Many of you are unaware of my journalism quote site, which comprises a collection of pithy epigrams that describe my former profession.
I was discussing this web page with my wife, who noted that every quotation on it was negative. "Hasn't anyone ever said anything positive about journalism?" To get the ball rolling, I have collected some of my favorite newspaper declarations of principle (including one fictional one). I would love to add more, if you'd be kind enough to share them; you can find my email address in the column at the right.
HARD TO FIND POSITIVE QUOTATIONS ABOUT JOURNALISM
The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
-- Thomas Jefferson
letter to Edward Carrington, 1787.
Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.''
letter to M. le Riche, 6 February 1770, cited in A Book of French Quotations (1963), Norbert Guterman (variations of this quotation appear on many newspaper editorial pages)
It will be my earnest aim that The New York Times give the news, all the news, in concise and attractive form, in language that is permissible in good society, and give it as early if not earlier, than it can be learned through any other reliable medium; to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interest involved; to make of the columns of The New York Times a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.
-- Adoph Ochs
August 18, 1896, New York Times
Money is the great power today. Men sell their souls for it. Women sell their bodies for it. Others worship it. The money power has grown so great that the issue of all issues is whether the corporation shall rule this country or the country shall again rule the corporations.
December 1878, St. Louis Dispatch
There is room in this great and growing city for a journal that is not only cheap but bright, not only bright but large, not only large but truly democratic--dedicated tot he cause of the people rather than that of the purse potentates--devoted more to the news of the New than the Old World--that will expose all fraud and sham, fight all public evils and abuses--that will sever and battle for the people with earnest sincerity.
May 1883, New York World
I. I will provide the people of this city with a daily newspaper that will tell all the news honestly.
II. I will also provide them with a fighting and tireless champion of their rights as citizens and human beings.
--fictional Charles Foster Kane II
New York Inquirer (movie Citizen Kane, 1941)
The [Oregon] Journal in its head and heart will stand for the people, be truly Democratic and free from political entanglements and machinations, believing in the principles that promise the greatest good to the greatest number--to ALL MEN, regardless of race, creed or previous condition of servitude… It will be a fair newspaper, not a dull and selfish sheet…
-- Samuel Jackson
July 23, 1902, Oregon Journal
In journalistic débuts of this kind many talk of principle—political principle, party principle—as a sort of steel trap to catch the public. We … disdain … all principle, as it is called, all party, all politics. Our only guide shall be good, sound, practical common sense, applicable to the business and bosoms of men engaged in every-day life.
-- James Gordon Bennett
1835, New York Herald
Preserve your independence of all demagogues and place-hunters and never submit to their dictation; write boldly and tell the truth fearlessly; criticize whatever is wrong, and denounced whatever is rotten in the administration of your local and state affairs, no matter how much it may offend the guilty or wound the would-be leaders of your party…Make an earnest and conscientious journal; establish its reputation for truth and reliability, frankness and independence. Never willfully deceive the people, or trifle with their confidence. Show that your journal is devoted to the advocacy and promotion of their temporal interests and moral welfare.
May 1869, Chicago Tribune, from a speech give in Indianapolis to editors and publishers
The philosophical basis on which a newspaper rests is extremely important. Why is it published? Only to turn a profit? Or does it have another purpose? The answer is yes, our newspapers have philosophical roots. "What has been this unique character? For one, a caring about the way things are for the ordinary person, caring about the way the world is, the way the state is, the way the city is…The first Bee was founded by men who had a cause, who fervently believed in a just society. It cared about the things that would make this new community a just society – affordable bank interest rates, land for settlers, an honest court system, cheap electricity when it arrived and clean water, trees and parks, good schools and fair treatment for the ordinary man.
--James Briggs McClatchy
Sacramento Bee, address to editors and publishers in 1993
- Publish and be damned
- Print the news and raise hell
--Traditional newspaper credos
Journalism is a noble calling. The working journalist is to report, write, and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.
--World Journalism Institute
And I say to you, whether you do environmental reporting or some other kind of journalism, and whether you practice journalism here in the U.S. or in some other place, please keep doing it and doing it well. Despite everything, journalism remains a noble calling.
-- Jim Risser, director emeritus of the Knight Fellowships.