"Lately I notice that I have begun to look warily at the morning newspaper headlines, almost as if I were expecting a sudden blow."
Harpers April 1980
"No American newspaper will print anything contrary to its own interests."
George Bernard Shaw
"...under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education): It is thus extremely difficult and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions..."
"The power of the press is very great, but not so great as the power of suppress."
"The freedom of the press has become a farce, as everyone knows that the press is controlled, if not by its titular owners, at least by its advertisers."
"I shall never take another newspaper of any sort."
"There is one deadly, damning
count against the daily newspaper as it is coming to be;
namely, it doesn’t give the news."
Edward Alsworth Ross
"If an editor can only make people angry enough, they will write half his newspaper for him for nothing."
"The advertisements in a newspaper are more full of knowledge in respect to what is going on in a state or community than the editorial columns are."
-Henry Ward Beecher (1813-87)
"What is pernicious, however, about the dominance of journalism in both literature and the media is the increasing paucity of information it delivers. In an age when we are being told that we suffer from "information overload," we are, in actuality, less informed that ever before. Most media journalists, particularly in television, rely on extremely deficient research. Their system of gathering information, based on a network of "credible sources," is susceptible to bias and manipulation. Possibly journalists are not completely at fault, since the time necessary for deep research is not available to them. Nevertheless he result is similar: shallow coverage and perennial sources-the same "experts", regardless of their real qualifications, are brought before the evening-news cameras again and again."
"The trouble with the journalist is that he has to work as hard as a millionaire while he hates work as heartily as a mystic. It is a dangerous trade to be at once lazy and busy."
"To the extent that a reporter is a Liberal reporter or a Communist reporter or a Republican reporter, he is no reporter at all."
"In the average newspapers there is not a complete suppression of stories the sacred cows don’t want printed. But rather what happens is that the stories get printed with stresses, colorations and emphasis that favor the sacred cows."
"The writers who are employees of newspapers owners have necessarily, points of view that differ from those of their employers. The owner of the newspaper, the employer, requires his employees to write those things which the employer either believes or wants his readers to believe. As he is human, he will not allow his newspapers to be used to controvert his own opinions. Nor will he pay to the writers wages to produce mater which he does not want to appear in his paper."
History of Cooperative News-Gathering
"The average newspaper,
especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly
evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the
information of a high-school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines,
and the honor of a police-station lawyer."
"When the imagination is continually led to the brink of vice by a system of terror and denunciations, people fling themselves over the precipice from the mere dread of falling."
William Hazlitt 1823
"A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself."
Joseph Pulitzer, 1904
"The mass do not now, take their opinions from dignitaries in Church or State, from ostensible leaders, or from books. Their thinking is done for them by men much like themselves, addressing them or speaking in their name, on the spur of the moment, through the newspapers."
John Stuart Mill
"It is momentous, yes, a fearful truth, that the millions have no literature, no school and almost no pulpit but the press. Not one in ten reads books….But every one of us, except the very few helpless poor, poisons himself every day with a newspaper. It is parent, school, college, pulpit, theater, example, counselor, all in one. Every drop of our blood is coloured by it."
"A great point is sometimes made of the fact that modern man no longer sees above his head a revolving dome with fixed stars and glimpses of the primum mobile. True enough, but he sees something similar when he looks at his daily newspaper. He sees the events of the day refracted through a medium which colors them as effectively as the cosmology of the medieval scientist determined his view of the starry heavens. The newspaper is a man-made cosmos of the world of events around us at the time. For the average reader it is a construct with a set of significances which he no more thinks of examining than did his pious forebear of the thirteenth century-whom he pities for sitting in medieval darkness-think of questioning the cosmology. This modern , too, lives under a dome, whose theoretical aspect has been made to harmonize with a materialistic conception of the world. And he employs its conjunctions and oppositions to explain the occurrences of his time with all the confidence of the now supplanted disciple of astrology."
Richard M. Weaver
Ideas Have Consequences
"People also have the right not to know...the right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk."
"When people complain
today--as they do complain--that newspapers do
not represent life as they see and experience it themselves from day
to day, they are not harping on the old theme that the press does not
report the good news. Their complaint is deeper and more definite,
and it is precisely that the newspapers do not "see life steady and
see it whole." This is the primary cause of the lack of authority
with which the press now speaks, even, while it presumes to a power
beyond its capacity. Like all celebrities, it diverts and is
applauded, but is not taken very seriously."
The New Republic
"The journalist makes people ridiculous in two ways. First, by making them believe it is necessary to have an opinion, and that perhaps is the most ridiculous part of it: such a poor, good-natured burgher who could be so comfortable and whom the journalist now stuffs with the idea that it is necessary for him to have an opinion! Secondly, by hiring out an opinion which, despite its vapid consistence is nevertheless put on and worn as an article of necessity."
