Minnesota Rag takes the reader on a tour of the underside of a dark period in Minnesota's past, one filled with crooked public officials, vengeful gangsters, and yellow journalists. Featuring notorious characters such as Jay M. Near, racist and antilabor publisher of Minneapolis's Saturday Press, pioneering newsman Fred W. Friendly weaves the tale of a court case that molded our understanding of freedom of the press and set a precedent for the publication of the Pentagon Papers.
"An informative and entertaining account of the variously comic, sordid, scandalous and high-minded doings that culminated in Near v. Minnesota, a landmark case in the history of freedom of the press." -- The New Yorker
In 1927 the publisher Jay M. Near -- whose muck-raking newspaper indulged his anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Catholic and anti-labor prejudices -- was put out of business by a Minnesota gag law. This law allowed a single judge to bar publication of any newspaper found "malicious, scandalous or defamatory," set a dangerous precedent for prior restraint and curtailed freedom of the press. Near's case was eventually taken up by Colonel McCormick, the powerful publisher of the Chicago Tribune, who paid for the appeal to the Supreme Court. In 1931 Near v. Minnesota was decided 5 to 4 in Near's favor -- a decision that bears directly on freedom of the press today.
"Ranging from the sleaze of the Minnesota underworld to the often bitchy byplay among members of the Supreme Court, [Friendly] has done a marvelous job."
-- The Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A very rich slice of Americana....The author creates a dramatic atmosphere and a pace that never flags."