Skip navigation
Paperback | $40.00 Short | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780262691000 | 420 pp. | 6 x 9 in | February 1986

Presidents and the Press

The Nixon Legacy


Drawing on personal experience, White House Memoranda, contemporary news reports, and interviews with media insiders, this book by the editor of Jack Anderson's syndicated column, tells the fascinating and chilling story of how news reaches—or doesn't reach—our newspapers and television screens. "Sometimes," says one disgruntled journalist, "it seems like Richard Nixon never left town."

In his memoirs, Nixon observed that presidents should try to master the art of manipulating the media while avoiding the appearance of doing so. This revealing book demonstrates that each of Nixon's successors has met the press with tactics borrowed from his philosophy.

A brief historical review of the relationship between the Chief Executive and the national press corps shows that although the notion of using sophisticated public relations tactics to control the flow of information to the press had been around since the 1950s, it was Richard Nixon who "brought PR out of the closet, put the seal of approval on television and imagery as political tools." Lively chapters on the Nixon presidency outline his media team's grand strategy of appeasement, evasion, and intimidation of the press in the 1968 and 1972 campaigns, the Usberg case, Watergate, and other crises of his tenure.

Comparing the Ford, Carter, and Reagan administrations' approach to the press, Spear finds that all have retained some basic elements of the Nixon news-management strategy: an "Office of Communications" that functions as the President's public relations agency, a news monitoring operation, the practice of appeasing reporters with handouts and photo opportunities, the use of television to "endrun" the press and take the President's message direct to the people, threats to cut off reporters' access, and the vigorous suppression of leaks to the press.

About the Author

Joseph C. Spear has been an investigative journalist for seventeen years. As editor and chief of staff for syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, he is primarily responsible for covering diplomatic and foreign affairs and has broken some of the major news stories of our day. Among his prominent work are in-depth and long-term columns on FBI surveillance of American celebrities and on Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza. His own articles have appeared in many national magazines.


"All Americans who cherish our freedom of the press should be grateful to Joe Spear, one of the country's best investigative journalists, for this excellent book. It is a gold mine of never-before-told inside stories, shocking scandals, and entertaining anecdotes - some hilarious, some frightening, all interesting, which together give us the incredible account of how the government routinely deceives, misleads, and lies to the public and the press."
Cleveland Amory