by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

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 Order.”

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 means, trespassing.

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.”

Media apologists who reject the concept of news media self-censorship often cry “Where’s the smoking gun?” Here’s a smoking gun.


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 expose.

I called 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 EXTRAI, 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.

Jeff 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.”

“In 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.”