and of the government's handling of the election
process and supportive of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk's Peasant Party. This support was
reflective of American sentiments, as illustrated by a diplomatic note sent to Poland
criticizing the handling of the election and in Stanislaw Mikolajczyk's previous
relationship with the Western Allies during World War II.
Of 23 election-related stories by Higgins, only five were mostly objective and
balanced. All of those were published on or after election day. Six reports represented the
government-sponsored bloc's perspective. The stories were not necessarily favorable to
or critical of the government but were all single-source reports from official
announcements, interviews, or press conferences. Three other stories were favorable to
Stanislaw Mikolajczyk and the Peasant Party, and Higgins wrote the remaining nine from
a perspective that was critical of the government. She wanted to communicate to the
American people the various abuses by the Polish government concerning the elections
and Mikolajczyk's dedication to being an active political opposition.
After the election, Higgins' writing shifted, not to support the government, but to
provide a more optimistic view of the fate of the country in general. She also became
slightly more critical ofMikolajczyk and the Peasant Party. With the elections finished,
more stories focused on the future of the country. Higgins gave space to several
conciliatory statements by the Polish government. She interviewed a Polish Communist
official and focused on his statement that Poland would not become a single-party,
Communist state (Higgins, 1947h). She reported the opinion of the Minister of
Repatriation that most of the Polish citizens in exile since the war wanted to and would
return to help rebuild the country (Higgins, 1946e). She implied that the government was
attempting to "placate the peasantry" by granting a peasant party 106 seats in Parliament
(Higgins, 1947g). She also complimented Polish President Boleslaw Bierut, calling him
"a quiet, hard-working man who won renown during World War II for his part in the
anti-German underground" (Higgins, 1947k).
As part of Higgins' optimistic portrayal of post-election Poland, she emphasized
the lessening influence of the Soviet Union in the country. One story detailed the
diminishing number of Soviet troops remaining in Poland and commented on the Soviet
Army's "impressive decorum and good behavior" (Higgins, 19471). She stated:
Whatever the Soviet Army's performance in the early months of Poland's
liberation and no one maintains it was gentlemanly no Pole with whom I have
talked had any complaint about Soviet troops in the last six months, or even the last
year. (Higgins, 1947p)
Another story reported that the Polish minister of industry encouraged "certain types of
foreign investments in Poland by private American capitalists" (Higgins, 1947r). Higgins
The entry of foreign capital into this country, subject as it would be to control by
the government is not inconsistent with the situation in Poland. Contrary to reports,
the country at its present stage is by no means sovietized. (Higgins, 1947r)
In both these articles, Higgins sought to portray Poland as emerging from post-war
occupation and establishing a state that would be friendly to Western nations.
Higgins' piece, "Polish regime showing more amity for U.S." (Higgins, 1947m)
best illustrates her desire to portray an optimistic view of Poland's relationship with the
West. The report was full of personal opinion and interpretation. Higgins relayed
personal experience in telling of prior encounters with Polish officials and from
previously reported information drew generalizations about the attitude of the Polish
government toward the United States.
Finally, Higgins portrayed an optimistic view of the future of Poland with her
reports about peasant life in Lower Silesia. Two stories near the end of her time in Poland
detail opportunities for Jews in industry and farming as well as a lack of anti-Semitism in
the area (Higgins, 1947o; Higgns, 1947p). She also reported work by Poles in former
German territories to colonize the area and put it to good use, in an effort to prevent the
territory from returning to Germany in future diplomatic negotiations (Higgins, 1947q).
As previously stated, Marguerite Higgins' work from Poland did not convey an
overall bias in favor of or against Communism. Though few stories from this period were
truly objective, the others usually contained small amounts of the above-mentioned
elements that led them to be labeled subjective, interpretive, or opinionated. Of the 39
reports Higgins sent from Poland, four could have been labeled as news analysis or
commentary. Others were non-objective, feature-style stories or interpretive reporting.
Still others were attempts at objective reports that failed to meet the accepted standards of
Higgins' lack of objectivity was not necessarily unacceptable given the
circumstances under which she reported. Higgins was her paper's primary source of
information regarding the events in Poland, and it is possible she was given greater
leeway for interpreting and commenting. Editors often supplement her stories with
smaller Associated Press or United Press wire reports that were strictly factual and
provided objective information she did not report. Perhaps she was even encouraged by
her editors to provide readers with greater perspective and interpretation. As noted in
Chapter 3 of this thesis, several authors assert that in international reporting, the rules of
objectivity are less strict and a paper may even want the reporter to function as an expert
and provide interpretation.
Furthermore, Higgins' criticisms of the Polish government's election tactics were
in line with America's official position on Poland. Thus, it is unlikely that she based her
criticism of the Left-Wing bloc of political parties solely on her personal views, but
developed it as a result of her being an American reporter writing for an American
audience. Studies indicate that American news organizations often report from the
perspective of American foreign policy, particularly during the Cold War when an "us vs.
them" dichotomy was prevalent.