Soren Kierkegaard 1847
The papers offer us the events of the world-stone upon stone, a clod of dirt upon a clod of dirt; a heap of earth and sand. But where is its meaning? To see history as an accumulation of events is meaningless. What matters is the significance of the events. But we shall not discover that in the newspapers: we shall only discover that in faith, in the objectification of what Seemed accidental."
"And so every night on the news television presents everything and explains nothing.
William Irwin Thompson
"No matter how much venality and deception is uncovered, the rules of journalism require that each instance be treated as an aberration rather than part of a larger problem. Those who attempt to report in a broader context are accused of forfeiting their objectivity. They have the choice of becoming pariahs and losing their credibility as reporters...It's all right occasionally to point out that a bit of paint has been chipped off the social machine but not to ask where the machine is taking us."
"You can learn a great deal from newspapers if you treat them with the proper contempt.
"An American reading the Sunday paper in a state of lazy collapse is perhaps the most perfect symbol of the triumph of quantity over quality. . .Whole forests are ground into pulp to minister to our triviality."
"And happiness! Think of the mornings that will some day come, when men will wake to read in the papers of something better than the great 5-5-3 wrangle, of the starvation and disorder of half the world, of the stupid sexual crimes and greedy dishonesties committed by the adults with the un-developed intelligence of vicious children, of suggestions of horrible plots and designs against our threadbare security, of the dreary necessity for 'preparedness. ' Think of a morning when the newspaper has mainly 'good ‘news, of things discovered, of fine things done. Think of the common day of a common citizen in a world where debt is no longer a universal burden, where there is constant progress and no retrogression, Where it is the normal thing to walk out of a beautiful house into a clean and splendid street, to pass and meet happy and interesting adults instead of aged children obsessed by neglected spites and jealousies and mean anxieties, to go to some honorable occupation that helps the world forward to a still greater and finer life. You may say that a world may be prosperous, and men and women healthy and free, and yet there will still be spites and jealousies and all the bitterness of disputation, but that is no more true than that there will still be toothache. A mind educated and cared for, quite as well as a body, can be healed and kept clean and sweet and free from these maddening humiliations and suppressions that now fester so many souls. There is no real necessity about either human energy to bring a proper care within the reach of all. And consider the quality of interest in such a world. Think of the mental quality of a world in which each day the thought and research of a great host of intelligences turns more and more the opaque and confused riddles of yesterday into transparent lucidity. Think of the forces of personal and national idiosyncrasy, of patriotic and racial assertion, seeking and finding their expression, not in vile mutual thwarting and a brutish destructiveness, but in the distinctive architecture of cities, in the cultivated and intensified beauty of the country-side, in a hundred forms of art, in costume and custom. Think of the freedom, the abundance, the harmonious differences of such a world! This is not idle prophecy, this is no dream. Such a world is ours to-day-if we could but turn the minds of men to realize that it is here for the having. These things can be done, this finer world is within reach. I can write that as confidently today as I wrote in 1900 that men could fly. But whether we are to stop this foolery of international struggle, this moral and mental childishness of patriotic aggressions, this continual bloodshed and squalor, and start out for a world of adult sanity in ten years, or in twenty years, or a hundred years, or never is more than I can say.
Newspaper reading...this is described as 'taking an intelligent interest in politics. ' St. John of the Cross would have called it indulgence in idle curiosity and the cultivation of disquietude for disquietude's sake."
"The newspaper is the second-hand in the clock of history; and it is not only made of baser metal than those which point to the minute and the hour, but it ,seldom goes right." -
"Radio news is bearable. This is due to the fact that while the news is being broadcast the disc jockey is. not allowed to talk."
"Thus it is that all journalists are, in the very nature of their what they write. Herein they are like little dogs; if anything stirs, they immediately set up a shrill bark."
"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers."
"A single sentence will suffice for modern man: He fornicated and read the papers."
"I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it."
"Journalism largely consists in saying "Lord Jones Dead" to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive."
"Somebody-was it Burke? –called Journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three."
"And I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter-we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications"
Henry David Thoreau
"That abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty-thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don’t even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of café au lait."
"The reports we get ‘nowadays’ are those of men who have not gone to the scene of the accident, which is always farther inside one’s head than it is convenient to penetrate without galoshes."
"There is no such thing as an independent press, unless it is in small towns. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write his honest opinions, and if you did you know beforehand that they would never appear in print….the business of the New York journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the fest of mammon, and to sell his race and his country for his daily bread. You know this and I know it, and what folly is this to be toasting an "Independent Press,". We are the jumping-jacks; they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."
