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In Case You Were Worried That The Media Now Is Uniquely Craven

May 7, 2012, 9:21 pm

(warning: a fair number of these links are to NY Times PDFs)

I give you Edward Kennedy (not that Kennedy) and the Associated Press of 1945:

In World War II’s final moments in Europe, Associated Press correspondent Edward Kennedy gave his news agency perhaps the biggest scoop in its history. He reported, a full day ahead of the competition, that the Germans had surrendered unconditionally at a former schoolhouse in Reims, France.

For this, he was publicly rebuked by the AP, and then quietly fired.

The problem: Kennedy had defied military censors to get the story out. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman had agreed to suppress news of the capitulation for a day, in order to allow Russian dictator Josef Stalin to stage a second surrender ceremony in Berlin. Kennedy was also accused of breaking a pledge that he and 16 other journalists had made to keep the surrender a secret for a time, as a condition of being allowed to witness it firsthand.

Kennedy had gone along willingly with the secrecy at first, but when it was extended, and then when a German radio station (in Allied-controlled territory) broadcast the news, a broadcast picked up by the BBC, Kennedy decided to defy the ban.

He was rebuked by the military, banned by Eisenhower from the European theater of operations (ETO), and lambasted by his fellow reporters who felt that a scoop wasn’t much of a scoop if it came about because others were keeping their promise. The Times, which had published the scoop, even worked it into Kennedy’s marriage announcement:

Mr. and Mrs. Erich Lindner of Los Angeles have announced the marriage of their niece, Miss Lynn Crost, to Edward Kennedy, former Associated Press war correspondent who reported Germany’s surrender a day before it was officially announced.

Kennedy was absolved a year later by the efforts of, among others, Representative Albert Gore of Tennessee (yes, the father of). The AP had no comment at the time and took until now to apologize for the firing.

Kennedy died November 29, 1963 after being hit by a car, a passing one would imagine was somewhat lost in the aftermath of another Kennedy’s death.

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