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In the 1930s and 1940s, China attracted American journalists of all types—adventurers, missionaries, bohemians, dilettantes, serious scholars, and revolutionary activists. Their experiences and dispatches represent a vital dimension of the US-China relationship. Yet over the years, coverage of China by American journalists has received little serious retrospective analysis, perhaps because the controversial McCarthy-McCarran hearings in the 1950s clouded earlier events in China and the United States' role in them. Journalists often were made scapegoats for our "loss" of China to the Communists in 1949. Today enough time has passed to try to be more balanced. Moreover, examination of journalists' performance amidst the crises of the 1940s offers a fresh perspective on the role of the media.

How did American journalists perceive and respond to one of the most momentous events of the century—war and revolution in China during the 1930s and 1940s? How did their writing influence US policy and public opinion?

These are two of the questions that were explored at a unique gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona, during November 1982. The key figure was A.T. Steele who is generally recognized as the dean of American reporters in China


during the 1930s and 1940s. The event was planned initially as a small gathering of a dozen "old hands" who were close to Steele. But soon the affair mushroomed and assumed a momentum of its own. By the time the meeting convened, there were more than forty veteran journalists and diplomats on hand, and also a number of distinguished scholars who study and write about this period in US-China relations.

Out of a chronological and topical distillation of what was said during and after the meeting in Scottsdale, an oral history of the journalistic experience in China during the 1930s and 1940s has been put together. In the process we have attempted to answer the questions posed above. But the focus remains limited chiefly to the experiences of those who came to Scottsdale, plus contributions from a few who were unable to attend like Jack Belden and Theodore H. (Teddy) White. In general, the speakers at Scottsdale had covered China for large American metropolitan dailies or had been wire service reporters. Although perhaps not as well known today as book and feature writers of the period like Edgar Snow and Agnes Smedley, reporters for the daily press such as A. T. Steele (Chicago Daily News and New York Herald Tribune ) and Tillman Durdin (New York Times ) were much more widely read at the time and therefore probably more influential.

Politically, considering the length of time that has elapsed and the infirmities of age, a surprisingly broad cross-section of old journalists gathered at Scottsdale. But there was one serious lacuna . Only Frederick Marquardt of the Arizona Republic represented the right or "Chiang Kai-shek" China lobby of the past (and present). Joseph Alsop was expected but was prevented at the last minute


from attending by a heart attack. Doubtless, as a staunch friend of the Generalissimo and Mme. Chiang as well as of Claire Chennault, he would have attacked the "woolly liberalism" of the majority of the participants, especially their defense of General Joseph Stilwell and criticism of his sacking in 1944. This was Alsop's position on the telephone before the conference met. His absence meant that the meeting was less polemically heated than it might have been. Indeed, the participants at Scottsdale seemed to mute political differences. Their purpose in coming was to have a reunion and re-evaluate their work in professional terms. They had not come to reopen old wounds or settle scores.

We think this muting of political differences proved to be fortuitous. Without Alsop and well-worn polemics about who lost China, the myth of Communists as agrarian reformers, or the justice of Stilwell's sacking in 1944, the dynamics of reporting from Asia were explored much more thoroughly than expected. And about this—the conditions, limitations, and quality of the journalists' product itself—differences emerged which we have tried to highlight. Moreover, at the end of the conference, a number of overall assessments of the journalists' record were offered. Not surprisingly, the participants tended to be self-congratulatory. We have tried to distance ourselves from that view by weaving the veteran journalists' reminiscences into an oral history narrative that consciously balances their successes against missed stories and persistent ignorance about the fundamental changes then taking place in the Chinese countryside. The latter subject was hardly discussed at Scottsdale.

Put differently, the authors are trying to show how the China correspondent of the 1930s and 1940s constructed


his or her news reality or the network of facts from which their stories were written. How these men and women pooled information and decided upon the legitimacy of particular sources is explored. The influences of competition, language facility (or lack thereof), common personal backgrounds, camaraderie, and changes in American official China policy are also discussed, with special attention paid to the prescriptive, gatekeeping role of editors back home. This is an approach which has often been applied to the domestic journalist.[1] The resulting book, it is hoped, will be considered a pioneering effort at using historical perspective to view the foreign correspondent in terms of the total epistemological context in which he or she operates to produce the news that in turn provides the data base upon which the public and policy makers inevitably draw.

By way of acknowledgments, we wish first to give special thanks to Jan MacKinnon, with whom the idea for the Scottsdale conference originated and whose encouragement was essential at crucial points along the way. Of this book's many benefactors, the most important were the financial supporters of the 1982 Scottsdale conference. Without grants from the Arizona Humanities Council, the Arizona China Council, Arizona State University's Center for Asian Studies and the Pacific Basin Institute, there would not have been a conference. Subsequently, the Arizona Humanities Council, as well as the Arizona State University grants-in-aid program, provided crucial assistance in the preparation of a manuscript. The latter was read in various drafts by McCracken Fisher, Annalee Jacoby Fadiman, Bill and Sylvia Powell, James White, A.T. Steele, Orville Schell, Paul Cohen, Israel Epstein, Beth Luey, Gilbert Harrison, John Service, and Jan MacKinnon. Their help and encouragement kept the authors from be-


coming too discouraged about the prospects of producing a book from the transcripts of the conference. But needless to say, the interpretation of what was said at Scottsdale and its final arrangement into an oral history is solely the responsibility of the authors.


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