When the Gallup Poll recently issued its annual list of the ten most-admired men and women, one striking fact emerged. Nine out of the ten most-admired men and all the ten most-admired women turned out to be either politicians or wives of politicians.
If you believe in the Gallup Poll, you must conclude that Americans admire politicians more than persons in every other occupation combined. Such a conclusion would be ridiculous any time, but especially so in a year when more politicians were convicted of crimes than ever before.
Why, then, don’t the most-admired lists include a Dr. Jonas Salk, a Neil Armstrong or any astronaut, a food scientist such as Norman Borlaug who so greatly increased our grain yields, a Dr. Edwin Land who invented polaroid instant photography, business geniuses such as James McDonnell and Arthur Nielsen, pocket com puter inventors like David Packard, the first woman to become a State Supreme Court Chief Justice (Susie Sharp of North Carolina), ice skater Janet Lynn, or any of our many other distinguished scientists, businessmen, labor leaders, inventors, writers, or artists?
The answer is that people respond to the Gallup Poll with names they have heard frequently in the news, and that means political news. Over the last several years, the national news media has devoted about one-half of its precious time and space to U.S. political news and about one-fourth to foreign political news, thus leaving only about one-fourth of news time and space to cover all information pertaining to the economy, jobs, money, science, health, religion, the military, business, unions, literature, the arts, and human interest stories.
Is it any wonder that distinguished achievers in these fields do not make the most admired list? It is rather difficult to say you most admire someone you have never heard mentioned in the news.
The national news media should pull itself out of the provincial assumption that political news deserves most of our attention, and that everything important happens in Washington or in New York.
So long as news is oriented toward the daily doings of politicians, rather then toward people in productive professions, Dr. Gallup’s annual list will continue to omit the many useful citizens who create jobs, increase food, develop resources, and enrich our lives with truth and beauty.
America is a nation which has produced many great heroes in times of crisis, such as Nathan Hale ( 111 only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”), John Paul Jones (“I have not yet begun to fight.”), Charles Pinckney (“Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute. 11 ), and General Anthony McAuliffe (“Nuts to surrender.”). Surely America has many living heroes — if the press would search for them in places other than politics.