The Commission on Freedom of the Press, better known as the Hutchins Commission, was established in 1943 as a fact-finding body into U.S. press freedom to find whether it was endangered. After extensive deliberation, the commission concluded in 1947 that press freedom was in danger and offered a series of recommendations for government, media owners, practitioners, and the public to heed so that a free press could thrive in a democracy. The commission’s notion that press freedom should be linked to the media’s performance of socially beneficial work contributed to the rise of social responsibility theory in the mid-20th century.

Despite criticisms focused on concerns ranging from the commission’s selection to disagreement over the media’s role in a democracy, the commission’s findings played a key role ...

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