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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A decline the quality of political journalism since the mid-1960s

Holshouser believes that the decade between 1965 and 1975 changed the media for the worse. Now, as a result of the turmoil and scandal of that period, members of the media see themselves as watchdogs, applying their own standards to the behavior of politicians. And those politicians may be more vulnerable to media attacks because of the decline of the party system, Holshouser believes.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I am sort of inclined to think that the period from 1965 to 1975 maybe has changed forever and for the worst for the most part the relationship between the office holders and the press. I saw, the press, the media, prints stuff. It seems like to me that the combination of the Vietnam War and the disillusionment that a lot of people had with the government and then the Watergate era just right after that has left forever the willingness of the media to not give the benefit of the doubt to but to have a certain regard for people in public office. Now Newsweek sort of departed from that a little bit on this latest thing in that they didn't go to the press when they could have with this first story. And there may have been some stories that have gotten squelched or delayed or toned down that we don't know about. But it seems to me lately there has been a great tendency on the part of the media to say our job is to represent the public in keeping public officials honest and in scrutinizing everything to make sure that they are doing it the way that it is right which means the way that I think it is right as the reporter or the editor and nobody elected them to a thing.
JACK FLEER:
Another argument that is given on this whole issue of public leaders having to be more accessible and responsive to the public, at least superficially if not in fact, is that political parties have broken down rather significantly.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
No question.
JACK FLEER:
So that there is not the discipline, there is not the loyalty, there is not even the identification that existed during the time; that is, citizens' identification with political parties. That in a sense you don't have that intermediary institution that can provide you with those means of access and rallying support and that kind of things. Did you feel that when you were governor that you did in fact have that sort of network out there in the party?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well again I was sort of special case. I had been the state chairman for five years and I knew all those people. I wasn't like a candidate who comes along with a million bucks of his own money and wants to spew it out there on the tube, bypass the organization, and just go right directly to the voters and get elected or get nominated as the case may be. And because I had a state party chairmanship I also had a sense of what my obligation to the party was in terms of building the Republican Party. Every particular situation depends on where it fits in the over all scheme for example. As the first one you had a different obligation than later ones do. A Republican who gets elected in 2000 if one does has a very different obligation than the first one which was just to try to hold everything together so that it won't break apart.
JACK FLEER:
Right.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
But there is no question that the party thing has broken down. That started changing when the seniority system in the Congress went by the boards and that was the McGovern commission. Now the McGovern Commission changed the nomination process in which you no longer had to get the approval of the smoke-filled room leadership. You could go directly to the primary.
JACK FLEER:
But the breakdown of seniority did occur in '74 which was just right after the McGovern Commission.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
And David Broder has written a lot about the parties and their role and how it has changed. Right now the parties seem to me almost no more than the vehicle through which soft money sometimes flows. That may be because I am not nearly as close to it as I was for a long time. I just haven't been that much involved. I don't go to the executive committee meetings and the central committee meetings to see what is happening and how much time people are putting in. But I have the feeling that people have a lot more direct sense of relationship and are tuned in more with their own legislators and congressmen and all than they are with the state headquarters.
JACK FLEER:
That possibility for access is also greater as you say today not only because of the technological developments which have occurred but probably also because of people being seen more on television, seeing them as individuals, when often in the past they were just names.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
And the overall bad part of this, and there are some good parts, but the bad part of this is that you don't have any serious party discipline left in the legislative bodies. Now that is not quite as true in Raleigh as it is in Washington. But in Washington it seems to me that there are some many cases for so many different causes that trying to exercise discipline to get the votes together is difficult…...