John Swinton (Chief Editorial writer for New York Times (1860-70) a speech given by Swinton at a banquet honoring him by the leaders of his craft-1880)
"Sick are they always; they vomit their bile and call it a newspaper"
"The vested interests of our age, which, from all kinds of motives, desire to maintain traditional values or to get new values set up in their place, have constructed a wonderful machine, which we shall the Great Stereopticon. It is the function of this machine to project selected pictures of life in the hope that what is seen will be imitated. All of us of the West who are within the long reach of technology are sitting in the audience. We are told the time to laugh and the time to cry, and signs are not wanting that the audience grows ever more responsive to its cues."
Richard M. Weaver
Ideas Have Consequences
"The speculations of journalism seldom go beyond the confines of business and propriety, and its oracles have been quick to assail those who come with disturbing notions-quick and unscrupulous, too, if they sense that the notions contain some necessary truth. In this they bear out the observation of Socrates that society does not mind an individual's being wise; only when he begins to make others wise does it become apprehensive. This is to say that they fear the spread of what has truth and reason on its side. Has any brilliant social critic of the last century received something better than sneer from the pundits of journalism until his appreciation by the thoughtful forced a grudging recognition? A Nietzsche, a Kierkegaard, a Peguy, a Spengler-it is impossible for journalism to take these people seriously. The existence of the one threatens the existence of the other. The proprietors of the Steropticon have a pretty clear idea of the level at which thinking is safe for the established order. They are protecting a materialist civilization growing more insecure and panicky as awareness filters through that it is over an abyss."
Richard M. Weaver
Ideas Have Consequences
"...What chiefly distinguishes the daily press of the United States from the press of all other countries pretending to culture is not its lack of truthfulness or even its lack of dignity and honor, for these deficiencies are common to the newspapers everywhere, but its incurable fear of ideas, its constant effort to evade the discussion of fundamentals by translating all issues into a few elemental fears, its incessant reduction of all reflection to mere emotion. it is, in the true sense, never well-informed. It is seldom intelligent, save in the arts of the mob-master. it is never courageously honest. Held harshly to a rigid correctness of opinion by the plutocracy that controls it with less and less attempt at disguise, and menaced on all sides by censorships that it dare not flout, it sinks rapidly into formalism and feebleness. Its yellow section is perhaps its most respectable section for there the only vestige of the old free journalist survives. In the more conservative papers one finds only a timid and petulant animosity to all questioning of the existing order, however urbane and sincere-a pervasive and ill-concealed dread that the mob now heated up against the orthodox hobgoblins may suddenly begin to unearth hobgoblins of its own, and so run amok. For it is upon the emotions of the mob, of course, that the whole comedy is played. Theoretically the mob is the repository of all political wisdom and virtue; actually it is the ultimate source of all political power. Even the plutocracy cannot make war upon it openly, or forget the least of its weaknesses. The business of keeping it in order must be done discreetly, warily, with delicate technique. In the main that business consists of keeping alive its deep-seated fears-of strange faces, of unfamiliar ideas, of unhackneyed gestures, of untested liberties and responsibilities. The one permanent emotion of the inferior man, as of all the simpler mammals, is fear-fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants beyond everything else is safety. His instincts incline him toward a society so organized that it will protect him at all hazards, and not only against perils to his hide but against assaults upon his mind-against the need to grapple with unaccustomed problems, to weigh ideas, to think things out for himself, to scrutinize the platitudes upon which his everyday thinking is based. Content under Kaiserism so long as it functions efficiently, he turns, when kaiserism falls, to some other and perhaps worse form of paternalism, bringing to its benign tyranny only the docile tribute of his pathetic allegiance. In America it is the newspaper that is his boss. From it he gets support for his elemental illusions. In it he sees a visible embodiment of his own wisdom and consequence. Out of it he draws fuel for his simple moral passion, his congenital suspicion of heresy, his dread of the unknown. And behind the newspaper stands the plutocracy, ignorant, unimaginative and timorous."
H.L. Mencken (1920)
(freom Prejudices: Second Series,1920
The Vintage Mencken
Book: "Into the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press" Edited by Kristina Borjesson
Book: "The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications" by Paul Starr
Book: "American Aurora" by Richard N. Rosenfeld
Book: "The Compact History of the American Newspaper" by John Tebbel
Book: "Read All About It" by Jane T. Harrigan
Book: "Read All about It!" by James D. Squires
Book: "Don't Shoot The Messenger" by Bruce W. Sanford
Book: "Our Unfree Press: 100 Years of Radical Media Criticism" Ed. by R.W. McChesney & B. Scott
Book: "Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy" by James Fallows
Book: "True Lies" by A. Lappe & S. Marshall
Book: "Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq" by B. Katovsky & T. Carlson
Book: "The News About The News: American Journalism in Peril" by L. Downie Jr. & R.G. Kaiser
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