The Powers That Be (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
When David Halberstam chose The Powers That Be as the title for his book, it was no doubt a reflection of the popular usage of the phrase rather than an allusion to its Biblical source: “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). He, conversely, delineates for the reader the evolution of CBS, Time, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post through their several incarnations in terms of the men and women who made it all happen. In each case there was the brilliance of one personality to illuminate the early path of the initial bright and dedicated staff. The individual prowess of the staff members reflects upon and lends credibility to the organization from which they spring. As all of the early stars that brought the organization to prominence fade or fall, the organization becomes the end rather than the means. The evolution of the particular news medium in question marks a shift from the sorts of powers that were (political parties, the legislature) to the sorts of powers that “be” (the electronic and print media giants).
David Halberstam has spent many years reporting the news for the New York Times; he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. His previous best-seller The Best and the Brightest (1972) chronicled the events and personalities of the Vietnam War era. Since that time, he has interviewed more than seven hundred individuals who, separately or as members of an organization,...
(The entire section is 1788 words.)
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