Taking a 21st century look at the lasting effects of Nixon-era attacks on journalism

Table of contents

FOREWORD: The Assault on Journalism: Nixon’s Years and Beyond
ONE: Background for the Nixon Attitude
TWO: Prelude to the Assault
THREE: Year 1969
FOUR: Year 1970
FIVE: Year 1971
SIX: Year 1972
SEVEN: Years 1973–74
EIGHT: Effects of the Assault
NINE: Effects of the Assault Reconsidered
TEN: Afterword: The Glacial Pursuit of Rampant Authoritarianism
Documents of Significance, First Edition
Documents of Significance, Second Edition


Assault on the Media: The Nixon Years, New and Expanded Edition, uses a 21st century perspective to revaluate the media warfare of the late 1960s and 1970s and its lasting effects. Although it is well known Nixon reveled in his abrasive relationship with the press, documents published since that era reveal the motivations that drove members of the administration to divert attention from illegal, undemocratic, discriminatory, or mean-spirited approaches to governance.

Informed by a half-century of historical analyses and released documents, this expanded edition of William E. Porter’s award-winning Assault on the Media analyzes new documents of significance; synthesizes recent historical analyses; incorporates legal evaluations by journalism scholars; and traces how Nixon-era plans cultivated the divisive state of 21st-century society and amplified assaults on journalism. It also evaluates lasting concerns about the Supreme Court’s Pentagon Papers decision and journalists cited for contempt as a form of prior restraint; the currencies of power and race in protecting confidential sources; and regulatory decisions that hamper effective journalism. Assault on the Media not only documents the incidents and circumstances of governmental intimidation, harassment, and regulation of the news media during the Nixon presidency, but it offers insights into the long-term effects and their relevance today.

William E. Porter was Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Michigan. His research focused on the relationship between government and the media. 

Thomas A. Mascaro is Professor Emeritus in the School of Media and Communication at Bowling Green State University. He co-founded the Documentary Division of the Broadcast Education Association and was elected to the Board of Directors for the American Journalism Historians Association, 2022–2025. 

“An excellent update of Porter’s classic. We all needed a book that compellingly bridges historical government and media tensions with our current state of political affairs. Tom Mascaro has accomplished this so well—with his stellar research, superb writing, and a keen sense that the past may well be prologue if the lessons from the Nixon years are not understood in modern times.”

- Stuart N. Brotman, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and The Media Institute

“This new edition of Assault on the Media, through William Porter’s original words and Thomas Mascaro’s expert commentary, provides an abundance of evidence and deep analysis of ongoing attacks against journalism that gained momentum during Richard Nixon’s presidency. This important and timely book offers historical context to Porter’s work, highlights the dangers to a free press, and connects the assault on the media to broader political, economic, legal, and cultural trends.”

- Jon Marshall, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

“Thomas Mascaro’s addition to Porter’s signature work is amazing. His historical analysis of the aggressiveness of Donald Trump and his supporters draws a direct line to Nixon’s war against the news media. Historians and journalists will find this update enlightening.”

- Earnest L. Perry Jr., Missouri School of Journalism

“This essential volume updates William Porter’s rich, relevant slice of First Amendment history in an age of rising authoritarianism and global anti-media sentiment. Mascaro’s analysis of more recent chapters of U.S. history provides a haunting, indispensable account of threats to American democracy from the pinnacle of power: the U.S. presidency.”

- Aimee Edmondson, Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University

“William Porter’s classes exhilarated students, including this writer, who delighted in becoming his faculty colleague, and Tom Mascaro, who similarly responded to how the original Assault on the Media anticipated today’s threats to journalism and democracy. This well-researched revision updates Porter’s history and advances a new, urgent call to action.”

- Mary Ann Watson, Professor Emerita, Eastern Michigan University

Praise for the first edition: 
“This magnificent and scholarly source book provides the first comprehensive documentary on the Nixon Administration and its relations with the media. . . . A tremendous contribution to the history of the Nixon period.”

- Thomas Winship, Editor, Boston Globe

“. . . a landmark book . . . an enviable blend of scholarship and serious journalism. . . . No other writer has brought together and put in perspective all the facets that enable us to understand these significant years.”

- William L. Rivers, Paul C. Edwards Professor of Communication, Stanford University

Winner: University of Michigan Press Book Award, 1976

- University of Michigan Press Book Award

Winner: 1976 Frank Luther Mott-Kappa Tau Alpha Research Award

- Frank Luther Mott-Kappa Tau Alpha Research Award

Read: Our Perilous Moment blog post by Thomas A. Mascaro | June 18, 2024