The Press: Proletarian Press

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The three Communist papers are only a small fraction of the proletarian press which includes over 700 U. S. labor papers. Upwards of 100 of these journals belong to nationwide unions; most of the rest to local labor bodies. They have in common their deficits and share a readership of 4.000.000, for like the Catholic press, which is seen by only 40% of the 21.000,000 U. S. Catholics, the labor press does not reach the 7.000.000 organized workers of the U. S., much less the 32.000.000 unorganized workers. One reason is that most of the labor papers are poor reading compared with the secular press, are edited by men with more zeal than talent. However, in the Roosevelt era, over 75 new labor papers have been started, and American Newspaper Guildsmen. taking an active part in labor affairs, have locally improved the tone of the labor press by setting an example and lending it professional talent.

Still probably the best-reading of U. S. labor papers is the American Guardian, edited in Oklahoma City by Socialist Oscar Ameringer. A laborite Will Rogers, he expresses his philosophy in his editorial column each week. Sample: "Nobody asked us yet, but if we were called upon to draw a picture of contemporary civilization, we'd draw a bunch of naked blind men trying to pick each others' pockets with pitchforks."

Grandparent of the labor press is the American Federation of Labor's pedagogical, 44-year-old American Federationist. Two months ago C. I. O. started a national weekly, the $1-a-year tabloid C. I. 0. News. Its editor is Oxonian Len De Caux, who was born in a New Zealand mining town 38 years ago, has worked on many leading U. S. labor papers. In spots where the C. I. O.-A. F. of L. breach has been most serious, C. I. 0. has also started its own local papers. Frank Palmer's People's Press, brought out independently two years ago, is official organ for eight C. I. 0. unions and the Chicago Workers' Alliance, today has 36 regional editions and 310,000 circulation, biggest of any newcomer in the labor field.

For their news needs, the better labor papers rely on Federated Press, a non-profit labor news agency. When the great 1919 steel strike broke, labor news coverage was so undependable that 32 labor editors met in Chicago and founded Federated Press. Today, from a crowded single room a block off the radical vortex, Manhattan's Union Square, Federated's News Editor Harold Coy supplies news, features, comics and New York Times'?, Wide World pictures to 145 papers. Other chief agency for labor news is independent International Labor News Service, which usually sees things A. F. of L.'s way.

One reason the labor press has not become powerful journalistically is that since the days Federated Press was organized, the press in general has trained reporters to do a better job of labor reporting. Last month the National Labor Relations Board remarked that reports of labor news contrast markedly with ''inadequate reporting of labor disputes" before 1935, when the Wagner law was enacted. "Many of these [labor reporters]," said NLRB, "have been led to probe beneath the exterior dramatics of strike stories into conscientious study of the complicated social dilemma involved in every labor dispute, however small."

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