Still another possibility exists for Higgins' deviation from objectivity into vigorous
criticism of the government's behavior during the election period. The facts of the matter
did indicate that the government was using its power to intimidate the Peasant Party.
Political arrests occurred and Higgins interviewed several people who claimed to have
been tortured. Having covered the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, where
atrocities occurred that went largely unrecognized by the international community, as
well as the recent Nuremberg trials, Higgins might have been motivated by a desire to not
allow history to repeat itself.
In her autobiography, Higgins wrote much about her experiences in Poland. By
1955, when the book was published, she had determined that communism was
inextricably linked to police state tactics and terror. At the time, however, Higgins said
she was indecisive about the fate of Poland. About her reporting, she said, "The facts
were evident. It was the interpretation that counted" (Higgins, 1955, p. 138).
Marguerite Higgins' life and work is significant to the history of journalism on
several levels. As most often noted, she was a groundbreaker for women in the
profession. She did not allow the obstacles of tradition and social barriers to prevent her
from achieving her dream of becoming a foreign correspondent. She became the first
woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.
More than just a "first woman," however, Higgins was a formidable competitor in
journalism and had an impressive career that spanned more than 20 years. She covered
three major conflicts, interviewed numerous world leaders, and reported on many fronts
of the Cold War. She never slowed down or lost her drive and only death could stop her,
as her life was cut short in 1966 by a disease she contracted while on assignment in
Higgins became a celebrity with her exciting tales of war and her refusal to be
kept off the front lines in Korea. Within the journalism community, Higgins was a
colorful and controversial character. Her ethics were often questioned and she made
many enemies among her competitors for her aggressive tactics.
Early in her life, Higgins appeared to be receptive to the ideas of communism and
socialism. She was a campus radical in college and married a member of the Communist
Party. Later in her career, however, after reporting from behind the Iron Curtain in the
early years of the Cold War, Higgins became convinced that communism could not be
separated from the brutality of a police state and became a staunch anti-Communist. For
this, more liberal members of the press again criticized her reporting, particularly in
This study examined Higgins' life and discussed the objectivity norm in
journalism and used it to evaluate Higgins' work from her time in Poland a period she
later said was the most influential in forming her views of opposition to Communism.
This analysis determined that, though her writing did not conform to the tenets of
objectivity, she did not exhibit an anti-Communist bias in her reporting at this time. She
did convey a critical attitude toward the left-wing Polish government and the political
parties affiliated with it during the first Polish elections after World War II. Despite such
criticism, Higgins also expressed an optimistic outlook for Poland's future. She described
what she perceived to be a lessening Soviet presence in the country and an improvement
in the government's attitude toward the United States.
For Marguerite Higgins, reporting was life. It is no wonder, then that her life was
fully intertwined with her work. Research into Marguerite Higgins' life has been done in
depth, but less work exists that examines her actual reporting. Many possibilities exist for
future research into Higgins' writing. Further analysis of her Cold War reporting would
contribute greatly to an understanding of her political views. Such research might include
analyses of her post-Korean War reporting, specifically her work from Vietnam, which
was probably the most controversial of her career. Her reports conflicted with those of
her colleagues, several of whom believed her to possess a strong anti-Communist bias.
An analysis of her writing, in comparison to that of her peers, could address these issues.
Further, Marguerite Higgins' life and work can be examined as part of studies
addressing broader themes in journalism and journalism history. For example, a study
about journalistic competition could include discussions of Higgins' many rivalries
throughout her career. Her competition with Homer Bigart was particularly unusual, as
the two reporters worked for the same newspaper. More interestingly, however, would be
a study about the role of journalists who receive celebrity status in popular culture. In the
television age, this is very common for broadcast news professionals, but many print
journalists, such as Hunter Thompson, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein also have
been elevated to celebrity or icon status by admirers, critics, and the media in general.
Marguerite Higgins was a celebrity in her time, sought for product endorsements and
movie rights and her story could be an important part of such a study.
Marguerite Higgins is a part of journalism history that, though not entirely
forgotten, has been relegated a lesser position in the industry's collective memory.
However, her work was significant as she covered many important stories of the 20th
century, broke new ground for women in journalism, and provides an excellent example
of how a reporter with strong political convictions of her own covered controversial
events in international affairs.
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A native Floridian, Michele Kathleen Jones was born on April 19, 1979, and raised
in Pensacola. She graduated from the University of West Florida in 2001 with a degree in
international studies and entered the master's program at the University of Florida's
College of Journalism and Communications in August of the same year.
Michele has written for The (Pensacola) Real Paper, The Independent Florida
Alligator, and The Pensacola News Journal. Additionally, she worked as an online
producer for The Gainesville Sun and as a freelance Web designer. Upon completion of
her degree, she hopes to obtain a full-time position in the online department of a daily
newspaper while continuing to design Web sites and write on a freelance basis.