17. BOHEMIAN GROVE: THE STORY PEOPLE MAGAZINE CENSORED
The Bohemian Grove encampment, which draws the cream of America's
male power elite, including media moguls, to northern California each year, is
one of the media's best known, best kept secrets. But this year, Dirk Mathison,
San Francisco bureau chief for People magazine, managed to surreptitiously infiltrate
the encampment in search of a story few reporters have access to. And he got it.
He recorded a variety of newsworthy items, including a speech, "Smart Weapons,"
by former Navy Secretary John Lehman, who said that the Pentagon estimated that
200,000 Iraqis were killed by the U.S. and its allies during the Gulf War. Other
speakers included Defense Secretary Richard Cheney on "Major Defense Problems
of the 21st Century," former Health, Education and Welfare secretary Joseph
Califano on "America's Health Revolution -- Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Pays,"
and former Attorney General Elliot Richardson on "Defining the New World
Mathison's entree into the secret world of the Grove ended
on July 20 when he was recognized by a participant in the activities -- an executive
from Time Warner -- People's corporate boss. More loyal to the grove than to the
public's right to know, the Time executive escorted Mathison to the gate. However,
Mathison already had plenty of material for the article which was scheduled for
the August 5, 1991. But suddenly the story was killed. Landon Jones, People's
managing editor, said the decision to kill the story had nothing to do with Time
Warner. He said it was killed because Mathison hadn't been in the Grove long enough
to get a complete story and because the story had been obtained through questionable
Like Mathison, there have been few journalists who have
infiltrated the Grove and been allowed to report the story. One exception is Philip
Weiss, whose story appeared in the November 1989 issue of Spy. More typical are
"censored" experiences, such as in 1982 when NPR got a recording of
Henry Kissinger's speech at the Grove but declined to air it and, also in 1982,
when a Time reporter went undercover as a waiter in the Grove but whose story,
like Mathison's, also was killed.
Time Warner's executives are not the only
media moguls who patronize the Grove. Others include Franklin Murphy, former CEO
of the Times Mirror corporation; William Randolph Hearst, Jr.; Jack Howard and
Charles Scripps of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain; Tom Johnson, president
of CNN and former publisher of the L.A. Times. When Associated Press president
Louis Boccardi once spoke at the Grove about kidnapped reporter Terry Anderson,
he referred to his audience as men of "power and rank" and "gave
them more details than he said he was willing to give his readers."
apologists who reject the concept of news media self-censorship often cry "Where's
the smoking gun?" Here's a smoking gun.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: DUSTIN
SOURCE: EXTRA!, 130 West 25th St., New York, NY 10001
DATE: November/December 1991
TITLE: "Inside Bohemian Grove: The Story People Magazine Won't
Let You Read"
AUTHORS: Jim Naureckas with Jeff Cohen and Steve Rendall
COMMENTS: On July 30, 1991, I received a call from Mary Moore,
a northern California activist and member of the Bohemian Grove Action
Network. She told me how the Action Network had "facilitated"
Dirk Mathison's entry to the exclusive Bohemian Grove encampment; they
had no problem getting the People Magazine reporter in and out the first
two times, Moore said, but the third time it was a coincidence that
an executive from Time saw him. As noted in the synopsis, Mathison was
thrown out of the Grove and People Magazine subsequently spiked his
Mathison at the San Francisco bureau of People Magazine but while he confirmed
what Moore had told me he was not willing to go beyond what was already known.
Acknowledging that he didn't like to use the phrase, he finally said he would
have "no comment" until he heard from his bosses in New York as to what
he could say. As noted earlier, I also talked to Mathison's boss, Lanny Jones,
managing editor of People Magazine. Jones denied any censorship, saying they couldn't
use the story because it had been obtained through illegal means, -- trespassing.
Since Moore already had contacted the local media about the story,
I told her I'd try to get some national coverage. "Expose,"
the short-lived NBC news magazine program, was hot at the time and Tom
Brokaw had previously expressed interest in Project Censored's efforts,
so I called him. Brokaw was out of the country at the time and the person
I talked with said she'd get back to me but didn't. However, Marty Lee,
at EXTRA!, was very interested in the story and it became the cover
story for EXTRA!'s November/December issue.
In a sidebar story
with "Inside Bohemian Grove," EXTRA! points out that Time Warner laid
off 600 magazine employees last September; Mathison was one of the 600 and got
the pink slip when the magazine's San Francisco bureau was closed.
Cohen, executive director of FAIR, said this was a "clear cut example of
how an aggressive reporter was not allowed to tell what he learned through his
aggressive reporting because his corporate managers were more concerned with the
sanctity of corporate and government elites than in journalism."
years of exposing incidents of censorship," Cohen concluded, "this one
was one of the most compelling we've come across. When a journalist trying to
cover how governing elites operate is prevented from reporting his story because
his corporate managers identify with those elites, its speaks volumes."